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Spots to be spectator for Bemidji Blue Ox Marathon

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BEMIDJI — So, your wife or husband, or dad or mother, or sister or brother, or whomever, is going to be running the Bemidji Blue Ox half-marathon or full marathon on Saturday. And you want to be there to give them support and maybe snap a few photos.

But with courses that run around both Lake Irving and Lake Bemidji for the 13- and 26-mile races, where’s the best spot?

Organizers of this weekend’s races have created various "cheer zones" for spectators to have the best viewing option:


The first cheer zone is at the starting line near Gate 1 at the Sanford Center. From there, spectators will be able to watch the runners take off at 9:20 a.m., cross the parking lot, and head over the bridge over Highway 197 (Paul Bunyan Dr.).

As the runners circle Lake Irving (counter-clockwise), spectators can meet the runners when they arrive at the second cheer zone at Lueken’s Village Foods South. Organizers said there’s ample parking in front of the store and the runners will come along the road to the right of the building.

Again, runners will cross the foot bridge again and head along the south side of Lake Bemidji toward the third cheer zone, the statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. The Chamber of Commerce parking lot will be closed to accommodate runners, but spectators can park in the municipal lot across the street.

As the runners head north along Lake Boulevard to Diamond Point Park, where they will loop around and head back to the Sanford Center, spectators can catch their homeward run at the fourth cheer zone — the parking lot of the Bangsberg Fine Arts Center. The fifth cheer zone, of course, is back at the Sanford Center as runners cross the finish line.

Full marathon:

The first two cheer zones are the same as half-marathon, but the full marathon starts earlier at 9 a.m.

But the course for the full marathon changes here and cheer zone three is at Lake Avenue NE and Waville/Sherman Road (east side of Lake Bemidji just north of Mississippi bridge).

Cheer zone four will be 1½ miles north at Lake Avenue and Bass Lake Road/Lavinia, organizers said. Spectators will be able to see their runners twice here as the runners head left on Lavinia for a 1-mile loop-around.

From there, spectators can continue north on Bass Lake Road two miles and go left on Birchmont Beach Road (County Road 20) to meet runners as they exit the State Park onto Birchmont Beach Road and run past the Town and Country Golf Course. This is cheer zone five and mile No. 18 for the runners.

As the runners proceed west on Birchmont Beach Road, spectators can do the same, turning left onto Bemidji Avenue and waiting for runners a mile down at the public boat landing, which is cheer zone six.

Runners will move from Bemidji Avenue to Birchmont Avenue, but spectators are urged not to follow them onto Birchmont (to reduce congestion), but to travel 2 miles south on Bemidji Avenue to Trinity Lutheran Church. After parking in the church lot, spectators can walk a block east toward the lake and catch runners as they pass on Birchmont. The final cheer zone, as with the full marathon, is back at the Sanford Center and the finish line.