- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 6, 2014

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - North Dakota’s largest marathon is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a route that starts on a bridge over the Red River and ends in front of the historic theater that housed premieres for both the movie and the TV show named “Fargo.”

The Fargo Marathon began with about 2,300 runners in its inaugural race in 2005. This year about 23,000 people will take part in five races over three days, including the full marathon. When participants line up Saturday morning on the Veterans Memorial Bridge for the main event, the throng will be equivalent to the sixth-largest city in North Dakota.

“As you look at that, it’s basically the population of Wahpeton and Jamestown,” Fargo Police Lt. Joel Vettel said Tuesday.

It’s also the biggest block party of the year. Residents along the route come out en masse to cheer on the runners, along with more than 50 bands and disc jockeys playing music along the 26.2-mile course.

“I think the music on the course, I think the cheering, the fans, is one of the things people write back to us about,” said Mark Knutson, race executive director. “The runners just think it’s the best thing in the world. We love that. The runners love it. It kind of takes the mind off the pain of running 26 or 13 miles on a Saturday morning.”

The Fargodome indoor football stadium typically is the finish line for the race. Knutson admitted that moving it downtown is a “great challenge,” but he hopes to pull it off in the same manner as ESPN when the sports network held its College GameDay event outside the Fargo Theatre last fall.

“The thing that I’ve learned about our event that I want to try and mimic with GameDay is how professional they were. Making sure that Sunday morning when everybody gets up, it’s as clean as it was when we got here,” Knutson said.

The race includes registrants from 49 states and six countries. The only state not represented is Vermont.

About 2,000 runners are expected in the children’s race on Thursday, “along with numerous adults trying to herd them,” Vettel said, and 7,500 runners for the 5K on Friday. The remaining 13,500 or so participants will run in marathon, half-marathon, 10K and marathon relays.

The Saturday runners will line up on the bridge facing west, or toward the North Dakota side. It could take the last row of runners up to 15 minutes to reach the starting line. Participants need to arrive by 6:30 a.m. for the 8 a.m. start or “you’re probably too late,” Vettel said.

“This is the largest event in our city each and every year. It has the biggest impact on our community,” Vettel said.

The one thing the anniversary edition won’t have is champions. No former marathon winners are entered.

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