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Jeff Kolpack, Published July 11 2012

81-mile run on Highway 81 set for next weekend

FARGO – Detour signs will be placed up and down Highway 81 north of Fargo next weekend, but it won’t be for road repair reasons. A new running venture will be under construction with a completion date of about 16 hours.

The “81 on 81 Relay Run” is the latest venture for Go Far Events, the group led by Mark Knutson, who orchestrates the Fargo Marathon. The numbers say it themselves: 81 miles on Highway 81.

Unique twists will be common for the 95 teams consisting of six or 12 runners each. Starting times will vary from 9 p.m. Friday night to 3 a.m. Saturday morning depending on the expected pace of each team.

The plan is for most if not all of the teams to finish between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday at Newman Outdoor Field.

“It’s something that came to my mind about two years ago,” Knutson said of the event.

“We talked it over with the marathon board and we decided we liked the relay concept. It could be fun. It’s a bit of a challenge, and we’re doing something at night.”

The names of the teams are as interesting as the concept itself. Some examples include Beer for the Road, 12 Angry Runners, Houston We Have a Problem, Road Kill and Here Comes the Sun, most likely a Beatles song reference while running at dawn.

The six-person Road Kill, by the way, is the last team to start at 2:45 a.m., meaning it submitted the fastest expected times. The majority of the teams are starting between 10 p.m. and midnight.

All participants are required to use some version of a head lamp at night. The overnight hours have a couple advantages to them, Knutson said. The weather in July is at its coolest in those hours, and traffic on Highway 81 is at its lightest.

Like the Fargo Marathon, cooperation between various cities and law enforcement agencies is essential. Sheriff deputies from Cass County, Traill County and the state highway patrol will be involved in different capacities.

“We’ve gotten just tremendous support,” Knutson said.

Highway 81 won’t be completely shut down to vehicles – Knutson calls it a “soft close.” Motorists will be encouraged to use Interstate 29 to go north and south, but people living along the route will have options if needed.

Towns along the route that are part of relay stations are Harwood, Argusville, Gardner, Grandin and Hillsboro. Knutson said there was no objection from town leaders on the event.

Hillsboro is the turnaround point at 41.5 miles from the start at Newman. Registration is closed and having about 1,000 participants is fine with Knutson.

“We didn’t have any expectations going into it,” he said. “It’s one of those things that maybe in the first year you want to keep it around 1,000 rather than 5,000 or 6,000. You want to make sure you do things right. It should be manageable for us right now and it’s a good turnout.”

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia

Kolpack is the host of the WDAY Golf Show Saturdays from 8-9 a.m. on 970-AM.