The Fargo Marathon celebrates its ninth year this weekend (May 16-18, 2013) and if you’ve never been in the thick of things, make this your year to check it out.
Even if you’re a dedicated non-runner like me, there are still ways you can get in on the event that attracted over 24,000 participants from all over the world last year and promises even more this year.
Here are five of my favorite ways experience Marathon madness.
The 10K, Marathon Relay, Half and Full Marathon aren’t taking registrations for 2013, but the Blue Cross Blue Shield 5K on Friday, May 17th is still open.
Organizers are closing in on their goal to hit 10,000 runners, which would make the event one of the largest 5K races in the country and would also provide 1,000 pairs of running shoes to kids in our area.
Throw a Party:
Unlike some larger marathons, this course runs through both urban and residential neighborhoods. So if you have a house on the marathon route (or if you know someone who does) you have a front row seat for the metro’s biggest block party and practically an obligation to throw (or attend) a crazy Marathon bash.
Since the events start early on Saturday — the 10K at 7 a.m. followed by the Half Marathon at 7:30 a.m. and the Full Marathon at 8:15 a.m. — most folks put the coffee on, pour some mimosas or a bloody mary or two, set out a breakfast spread, crank up some music and scream themselves silly as the runners come by.
If you want to get really ambitious, see below for tips on how to maximize your cheering section and explore the Marathon festivities in your neighborhood.
Catch Live Music
If you’re already in a particular neighborhood on the marathon route to watch and cheer, you’ll hear music coming from every direction. The marathon hosts several live acts every mile so you won’t have to walk far to check out something new.
Last year I caught four bands, an Elvis impersonator and a Native American drum circle and I only walked for a few minutes.
If you want to party with the runners themselves, check out the 27th Mile Post-Party at The Venue after the race on Saturday afternoon.
The 21+, General Admission show features Firehouse, GB Leighton, Silverado and Pop Rocks. Doors open at noon and you can score tickets here.
Individuals and groups come out to help with the marathon in a big way and their energy adds so much to the atmosphere of the event.
I’ve worn red and cheered along with my fellow MSUM Dragon alumni and handed out water and energy drinks with my coworkers, and there’s nothing like the rush of activity when a flood of runners come flying around a corner.
All of the aid stations are already staffed for 2013, but individual positions are still available — find out how you can help here.
If your group wants to volunteer for 2014, you can get set up here.
Watch and Cheer:
The runners say that the Fargo Marathon is fun because the crowd really gets into it. I’ve been a spectator for years and the exchange of energy between the runners and the spectators is one of my favorite parts of the event — it’s really something you have to experience to believe.
Here are a few of my favorite neighborhoods to check out the action:
The craziest atmosphere is usually found near the beginning of the course, in the residential neighborhoods along south 8th and 9th Streets. Homeowners in this historic area throws some of the best (and wildest) early morning Marathon parties in town — I’m talking kids games, bubble machines, American Gold Gymnasts, karaoke — the works. Even casual passerby can can feed off the energy of this crazy environment.
Downtown is fun for people that want to see the runners and a little historical ambiance at the same time. Since the runners are in the area later in the morning, it’s easy to grab some food, drinks or do a little shopping afterward.
The tree-lined streets of the North Side are quieter and very family friendly, since there’s less overall traffic and plenty of parks and nearby open spaces for kids to run and play. Your presence there is especially needed, since the runners are in the homestretch with just a few miles to go. Since the runners come through in late morning or very early afternoon, it’s a great spot to nurse a coffee, catch a little sun or enjoy some lunch.
And of course you can’t beat the adrenaline rush of being at the starting line or watching the runners cross the finish line inside the Fargodome.
You don’t need anything to cheer, but making signs, bringing music, noisemakers, lawn chairs, lawn games and refreshments can elevate even a small gathering of friends on a boulevard into a full-on party.
I’ve seen groups decked out in crazy matching outfits, spontaneous bean bag tournaments, mid-day picnics and more. If the weather’s right, the sky’s the limit.
How are you celebrating Marathon weekend? Send me pictures!