For the Bemidji High School grads, they were inspired by fellow runner Rickey Gates to take up the challenge of running every single street within Bemidji city limits. Gates, who is a professional ultrarunner, ran every single street in the city of San Francisco in 2018.
Sam Hodgson, left, and Soren Dybing jog along Anne Street Northwest on Wednesday afternoon in Bemidji. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)
“Now that COVID has hit, a lot of races we typically do have been canceled, and we’ve been looking for stuff to do. So we’ve had to get creative,” said Dybing, a junior at the University of Minnesota in Duluth. “We figured a lot of other people in the running community have been doing this project in their hometowns — or even in larger cities like San Francisco and New York City — so we figured we could probably get this done in Bemidji over our college break.”
The friends of six years set out on Dec. 22, and over the course of about two weeks, ran approximately 175 miles of Bemidji streets. They recently finished on Jan. 7.
Hodgson, a junior at Minnesota State University in Mankato, said their runs averaged from eight to 10 miles each day. In the final week of their project, they headed upward of at least 15 miles with two runs per day.
Dybing explained that, upon starting the project, they believed their mileage would be less. However, they soon discovered Bemidji has “a lot of dead ends and cul-de-sac neighborhoods,” resulting in them having to do a large amount of “out and back running,” thus doubling their mileage.
A completed street map of Bemidji is pictured, which Soren Dybing and Sam Hodgson updated after each of their runs. Submitted photo.
“It’s definitely a lot of time on the feet, but that’s obviously what it takes,” Hodgson said. “I like that it’s just a lot of slow, easy running. We’re not running fast or hard. Soren has to stop every so often to check the map, to make sure we hit everything for that particular day. I’m more of the moral support guy — I’m in it for the adventure.”
Along the way, Dybing and Hodgson documented their progress on their project’s Instagram page @everysinglestreetbemidji, updating a map with the streets they accomplished each day and posting photos of “hidden gems” in their hometown.
Soren Dybing poses with one of the quirkier yard decorations he discovered while out running every street in the city of Bemidji. Submitted photo.
The runners said each day brought them a new discovery, from a Superman Santa perched on top of a roof to a carved wooden figure dressed in clothes rising out of a planter box with a drink in hand.
Hodgson also noted their surprise at the number of churches in town and said they’ve enjoyed looking at Bemidji’s variety of homes as well as their Christmas decorations.
“I think we both know Bemidji pretty well — at least we thought we did. We’re really finding new neighborhoods that we had no clue were even a thing,” Dybing said. “Regardless of who sees it, the Instagram is nice to have as a journal that we can look back at.”
Sam Hodgson swings from a street sign while on a run along one of Bemidji’s many streets. Submitted photo.
“You really find a lot more stuff running rather than driving because, when we’re out running, we’re going like seven, eight miles an hour,” Hodgson added. “So we’re taking in everything as opposed to just driving around, and every day has really been quite different.”
Now that they’ve concluded the project, Dybing and Hodgson said they’re looking to qualify for the New York City Marathon later this year (given that it is not canceled) along with participating in a 100-mile race.
Both Dybing and Hodgson said they encourage folks to get out and explore their own neighborhood or town — regardless of whether they run — for the pure experience of uncovering the strange, the comical and the beautiful of one’s stomping grounds.
Sam Hodgson, left, and Soren Dybing pause for a photo while out running every street in the city of Bemidji. Submitted photo.
“We didn’t really know what to expect, and part of being a distance runner is you have these crazy ideas, and this was definitely one of them,” Dybing said. “It’s been fun just to hang out and find a way that we can stay active. It’s been cool to see all these little neighborhoods and see them all come together, especially day by day.”
“It’s been really eye opening, mainly because I’ve been in Bemidji my whole life, but I feel like I missed out on so much until I did this and saw every corner of Bemidji,” Hodgson added. “It’s nice slowing down and seeing Bemidji for what it is. It’s been really a special thing, and I’m glad we took the time over break to put a goal in front of us and chase after it.”