FARGO-Mike Kohler lined up with thousands of other runners inside the Fargodome here on Saturday, May 19, ready for his first half-marathon as part of the Sanford Fargo Marathon.

It would be a big step for the 26-year-old plumber and pipefitter from West Fargo, who ran the 10K last year and the 5K the year before that.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live

But a misstep, right from the start, put him on an even more difficult course.

Nervous and tired from waking up earlier than usual, Kohler wasn't paying full attention.

He thought the full and half marathons started at the same time, at 7 a.m. In reality, the half-marathon started 15 minutes later.

Wearing headphones, Kohler wasn't listening closely to the starting announcements.

"So when they said 'go,' I went," he said, reminiscing about the day.

Just outside the dome, at the intersection of 19th Avenue North and University Drive, Kohler turned north, following the marathon pack. Half-marathoners were supposed to go south.

Kohler started getting suspicious after seeing course markings that said "full marathon only."

He wondered whether the two courses would converge and half-marathon markings would appear.

At mile eight, when the course looped around from the bike path, he noticed runners crossing the 12th Avenue North bridge over the Red River.

It was then he fully realized his mistake, knowing the half-marathon course did not go into Moorhead.

Mark Knutson, executive director of the Fargo Marathon, said it's rare that someone ends up running the wrong race.

"Probably less than half a dozen times in the 14 years we've been putting the race on," Knutson said.

Kohler thought about stopping at 13.1 miles, knowing he'd run as far as he'd aimed to. In fact, he'd met his goal of doing it in about 2 ½ hours.

But hey, he was feeling pretty good, and convinced himself to continue.

"I'm just going to go for it, because why not? I'm already here, I'm already running, I'm already tired. Might as well try to finish it," Kohler said.

And finish, he did, completing the 26.2 miles in 5:54:26.

Despite going the distance, Kohler received a half-marathon medal because that's what his bib number indicated. It's not about the medal anyway, but the accomplishment, he said.

He hopes to do a half-marathon and another full marathon in the future, so he can say he "legitimately" ran each.

For now, he's pretty proud of this feat.

"This just kind of proves you can do a lot more than what you think you can sometimes," Kohler said.

Knutson called it a true test of character.

"Thirteen's a lot, and then to add 13 to it, never having gone that far, that's pretty great," he said.