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Jeff Kolpack, Published May 17 2013

Kolpack: When it comes to shoes for kids, it's no pain, no gain

Fargo - The work day on Friday started around 11 a.m. when the Fargo Marathon introduced Ivan Castro to the community. He has quite a motivating story, from almost being killed and blinded in the Iraq War to running 24 marathons, all within the last six years.

Six hours later, I found myself in the mob of 8,000-plus people at the Fargo Marathon 5K. The last time at a starting line was the Jim Lauerman’s St. Patrick’s Day 5K over a decade ago, and although training wasn’t going great, there was nothing that led me to believe that after a couple of miles I would be walking.

I almost remember the block, somewhere along Oak Street, when the foot just wouldn’t do it anymore. At least it wasn’t like the Marine Corps Marathon when a calf cramp had me in the fetal position on a Washington, D.C., boulevard.

Nope, I was done, the result of a right ankle that is long on surgery scars and short on cartilage. It was time to trade in the shoes for a bike, or a long walk around a golf course.

And that is all good. It was time to do something else, and I never quite attained my goals in running anyway. The hope in the 10K was to break 40 minutes; my PR was 40:14. The hope was to qualify for the Boston Marathon, giving it the old college try in the Chicago Marathon. I was on pace through about 18 to 19 miles, still attainable at 21. Then the wheels fell off.

On Friday, the wheels never really got going. The time was 37:25, which was only about 19 minutes off the PR of 18-something. But the beauty of this 5K was it wasn’t about me or my goals or my speed and here was the ultimate beauty: I’d like to thank the thousands of folks for a trip down memory lane.

I spent the last several months every so often on a cushy treadmill trying to figure out the best way to run, or whatever you call it. Short, choppy steps with the toes leading or heal-striking first. I barely made it past the Bison Sports Arena on Friday when the left calf gave a glimpse of a cramp. I know exactly why it did, too. The calf, in a revolt to the brain, told it, “You idiot. I thought you gave this sport up a long time ago.”

The legs hurt at times, and it was great. It brought me back to Central Park, Lemon Drop Hill, Summit Avenue or Lake Shore Drive, all encounters in the last few miles of marathons in New York, Duluth, Twin Cities and Chicago.

But most of all, the reason I tried my best Ivan Castro was about the thought of a local kid getting one of a 1,000 pairs of Nikes thanks to the marathon’s “Shoes for Kids Campaign.” It’s the reason in the first place there are thousands of runners here every year – a charity event for kids that started with the name “Run for the Children.”

Like anything that becomes wildly successful, there are those willing to capitalize on it. Hotels now are requiring multiple-night stay and increasing their prices for this weekend. They call it business.

I call it greed.

Let’s hope this event maintains its kids-first vision for many years. At the Thursday Youth Run, Nike Pegasus shoes were a common site.

All I would ask is whichever kid gets a pair of new running shoes thanks to my contribution, please enjoy the sport. You don’t have to enter a race, certainly. Maybe read the story of Ivan for a school project.

Maybe run around the block a couple of times. Join your school’s track and field team. Do something with two healthy feet, and don’t take them for granted.

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