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Jeff Kolpack, Published May 16 2012

South grad Carlson to run half-marathon

FARGO – One of North Dakota’s most decorated long distance runners is returning to his hometown to race Saturday. At least that was the plan on Wednesday.

It’s been an inconsistent road to recovery for Fargo South High School graduate Andrew Carlson since his sixth-place finish in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston last January. Included in the stress lately is a bad back.

“I said I wanted to come and then I said I wasn’t going to come, but then I felt good and I’m in,” Carlson said with a laugh. “It’s been going back and forth. But I love racing in Fargo and want to get back.”

Carlson is entered in the half-marathon on Saturday, an event he won in 2007 – the last time he competed here. His time of 1:05.02 was a course record that was broken by Sammy Malakwen of Two Harbors, Minn., the following year.

“That was one of the best experiences ever for me,” Carlson said. “I had just such good memories that I just want to do well.”

Carlson’s finish at the Marathon Trials put him on an elite list of U.S. runners. Now 30 years old and living in St. Paul, he runs for Team USA Minnesota.

He ran the Trials race in 2 hours, 11 minutes, 24 seconds – just 1 minute, 37 seconds from third place. The top three earned spots to this summer’s Olympic Games in London.

“I feel like that reinforced that I am doing the right thing and that this goal of seeing how good a distance runner I can be is on the right path,” Carlson said. “After this long of time, you need a performance like that to keep you going. At the same time, I feel like my best performances are still out there. I’m still hungry to keep going.”

He’s not sure if he’s primed to turn in a top-notch 13.1-mile race on Saturday, however.

“It’s one of those things that’s up in the air right now,” Carlson said. “I’d love to run really well, that’s kind of what I’m thinking today. My first goal is to win and then after that it’s whatever. We’ll have to wait and see.”

He’s also running the USA Half Marathon Championships in Duluth, Minn., in June as part of Grandmas Marathon weekend. He finished fourth on two separate occasions in recent years. That will put the Trials race five months behind him.

“Part of me feels like I’ve never decompressed from the whole thing,” Carlson said of Houston. “I tried to ride that high as long as I could, but it’s been a struggle the last four to six weeks.”

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

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia