WDAY: The News Leader

Published May 03, 2010, 09:10 AM

Firefighter paralyzed by a stroke to take on the full marathon with some help from his friend

One man's first ever “full” marathon experience will be unlike any other.

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - The record is broken. 16-thousand people already signed up for the Fargo Marathon, now just three weeks away. That's nearly three thousand more than ran last year and includes likely the largest group of first timer racers ever!

After months of promoting the marathon and overall community health and opening up several new race options, Marathon Director Mark Knutson says they've drawn a lot of newcomers, including Mayors Mark Voxland and Dennis Walaker who will do one of the shorter races. Knutson thinks 25 percent of participants will be racing for the first time.

Mark Knutson/Fargo Marathon Director: “I know a lot of people three four years ago, never would've dreamed of running a mile, much less 3, 6 13 or 26. So those are really good feelings.”

One man's first ever “full” marathon experience will be unlike any other. 95 of the people crossing the finish line here at the Fargodome will have just completed their first ever full marathon! That's 26.2 miles.

Few will be as proud as Rollie Johnson. His first race was in 2008, when he ran the half marathon pushing friend and former Fargo firefighter Rory Eidsness, who was paralyzed four years ago by a stroke.

Rollie Johnson/First Time Marathon Runner: “The crowd support and prayers we got that day were unbelievable. We had no idea the effect and adrenaline of the crowd cheering.”

Believing in the same power and fan support that got them through that race, this year they'll try the full distance with a new aluminum, titanium-wheeled, trike.

Rollie Johnson/First Time Marathon Runner: “I have all those pieces of can I do this? Can I finish? My goal is to run the 26 pushing Rory and run the whole time, but if I have to walk or crawl, that's not the end of the world. We've still done something significant.”

For beginners and experts, that day of significance is now just a few short weeks and longs runs away. You can still sign up for the Fargo Marathon at Not a runner? That's okay too. 500 volunteers are needed throughout race weekend, including for traffic control, which the race will actually pay you for if you volunteer with a non profit group.