DL woman, 95, takes part in Fargo 5K with three generations

By Vicki Gerdes / DL online The Fargo Marathon 5K, held on the evening of Friday, May 8, included nearly 6,500 participants of all ages -- roughly two-thirds of them being women. There was nothing particularly remarkable about the Detroit Lakes w...

Frances Carlson
Frances Carlson of Detroit Lakes, (center) along with her daughter, Colleen Schmit (far left), great granddaughter, Ava Simonson, and granddaughter, Kelli Simonson, all took part in the Fargo Marathon 5K on Friday, May 8 in Fargo — just nine days shy of Carlson’s 95th birthday on Sunday, May 17. SUBMITTED PHOTO
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By Vicki Gerdes / DL online


The Fargo Marathon 5K, held on the evening of Friday, May 8, included nearly 6,500 participants of all ages - roughly two-thirds of them being women.

There was nothing particularly remarkable about the Detroit Lakes woman who was the 6,043rd person to cross the finish line that day - unless you consider the fact that she was just nine days short of her 95th birthday at the time. That put Frances Carlson in the No. 1 position in the “Age Graded Results” standings for the event. Another remarkable statistic is that she was crossing that finish line with her daughter, Colleen Schmit, 65; granddaughter, Kelli Simonson, 34; and great granddaughter, Ava Simonson, age 8, by her side.

Photographing the event for posterity was Kelli’s husband Tony, who accompanied the foursome while pushing young son Ryder in a stroller.


Though she is by no means a regular participant in such events, Carlson was encouraged to take part by her family, especially Schmit.

“All of us kids told her, ‘Mom, you can do that,” Schmit said. “She walks regularly.”

“I walk a couple of blocks every day,” said Carlson. “I like the fresh air - when the weather’s nice.”

When Carlson considered the idea of taking part in the 5K further, she only had one question: “Do I have to run it?”

Of course, the answer was no. In fact, Schmit told her, “I know you can do it - and all of us will walk with you.”

And so they did. In fact, Schmit said, “She kept up a steady pace… the equivalent of a 20 minute mile.”

“We had to walk around some people,” Carlson said with a smile.

And this was despite the fact that the conditions were less than hospitable.


“It was very cold,” Schmit said. “It wasn’t raining but the wind was pretty strong.”

But that didn’t stop Carlson. “Toward the end she was almost levitating she was so excited.”

Part of that was undoubtedly due to the fact that Carlson was garnering her share of celebrity: Her t-shirt had a sign on it that read, “Cheer for Granny Fran - she’s 95 years old!”

And cheer they did, Schmit said. “So many people came up to shake her hand and congratulate her.”

“The next day I said, ‘I feel so good I could go again!’” Carlson added.

Her lack of fatigue undoubtedly has something to do with the fact that despite her age, she leads a very active lifestyle.

“She has quite the social life,” Schmit said teasingly. “Tomorrow, she’s going dancing.”

“I go to both Frazee and Park Rapids,” Carlson said, noting that she particularly likes the fact that Park Rapids holds dances every Sunday night. “They have very good bands, too.”


Even when the weather is too unpleasant for walking, Carlson makes sure she gets in some cardio every morning.

“I make up my own exercises,” she said, adding that she has occasionally tried structured swim classes and exercise classes, but as soon as she figures out the exercises for herself, she likes to do them at her own pace, and in her own time.

“I didn’t like having to get up for class at 7:30 a.m.,” she admitted.

Carlson also volunteers at Ecumen-Detroit Lakes’ Lamplighter Manor and Emmanuel Nursing Home, where she helps lead sing-alongs once a week.

“I volunteered for 13 years at St. Mary’s,” she added.

“When we go shopping, there’s no waiting for grandma,” Schmit joked, adding that they often have a hard time keeping up with her instead.

“I just took the train to Red Wing, and my niece took me to the casino,” Carlson said, adding that she enjoys train rides.

Part of the reason why she likes to stay active is that it keeps her virtually free of aches and pains.

“I don’t have arthritis … the only thing I have to take is a thyroid pill,” Carlson said. “My health is fantastic.”

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes .

A reporter at Detroit Lakes Newspapers since relocating to the community in October 2000, Vicki was promoted to Community News Lead for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and Perham Focus on Jan. 1, 2022. She has covered pretty much every "beat" that a reporter can be assigned, from county board and city council to entertainment, crime and even sports. Born and raised in Madelia, Minnesota, she is a graduate of Hamline University, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in English literature (writing concentration). You can reach her at
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