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Knife River father, daughter to run marathon together

Erik Furo, the youngest person to ever run Grandma's Marathon, will be running the race this year with his 13-year-old daughter Erika.

Erik Furo is modest about his place in Grandma's Marathon history. He was the youngest runner to complete the now 35-year-old race. "It's not fair," he said, because shortly after running the marathon at age 10 in 1983, the age requirement for the race was bumped up to 12. "Nobody will ever get the chance to break the record," Furo said.

Furo, 38, has run most of the marathons since then. The exception was a few years while he was attending college. Like his father, Larry, did for him when he was a kid, Furo is passing the torch on to his 13-year-old daughter, Erika, who will run Grandma's Marathon for the first time this year.

"I'm paying it forward from what my dad did for me," Erik said.

The Furos live in Knife River and Erik is a deputy with the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

The two have been training since the cold winter months on the trails near their home. For Erika, the training has been rigorous. She has participated in a few small running events in the area, but, prior to January, she had never run more than four miles at a time.

The Two Harbors High School student says she's the only one her age she knows who is running the marathon. No small feat for a grown adult, Erika is focused on finishing the race and with a qualifying time for future races.

While Erik is used to completing the marathon in around three hours, he said this year it will take about five and a half hours for to finish the race with his daughter. Furo's competitive drive will be put on the back burner.

"This year, it'll be all about my daughter," he said. "Whatever it takes to get her across the finish line safely."

Not only has Erik been teaching his daughter the physical aspects of training for a marathon, he's been giving her some mental coaching as well. Along with the discipline of training for a 26.2 mile race, he's also helping her to be goal-oriented.

"I'm teaching her how to push herself further than most people do," he said. "I'm teaching her to go when everything else says stop."

Erik says running the marathon on Father's Day weekend adds to the occasion. "We're probably spending more time together than in a normal father-daughter situation," he said.

When Erik isn't running down marathon goals, he's running down criminals. As a deputy since 2000, Furo says keeping in marathon shape helps ease the stress of the job. Not to mention, he could likely outrun a fledging law breaker.

"They might be quicker, but I can run longer," Erik said. "Most of the time we're just sitting in our car, but that one percent of the time -- it's go time."

Lake County Sheriff Carey Johnson knew immediately who to name when asked who's in the best shape on his force. He said Furo is "an animal" when it comes to fitness, "and it definitely helps him in doing his job."

Johnson said running people down or facing attacks requires good fitness. He said Furo is good for the unique rigors of Lake County and its many searches in the wild for lost hikers.

So Furo is never on patrol the Saturday of Grandma's, which consists of making sure runners behave themselves at the start line and use the portable toilets. Not such a great shift, the sheriff admits. "He always wants that day off for some reason," Johnson said with a laugh.