Catching Up With The Race Director: Fargo Marathon Edition

In lightning quick time, Fargo Marathon Race Director Mark Knutson returned an email asking him to be the first in an occasional series of Q&A sessions with race directors across the region.

With less than 3 months until Fargo Marathon weekend, thousands of runners have begun training for one of the events May 7-9. Be sure to check this blog and the race website for updates leading up to race weekend.

Q. As you start your second decade of the Fargo Marathon, what are you most proud of? What keeps you motivated?

Mark Knutson: I am most proud when you see stories about people who were totally NOT runners, but they were motivated to run their first 5K or first 10K, and that transformed their lives. I’m also very proud of this community/region in the way it supports this event, better than many of those big city races! It is sometimes challenging to stay motivated, but race morning, the excitement and anticipation — when the gun goes off — that’s it!

Q. Where do you see the Fargo Marathon in another 10 years? What would you like to be able to say about the event on the 20th anniversary?

MK: I think that running will continue to be strong. The “novelty runs” such as mud runs and color runs have pushed a different group of runners (more fun and casual) into this market, and as those novelty runs start to lose popularity, the road races will still be there. Now, the challenge will be to make our events appealing enough to that new group of runners as well as holding on to the people of my generation and older. In 20 years, I’d love to welcome at least 20 Charter Members (half or full marathoners) to the starting line, then I’d run with them!

Q. The marathon course has changed every year. Do you think a time will come when you settle on one route?

MK: I don’t think so, but I think that’s what makes the event special, it never gets stale. It’s a good challenge for me to certify a new course each year, and it’s good to expose different parts of the community to the event. I’ve done races where the course is the same every year, and they are typically pretty good events, but mixing it up is good for everyone.

Q. This year’s marathon starts inside the Fargodome. Some runners are wondering whether they’ll be able to sync their GPS watch prior to the start of the race. What advice do you have for runners? Will the Fargodome bathrooms be able to handle the number of runners prior to their events?

MK: I think that people get too dependent upon the GPS. I once trained to qualify for Boston, and when I ran the race, I asked my coach if I should wear my GPS. He said “Why? You’ve done the training, you know what to do”. Now, I do understand that people like to know what their pace is, so my advice is to get with a Pace Group. If you want to run a 4-hour marathon or a 2-hour half marathon, then line up with that pace group inside the dome and stay with them. If you’re going to have your GPS, then sync it up outside of the Fargodome before you go in, then after you exit the dome for your run, it will sync up faster. Also, make sure you connect your watch to your computer and download any software updates to your phone a few days before the event.

Q. The U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials are early next year. Do you expect elite athletes to run in Fargo this year in hopes of qualifying?

MK: Yes, definitely. We’ve had a few of our elite athletes contact us to ask about the course and how it will be for qualifying. I met with Fargo’s own Andrew Carlson about a month ago and asked him about the course from an elite athlete’s point of view. It’s an important part of the Fargo Marathon, and I wanted to make sure that I was able to get the perspective of someone of his caliber. BTW, he liked it!