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Bemidji Marathon course gains certification

BEMIDJI -- If you have any questions about the course for the Bemidji Blue Ox Marathon, you can contact Dennis Bartz or John Truedson.

They know all the bends, straightaways and nuances better than anyone because they measured every inch of the 26.2-mile layout for the Oct. 12 event.

"I have ridden the course four times, and I probably know it as well as anybody," Truedson said. "It is a neat course with a neat design."

Truedson has the knowledge and the credentials to certify that a marathon course is exactly 26.2 miles, and those abilities were recently recognized by the U.S.A. Track and Field Association (USATF).

When the Bemidji Blue Ox Marathon was born, one of the goals was to have the race certified. And that task was assumed by Bartz and Truedson.

"If the course is certified, and ours is, and if a runner meets the qualification times for his or her age group, the runner could qualify for the Boston Marathon," Bartz said. "So having our course certified is a big deal."

It also was time consuming.

"I've been doing this for 40 years and certifying a course is a long, drawn-out process," Truedson said.

The process includes designing the layout and following that layout with a bicycle that has been equipped with a very accurate distance counter.

The process also involves physically measuring the distance on a straightaway and calibrating that distance on the bicycle to ensure the counter is accurate.

"We rode the course three times with the bicycle following the shortest distance that the runners would run," Truedson said. "When you measure a course you don't follow the route a vehicle would take. Runners will cut the corners where they can and those (cut corners) are what we measure."

After three trips around the layout with the bicycle, Bartz and Truedson had their measurements and they submitted the paperwork to the USATF officials, who approved the calculations and certified the course.

"We probably spent 50 hours working on the certification," Truedson said. "There is a 100-page book detailing how to do this and you have to pay attention to every detail."

Start and stop at Sanford Center

The course for the Bemidji Blue Ox Marathon begins at Gate 1 of the Sanford Center and heads to the new bridge that spans Paul Bunyan Drive. The route then takes the runners to the south side of Lake Irving, around the lake to the west and east into downtown.

Runners will then return to the Sanford Center where they will follow the paved trail system, with a few detours, counterclockwise to Lake Bemidji State Park.

From the park the course will follow Birchmont Beach Road to Birchmont Drive, through Diamond Point Park and back to the Sanford Center.

"I think it's a fast course, and I think it is a better course than Grandma's in Duluth or the Twin Cities," Truedson said.

Registrations for the Bemidji Blue Ox Marathon are still being accepted and Bartz urges all runners to register as soon as possible.

"If you are looking to run in the marathon, please sign up now," Bartz said. "That will help us with the planning."

The marathon weekend begins Friday, Oct. 11, with a children's 1-kilometer race at 4:30 p.m. At 5 p.m., a 5-kilometer walk/run will be held.

Saturday is the big day, however, as the marathon begins at 9 a.m. and the one-half marathon starts 20 minutes later.

For more details or to register, visit

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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