2024 Race Recap Grambassador: Shannon


Okay, I started writing this recap of one of my favorite weekends of the year and realized I was over a page in and still hadn’t even started talking about the 5k. I don’t think anyone wants to read my play-by play of the entire weekend (if you do, reach out and I can give some more details), so I’m just going to talk about a few highlights from Grandma’s 2024.


Even though this was my seventh weekend participating in the marathon, it held a lot of firsts. Dot (my daughter) and I make celebrating Grandma’s into an entire weekend. It’s begun to rank up there with Christmas or family vacations. 


Pre Race Recap:

We started off by volunteering at the Young Athletes Foundation booth on Thursday afternoon. This was the first time I had volunteered at the expo and it was a ton of fun. To see not only all the eager athletes running the races, but all their excited kids! It’s such a joy to know that this next generation is being inspired to be physically active, to see the camaraderie of the running community, and to be able to see their parents push themselves to do incredible things.


Friday, we once again hit the expo, because we didn’t want to miss anything! We toured around there before heading out to all the kids’ activities in Bayfront. Dot spent a ton of time in the bouncy houses (which was nothing new), but it was her first time running two laps in the Whipper Snapper Races, since she bumped up into the nine and ten year old category. 


I’ve done the Great Grandma’s Challenge a couple of times, but this was the first year that Dot was running the William A. Irvin 5k! We’ve volunteered at the 5k the last couple of years and this year she decided she wanted to jump into the race herself. Dot’s ran quite a few races, but this  was by far the biggest race (people wise) that she has ever participated in. Running with her as she smiled and waved to all the cheering spectators will be a memory I cherish. She has that competitive spirit and really picked it up at the end to cross the finish line with her arms held high. It was a proud mom moment. Afterward we celebrated with the Michelina’s Spaghetti Dinner-for the first time! It was delicious. 


Race Recap:

I got up before my 4:15 alarm on Saturday morning. I was nervous. The last few years I have ran Grandma’s as a training race for a fall ultra, and although I had been able to PR each time, I was without any pressure. This year, my goal was to Boston Qualify. A goal that seemed pretty lofty. It meant I had to drop almost twenty minutes from my previous best time and would have to run close to an eight minute pace for the entire 26.2. It seemed incredibly daunting. 


I had “flat me” already laid out, with everything I’d need for the race on the counter, except for my high carb hydration with added electrolytes, which was chilling in the fridge. I got up, quickly got dressed, made some coffee, grabbed a Honey Stinger Waffle and headed out the door to make the drive in to catch the bus from Wessman Arena to the starting line. As I neared Superior it dawned on me that I had forgotten my Gu Roctane drink in the fridge! That was supposed to be my primary fuel during the race!


I stopped at a gas station and grabbed some Jolly Ranchers to go with the couple of gels that I had to get me through the race without my Roctane, and started making excuses for why I wouldn’t BQ. My fueling plan was already dead as a doornail. 


At Wessman, I walked to the end of an incredibly long line of runners waiting for the buses. It was cold, windy, and misting. It didn’t take me long to break out my poncho and put it over my throw away sweatshirt. As I waited for the buses, I was able to talk with the people around me, which is one of my favorite things about the marathon. The camaraderie with other runners. There was Dannette, a  grandma from Iowa, who started running marathons only a couple years ago and shared her shoe covers with me, and some recent college grads who traveled to Duluth from Colorado Springs. We shared our goals, our running experiences, and a little about our personal lives. My daughter had written me the sweetest note to keep with me during the race, I shared it with Dannette, and tucked it back into my pocket.


I’m not sure if there were more people at Wessman than anticipated or if the buses got hung up returning from the drop off of the Gary Bjorklund Half, but our bus didn’t arrive until almost seven. We piled in and took off for the start. Traffic in Duluth was a little crazy, everyone trying to get up or back from the shore to see their runners. The ride was quiet. A sense of anxious tension hung in the air. Weirdly, after I got on the bus all my nervousness evaporated. I was calm as we pulled into the unloading area, with only five minutes before the start.


I put in my headphones, tossed my drop bag in the pile, and headed to the porta potty line. “Chariots of Fire” began to play signaling the start of the race. I was supposed to be in Corral A, since I was in the Great Grandma’s Challenge, but this wasn’t the first time I’d missed the start waiting in a bathroom line. I learned the hard way that it’s better to start late, than have to stop a couple miles in. After all, with chip timing it comes down to when you cross the line. I took my time, and arrived in the start area almost ten minutes after the gun went off. 


