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Rory Beil, Published May 29 2011

The spirit of marathon is contagious

Once again, the Fargo Marathon and each of its events brought our cities alive. Who needs windmills to generate power? If we could tap the energy and spirit of these events, we could run on it indefinitely.

I worked in the fitness industry for several years, training hundreds of clients. Still, there was always a little frustration about only reaching a relatively small percentage of the adult population (maybe up to 20 percent) and within that group having a relatively high dropout rate. It left me with a feeling that we weren’t making a big enough difference. The marathon, however, has drawn many of these people off the sofa and from behind their desks. The social motivation to participate has grown strong enough to overcome common personal barriers like motivation and time. It has become contagious and is changing our culture. It is now the norm to prepare for and participate in the marathon events.

I remember the story in The Forum sports section (2003 or 2004) about these two crazy guys – Mark Knutson and Mike Almquist – bringing a half-marathon to Fargo and possibly a marathon. Who could have imagined it would turn into the biggest annual event in North Dakota?

The marathon is at the heart of a movement about movement. I lead a healthy living collaborative in Cass and Clay counties that strives to increase physical activity and healthy eating. We have been able to ride the momentum of the marathon as we pursue even healthier communities, schools and child care. We are developing a grass-roots movement, titled “Join the Movement.” We think the metro areas can be the healthiest place in our nation.

To Knutson, Almquist and all who are involved in putting these awesome events on, your work is truly making a difference.

Beil is director of Cass Clay Healthy People Initiative of the Dakota Medical Foundation.