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Jeff Kolpack, Published April 27 2014

Fargo Marathon seeing its reach expand

Fargo - It didn’t take long for the Fargo Marathon to be an attraction for the “50 States Marathon Club.” Runners from across the country descended on Fargo in May to notch North Dakota off their list.

Lately, it seems, the Fargo event is expanding its borders and is going international. This year, runners from 10 different countries have entered the various races.

“Diversity is always great and it’s true what people say about traveling,” said Alejandro Gomez Ruiz. “They say ‘los viajes ilustran,’ which means: trips will give you more knowledge.”

Gomez Ruiz is taking quite the trip to Fargo. Next Wednesday, he’ll drive from his hometown of Aguascalientes, Mexico to Guadalajara, where he’ll catch a flight to San Francisco. From there, he’ll catch a connection to Denver and then to Fargo.

It will be his 19th marathon, a hobby he picked up after his second back surgery. A doctor recommended walking for one year and then slowly work jogging into his recovery. He kept going, completing a marathon within five years.

“I always tell my friends to keep pushing,” he said.

He entered the Fargo Marathon after doing an internet search. He’s never been to this area of the country and he said he prefers to run in cooler weather.

Aguascalientes has an altitude of about 1.2 miles above sea level. His running weather in daylight usually ranges between 70 and 85 degrees, although he said his night runs are comfortable.

There are other, tougher, issues however, like safety.

“It’s still an issue in Mexico,” Gomez Ruiz said. “Drivers are not very conscious about us runners and do not stop at the corners or move to the center line when passing a runner.”

Gomez Ruiz, 46, is a well-traveled man, having run marathons in Montreal and Sevilla, Spain. He went to graduate school at Texas A&M and has lived in Canada and Port Huron, Mich. He and a couple friends started a business in Mexico that produces plastic parts for car interiors and currently has 70 employees.

“Actually, I am promoting running with our employees,” he said. “We ran a 10K race two weeks ago.”

His parents, both 78 years old, will travel with him to Fargo. They’ve been to 16 of his marathons.

“They do not speak English but manage to find the way from the starting line to the finish,” Gomez Ruiz said. “Years ago in Montreal, they found someone from South America that took them to the finish line at Olympic Stadium. You always find nice, friendly people from around the world.”

The international flavor includes Suan Hanson, a Fargo native who has been working in Ethiopia for the last three years. She’s coming back for a family wedding, but will find enough time to run the 10K.

“I was happy to see that the Fargo Marathon was the same weekend,” she said. “I am only running the 10K because I won’t have time to run a half or full marathon with a daytime wedding. Our 2-year-old daughter is the flower girl so I need to get her ready, too.”

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

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia