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Kevin Schnepf, Published January 18 2012

Fargo Marathon's new initiative puts kids first

FARGO – Officials of this spring’s Fargo Marathon are hoping more runners – even walkers – will help them raise enough money to provide 1,000 kids in the Fargo-Moorhead area with a pair of running shoes.

Mark Knutson, executive director of the marathon, announced Wednesday the “Shoes for Kids” campaign, in which $1 from every registration for the 5K run/walk will go toward purchasing running shoes. As part of the campaign, the Dakota Medical Foundation and Blue Cross Blue Shield, will match those contributions.

Knutson is hoping to attract 10,000 runners and walkers for the 5K event that will be held on Friday, May 18. The 10K, half marathon and full marathon will be held on Saturday, May 19.

“Our mission has always been about fitness and kids, so what better way to get kids active,” Knutson said. “A lot of them can’t afford shoes. Let’s give them a foundation to get active.”

The 5K (3.1 miles) run/walk attracted 6,500 participants last year. Knutson said with 10,000 runners, that would generate enough money to buy 1,000 pairs of Nike Pegasus running shoes for 1,000 kids attending 20 elementary schools in Fargo, West Fargo and Moorhead.

“That’s 50 pairs of shoes for each school,” Knutson said. “Maybe it turns one of these kids into a runner. At minimum, it gets them active.”

Rory Biel, representing the Dakota Medical Foundation, described the campaign as part of the “fitness flu” that has hit the Fargo-Moorhead area.

“We hope this is something that inspires young bodies to be healthy,” Biel said.

“This is a win-win for everybody,” said Mike Carlson, representing Blue Cross-Blue Shield.

James Osborne, a Nike representative from Minneapolis, said the campaign is somewhat unique across the country.

“One Nike slogan has always been, ‘If you have a body, you are an athlete,’” said Osborne, whose company will be providing the running shoes at a reduced cost. “What a cool event to be a part of.”

Knutson said 10,000 participants would put the event among the Top 10 5K run/walks in the country. To avoid runners and walkers intermingling like they did last year, Knutson said there will be separate starting points.

Runners will start on University Drive in front of the Fargodome. Walkers will start on 17th Avenue just north of the Bison Sports Arena.

“We’ll start the runners first and the walkers will fall in behind them,” Knutson said. “It’s getting everybody lined up on time and in the right spot that will be the challenge.”

Last year’s Fargo Marathon attracted 23,057 participants who competed in either a children’s run, the 5K run/walk, the 10K run, the relays, the half marathon or the full marathon.

So far, 4,588 participants have pre-registered for this spring’s marathon event.

Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549