Imagine something in your life that is the essence of who you are and root of many of your proudest moments. Now, think about a person who had the most significant impact on that something. Regardless of your “something”, the person is probably a parent, maybe a grandparent, or, if you were lucky, a really great teacher.
For me, that “something” is running and that person is Mark Knutson. He wasn’t a family member or a teacher, but he was a friend and someone I respected as a leader.
In one of his more well-known capacities, Mark was the founder and director of the Fargo Marathon. He was incredibly hands-on with Fargo Marathon and every other race that he put on.
I was shocked and saddened on Sunday afternoon when I found out he had passed away after being hit by a truck while biking earlier that morning. Both because of the tragic, unfair nature of what happened but also because of how much I was personally affected by his passion and hard work in bringing the Fargo Marathon to life nearly 20 years ago.
Now I know the Fargo Marathon certainly was not the first race to exist in the community. But for me, it was the beginning of my running journey. It was the reason I gave running a shot and dove in headfirst, signing up for a half marathon as my first race when I was 23 years old.
And while I have other people to thank for helping me get into running itself, I’m not sure I would’ve been inspired enough to get immersed and stick to it had the Fargo Marathon not been there to help me fall in love with everything about running, the full process.
The Fargo Marathon introduced me to this bizarre concept of training for months and paying to run 3.1, 13.1, or even 26.2 miles. It gave me a lofty goal to put on my calendar and achieve – year after year. It is where I’ve had the privilege many times to help others achieve their goals as a pacer.
It was because of Mark all that happened.
The Power of Running…and Gratitude
Anytime I saw him out on the course or around the expo, he’d always smile and say hello, and I’d be sure to offer him a sincere thank you for putting on the race. I had an enormous amount of gratitude and appreciation for him, not only because I know how much hard work it takes to put on events, but also because of everything the Fargo Marathon has given me.
Would I have run my first race, qualified for the Boston Marathon, and experienced so many proud moments had it not been for the Fargo Marathon? I honestly don’t know. All I can say for sure is that I was and am grateful to Mark for making racing accessible. For creating community and bringing together so many people in Fargo. For giving us the reason to get up early, power through those tough long runs, and get to do something healthy and fun.
It hurts to know I won’t see Mark at packet pick-up, at the start line, or out biking the course ever again. It’s bringing me to tears right now, actually typing those words and coming to terms with the reality. It’s amazing the significant impact someone can have on your life and they never knew it – honestly, I never really acknowledged it or even realized it until now.
So, everyone reading this, I hope you will pause to acknowledge the impact Mark and the Fargo Marathon made on your life. If you’re outside the Fargo-Moorhead or Detroit Lakes communities, consider getting inspired to run a local race or at least get out there and do something that makes you proud.
Looking ahead, let’s all keep running, walking, or biking the miles for Mark. I think that would be a great way to honor him and keep his legacy strong.
That’s enough for now. Until next time,