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Jeff Kolpack, Published March 26 2013

Fargo Marathon officials ready to track a rising Red River

FARGO – All of the numbers with the Fargo Marathon are continuing to climb this month – including the crest prediction for the Red River.

With entrants for the marathon, half-marathon and 10K ahead of pace from last year’s record turnout, event officials are keeping a watchful eye on the impending flood. Now entering its ninth annual race, experience is on executive director Mark Knutson’s side.

The Red is about to go through its fourth major flood in the last five years, a situation that has yielded last-minute course changes and constant questions of traffic control.

“We learned in 2009 that you have to be the kid sitting by the door,” Knutson said. “You don’t really want to talk to the mayor when the mayor is trying to save the city.”

So to save the quality of the race during times of high water, Knutson said the marathon committee is diligent with its own alternative plans. The key, he said, is to be prepared when the time comes to talk to city or Fargo Police Department officials.

There is experience on the city’s end, too. Fargo police officer David Boe has coordinated traffic issues with the marathon for years.

“We know the city is behind us, but until the flood resides, we try to stay out of their hair,” Knutson said.

The area of flood concern with the marathon route is expected to be the Third Street underpass in Moorhead. Otherwise, all other areas of the course have been adjusted to compensate for a high Red River.

Knutson said a decision on a final route probably needs to be made around April 15.

If the Moorhead section of the route is deemed unsuitable, it’s possible the miles could be made up in a section of north Fargo.

“If we made it work in ’09, we should be able to make it work this year,” he said.

Knutson said the marathon has essentially eliminated the double-loop course that was used following the 2009 record flood as a possibility because of congestion.

This year’s marathon course was already adjusted to avoid the El Zagal golf course loop and most of Elm Street because of concerns with cutting off the entrance to the VA hospital.

Meanwhile, registrations continue to flow in, and most races are expected to be capped by early May. About the only hitch have been less-than-hoped entrants for the 5K, which once again is partnering with Nike, Dakota Medical Foundation and Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota to distribute running shoes for kids. Knutson attributes it to the weather.

“A year ago, everybody was running and walking and excited about it,” he said.

Knutson said defending men’s marathon champion Oliver Hoffmann from Germany was planning to defend his title, but recently suffered a stress fracture while training in Kenya and is out indefinitely.

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