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Wendy Reuer, Published May 18 2012

9,500 feel the heat in Fargo Marathon 5K

FARGO - As throngs of runners filled University Drive for the annual Fargo Marathon 5K Run/Walk, Mark Knutson announced that 9,500 runners had turned out – just 500 short of the 10,000 “Shoes for Kids” goal he hoped to reach.

One dollar from each registration fee was to go toward purchasing Nike running shoes for 1,000 area kids. The Dakota Medical Foundation and Blue Cross Blue Shield planned to match each donation.

Knutson, the Fargo Marathon executive director, had to break the news to Blue Cross Blue Shield President Paul von Ebers at 5:30 p.m., but it was OK.

“(Von Ebers) said, ‘We’ll make up the difference,’ ” Knutson said Friday. “While we may not have gotten to the target number, 9,500 is awesome.”

The crowd outside the Fargodome roared to life at the news, and the race was on just minutes later.

Heads bobbed and feet pounded the pavement as runners stacked from curb to curb dressed in all colors, even one in a Stormtrooper get-up, made their way south on University with “Eye of the Tiger” pumping out of the loudspeakers.

Knutson rode in the pace car followed by members of the Fargo Motor Patrol: motorcyclists Eric Fisher, Bob Kochmann and Dave Dorand.

The Motor Patrol will guide today’s races as well. With the best view on the street, Kochmann said he has escorted every Fargo Marathon since it began eight years ago.

Fisher said Friday night’s 5K race was probably the largest number of participants they have seen at once.

“It’s just a great event and great for the city,” he said.

Along the route, thousands lined the streets to cheer on the runners.

Marilyn Iverson held a sign for her brother-in-law, George Mihlbauer of Fargo. She said she driven from her home in Grand Forks to support Mihlbauer, who had lost 110 pounds through running and exercise.

Today, Mihlbauer will likely be cheering for Iverson, 57, as she runs the 10K race.

Iverson was struck by a truck about 10 years ago, breaking her back and other bones. The avid runner said it was a tough road back.

“I thought at the time I would never get back into it,” she said. “I’m slower now, but it doesn’t matter.”

Iverson called what seemed like an endless parade of runners “unbelievable.”

Just as the last of the 5K runners finished, those who signed to walk were let loose.

Seconds after the last walker made their way south, race winner Mike McConnell returned to the finish line, a quick 15 minutes after the start.

Heat had been a great concern for participants and medics who had stood by throughout the race. Property owners along the route were asked to turn on their sprinklers to help cool the runners.

The high temperature reached 95 degrees before 5 p.m., shattering the 1988 record of 92 for this date.

However, by the time the race began at 6:30, the temperature dropped slightly to around 91 degrees as clouds moved in and gusty winds continued.

Don Martin, F-M Ambulance field supervisor, said one person had to be transported to the hospital, likely a runner feeling the effects of the high heat.

“We just had a few patients that we looked at,” Martin said. “It turned out well.”

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530