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Jeff Kolpack, Published April 20 2014

Participating in Boston Marathon a 'privilege' for Fargo man

FARGO – They’re called the Newton hills, and when Dave Backlund reaches them in miles 16 through 21 at the Boston Marathon, he’s going to be prepared. Well, as prepared as somebody training in Fargo can be.

There are not many hills aside from levees around these parts, of course, so the Fargo runner found an alternative: the 12th Avenue North bridge. It’s man-made, but it’s perhaps the biggest elevation change in the city limits.

“You have to do some kind of hill training,” Backlund said.

So, after parking his car at the Stop-N-Go convenience store on the west side of the bridge, he ran from there, over the bridge to the stoplight at the Bolley Drive intersection on the North Dakota State campus, turn around and re-trace his steps.

And he would do that again and again until about nine miles.

Today will be Backlund’s second Boston Marathon. The first was in 2010, but this one is expected to have a different feel for the obvious reason: It’s the one-year anniversary of the bombings.

“I think we’re all kind of bonded no matter what degree runner you are, whether you’re an elite runner, middle-of-the-pack or end-of-the-pack runner,” Backlund said. “We’re all bonded by something we do together.”

Together, they will power through the final stretch to the finish line where the two bombs exploded last year.

“I always feel a sense of excitement when I see the finish line,” Backlund said, “so you’re going to be aware of it. You’re going to think more about it because that’s the area where it went off. But I don’t know how I’m going to feel until I get there.”

Security has been significantly tightened throughout the course. Even so, Backlund said he’s not worried about his safety because he’s out on the course and moving. If there is a risk, it’s with the spectators.

“You want to run for those people who can’t anymore,” he said. “I think it’s a privilege to go run that course.”

Backlund, 56, has qualified for Boston four times. He did it this year by beating his age-bracket qualifying maximum of 3 hours, 40 minutes.

“A lot of people try for years and years and never come close to qualifying,” he said. “It’s something that’s a goal. I feel grateful that I can still qualify and run Boston. Boston is the Super Bowl of marathons.”

Backlund said his goal is to run it in 3 hours, 30 minutes, but it’s also not a course set up for a personal record. For one, Heartbreak Hill is at the tail end of the Newton hills.

It’s also a little more scenic than the 12th Avenue North bridge.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia