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Kyle Potter, Published May 18 2013

VIDEO: Fargo Marathon: Everybody has a story

FARGO – Steven Burdick says he ran a mediocre race in an otherwise incredible marathon.

Runners and fans fought through scattered showers early and high humidity later Saturday to cheer on Burdick and about 21,000 others taking part in the ninth annual Fargo Marathon.

Spectators lined the streets with noisemakers, pom-poms and outstretched hands begging to be high-fived.

“Just the fact that the city is so involved makes it one of the best,” said Burdick, who came from Sioux Falls, S.D., to run his second full marathon here. “The residents are out there cheering along the course. It helps you.”

He crossed the finish line with a time of 3:28 – not one of his best.

“You have good days, you have bad days,” he said.

But as he recuperated with pizza and fruit in the Fargodome, Burdick confidently said the race is one of the best in the country.

“The venue that they have this one in is just outstanding,” he said.

Shoes? Who needs shoes?

Deryk Ducharme ripped open some old blisters and suffered some new ones running in the half-marathon. He winced while walking around the Fargodome after finishing his race.

That’s bound to happen when you run barefoot for 13.1 miles.

Preparing for his first long-distance barefoot run didn’t take long.

“I took my shoes off,” he said. “Other than taking them off and taking the plunge, you really can’t prepare for this.”

Saturday’s run was Ducharme’s fourth half-marathon. Without shoes, he got his second-best personal time: 2:29.

“He beat me,” chimed in Tracy Stempnick, his girlfriend, who crossed the finish line about 5 minutes later.

The pair came down from Winnipeg to run the half-marathon together. A fellow Canadian, Bob Nicol finished the full marathon barefoot with a time of 4:16. Nicol regularly runs 50 miles or more barefoot, so 26.2 miles without shoes was nothing for him, Ducharme said.

“Until about mile 10, it didn’t faze me at all. It’s awesome,” Ducharme said. “This is the first time I’ve run where nothing else in my body has hurt.”

50 states, 50 marathons

The Fargo Marathon was No. 46 on David Zajic’s mission to run a 26.2-mile race in each of the 50 states.

He’ll hit Minnesota in two weeks, then close out the list with Vermont, Wyoming and Hawaii by the end of the year.

“This year will only be six,” Zajic said, crestfallen. “I ran 13 last year,” including several two-day stints with back-to-back marathons.

With his 50th race later this year, Zajic, from Priceville, Ala., will have completed his quest in just three years.

Marlin Keesler finished that goal years ago and is going back around to retry the states where he took longer than four hours to finish.

He finished Saturday’s race in 3:56, and now has 12 states to go. His next race will be his 68th – a lot of running for someone who says he hates it.

“I like the traveling, but the marathon? That sucks,” Keesler said.

His first go-around was built around the travel, in an effort to help his two children – both on the Autism spectrum – develop better social skills.

He swore off running altogether after hitting all 50 states, at least until some co-workers prodded him back into it.

“The reality is, this part’s all about ego,” Keesler said.

‘Run like you stole it’

Runners couldn’t help but laugh as they passed Janelle Johnson and her 9-year-old grandson, Damian Lozano-Johnson.

Posted up near the first mile-marker of the race, one held up a sign reading: “Run!! The person that is passing you is farting.” The other sign said: “Run like you stole it!”

The pair have been watching runners together for the past three years, but Saturday’s races were the first year they drew up signs to help motivate participants, Johnson said.

“It gets them talking and smiling and going,” she said, though one runner veered off course to stop and take a photo.

Johnson said they’ll probably have to start brainstorming new jokes tomorrow in order to beat this year’s signs.

Bagpipers need endurance,too

Nothing gets a runner’s adrenaline pumping like bagpipes and kilts.

Heather and Thistle Pipes and Drums, a 14-member group, set up near the 3-mile marker in downtown Fargo, playing some Scottish tunes for several hours.

From polka to classical rock, musical groups were scattered throughout the course to serenade passing runners.

But Dan Aird, the group’s pipe major, said they’re the original. Heather and Thistle has played at every Fargo Marathon since it started in 2005.

“Before they had bands, we were here,” Aird said.

The troupe has moved around town every year, always playing in a new spot. They’ve played farther along the course in years past, which has turned their performance into somewhat of a marathon in and of itself.

“Sometimes we’ve played for six hours straight” with few breaks, Aird said. “Everybody’s used to that. Once you can play for an hour or so, you can play forever.”

‘A really good energy’

As the rain started to sprinkle down Saturday morning, Jen Hammer and her family found the perfect spot to watch marathon runners pass by: their garage.

When Hammer and her husband, Dominick, bought their house more than four years ago, she had no idea it was on the route for the annual marathon. It’s a perfect spot to watch the races together as a family.

“It’s exciting, there’s just a really good energy,” Hammer said.

That might not be the case were their home later on the course, but runners pass before hitting the first mile marker.

“They’re a lot more chipper. It’s usually a big, thick pack around here,” she said.

Plus, Hammer said, the half marathon passes by the house again as runners wind their way to the finish at the Fargodome.