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Pioneer Viewpoints: Marathon off and running

On your marks. Get set. Go!

That’s the mantra this week as the inaugural Bemidji Blue Ox Marathon will be off and running.

Kudos go out to those individuals who have led the charge in helping make this event a reality — Dennis “Barny” Bartz, Chris Bitker, Jill Bitker, Aaron Riedel and John Truedson. And there are many other individuals, groups and businesses who have played a role, because an event such as this has many hands helping to turn the wheel.

A word of thanks also goes out to all the volunteers. Without you, events such as these that add to our quality of life would not be an option.

The main marathon race, and its affiliated half-marathon, 5k race and kids’ 1k races, plus a Blue Ox Marathon Expo, will make this weekend a gathering place for runners, as well as their friends and family members.

Already, organizers say they’ve hit the 800-mark for participants in at least one of this weekend’s events. That’s a huge accomplishment for a first-year race.

Looking back, organizers of the Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, or the Fargo Marathon, probably worried and fretted they wouldn’t be able to attract the numbers to make events successful. We now know they’ve become two of the more popular running events in the Midwest. Other communities have followed suit. For example, Grand Forks launched a half-marathon event in the past few years that continues to grow.

And while Duluth’s marathon course obviously is a a scenic run, we think a course that winds around Lake Bemidji and Lake Irving when fall is in full color tops them all.

As with the Dragonboat Festival, Art in the Park, the annual Vintage Car Show, the Blue Ox Marathon has the potential to be another marquee Bemidji event.

As a reminder, events kick off on Friday with the Marathon Expo at the Sanford Center, as well as the 5k run and the children’s 1k run. The half-marathon and full marathon will be run on Saturday.

For more information on the Bemidji Blue Ox Marathon, visit or email

Prime location

Here’s hoping a suitable buyer and a suitable use can be found for the land at the corner of 15th Street and Bemidji Avenue, site of the old Bemidji High School. While the land didn’t develop the way Bemidji State University and the BSU Foundation wanted, it still is a prime location near the campus that is ripe for development.

Major players

Johanneson’s Inc. and Pace Development have made a solid commitment to Bemidji’s future with the development of the Westridge Shopping Center. Both companies have become major players in the development of retail real estate throughout the region all while continuing to call Bemidji home.