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Jeff Kolpack, Published May 16 2012

Soldiers prepare to run Fargo Marathon from Asia

FARGO – The total number of participants in all of the events of the Fargo Marathon this week will be about 24,000 at starting lines near the Fargodome.

And 35 soldiers in southwest Asia.

Most are from the North Dakota Air National Guard’s 119th Civic Engineer Squadron and are officially registered in the 5K, 10K or half-marathon.

“The friends we have made over here will last a lifetime,” Staff Sgt. Nik Guttormson wrote via email. “And being part of the marathon has been a part of that. Running is a big part of the military culture and many of us airmen have really come to enjoy the early morning runs.”

The exact location of the soldiers cannot be disclosed per Air Force regulations, but the region is in the midst of hot weather conditions, so this version of the Fargo Marathon has adjusted its times. The 5K and 10K will start at 5 a.m. local time on Friday and the half-marathon at 4 a.m. on Sunday.

Melissa Olheiser, the wife of guardsman Jason Olheiser from Harwood, N.D., mailed medals and participant T-shirts. They will await the finishers.

“It’s gotten our family to have a little bit of connection and togetherness even though he’s not here,” Melissa said. “And it’s something they’ve all been looking forward to over there.”

It was the brainchild of the 25-year-old Guttormson, a Fargo resident who said running while on active duty helps relieve the stress of life in the military.

“It’s pretty funny how those who have hated running now comment on how peaceful it can be,” he said. “Many a problems have been talked about during runs.”

Include Guttormson in that, who has had to endure breast cancer to his grandmother from afar. An airman from an Alaska Guard unit has helped talk him through it on several runs, to the point that they joke they’ll have to run with a cell phone and Bluetooth technology when they return to the United States.

Guttormson’s squadron includes a wide variety of specialties such as electricians, plumbers, carpenters and heavy equipment operators. Each shop will be represented in the Fargo Marathon events.

All involved in the project say the support of Fargo Marathon executive director Mark Knutson has been a big part of it. The marathon did everything free of charge.

“They are awesome, wonderful,” Melissa Olheiser said.

Airmen from Alaska, Georgia and Kansas will also take part in the Fargo Marathon events. Training has gone well, Guttormson said, with most of the guardsmen having their own structured programs. That includes the runners’ motto/motivation of “Embrace the Suck,” a reference that goes back to the original invasion of Iraq.

Guttormson is the veteran, having run the last three Fargo half-marathons. Despite being a world away, he won’t miss his fourth straight.

“I can’t say enough how cool it was for (the marathon) to offer this,” he said.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia

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