I started making some more excuses for why I wasn’t going to meet my goal of BQing. I was starting behind the six hour pacer, how would I be able to sneak my way through this wonderful mass of humanity and get into a position to run the pace I needed?


But, I told myself I at least had to try. All those speed workouts, hill runs, and times on the track were for this moment. At least the weather was perfect! Cloudy, slight mist, with a nice tailwind to push us into Canal Park. 


The first several miles ticked by uneventfully. I was consistently trying to climb up through the pacing groups. I usually don’t listen to anything during Grandma’s and revel in the atmosphere. However, this time, I had a playlist that would keep me on an eight minute mile pace. I remembered to take a gel every forty five minutes, and was banking on Anderson’s Pure Fuel at mile seventeen to carry me through to the end. I didn’t have enough gels to last.


As the halfway point neared I was feeling good. The spectators were awesome! I don’t know how many times I laughed out loud at a sign! On the side of the road I had spotted one of my high school teachers, and I yelled out a hi to him. I don’t think he knew who I was, but it was fun to see him, he had been one of my favorites. 


Soon I was nearing my favorite miles on the course, miles sixteen through eighteen. I love that section. We’re so close to the lake, less than ten miles from the finish and almost into the craziness of Duluth. Plus, I was still feeling pretty good. It was cool, but I was warm, so I was taking the ice and sponges and I took two Pure Fuel gels from the smiling volunteer. I was set.


As we came into town the atmosphere was electric. People were out in droves despite the light rain that was now falling. Cheering on runners, offering encouragement, and handing out high fives. The stretch from Lester River to Lemon Drop Hill always seems a little longer during the marathon, but I did my best to keep on pace and let the energy of the other runners, the volunteers, and the people lining the streets carry me through.


I had been trying to do the math while I ran to figure out how much time I needed to get to the finish line in 3:35. I was surprised that the race had gone so well this far into it and I was no longer making excuses for why I wasn’t going to qualify, and instead was trying to figure out what I needed to do to make that a reality. 


I was actually looking forward to Lemon Drop Hill. I wanted to be able to use some different muscles as opposed to the ones I’d been using on the flatter sections for a while. As I ran up the hill, I looked at the sign displaying that there was only four miles left. I  checked my watch, I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it so I pushed a little harder. 


Running through downtown always seems to go by pretty fast. I usually break the race into smaller race distances in my head, and I knew I was down to the final 5k. I kept telling myself, it’s just a 5k, a 5k is a warm up, it’s just a 5k, a 5k is a warm up, as I ran along Superior Street. I kept checking my watch, still unsure if I was going to meet my time goal. My legs were feeling pretty stiff and I knew I was pushing my aerobic capabilities.


I crossed over I35 and down the small incline toward the DECC. My legs felt like jelly, but I tried to run even faster. I ran around the deck, into the headwind, knowing that I was almost finished. At this point I realized that barring a catastrophe I’d crack 3:35. 


As I turned that final corner, I was looking for my family: Dot, Mike (my partner), and his parents. But with all the people lining the sides, I didn’t see them. I did notice however, a fellow ultrarunner and more importantly friend, ahead of me. It became my goal to beat him to the finish line. I had shut off my earbuds at this time, so I could take in the finish, and heard my name being called-it was my good friend Jodi! Jodi, her daughter, Seri, and Seri’s boyfriend Wade had finished the half and were cheering  me on. I waved as I ran by.


I crossed the line in 3:32:37. I had done it. I had my Boston Qualifier. I was handed my medal, wrapped in a space blanket and filled with a sense of relief and accomplisment. Jodi and Seri met me in the runner area. Jodi had tears in her eyes and told me how proud she was of me. I never cry at the end of races, but I was pretty close to it myself. She was the one who really got me started in running and it was wonderful to have her there when I met this goal. 


I joined up with my family, who I appreciate so much for always supporting me in all my wild running endeavors. It was really raining at this point, but we still went over to Bayfront and enjoyed some post race beverages in the tents down there. We sat and talked about the day. I shared my experience during the race and they shared their experience spectating.


It’s crazy how you can run the same race for seven years and it’s so entirely different each time. Every race there’s something new to learn, to experience, to be grateful for. I love Grandma’s. I love the course. I love the hype. But mostly I love the community. The other runners, the spectators, the volunteers, everyone sharing in the journey is what makes it such an incredibly special race. So, thank you to everyone who once again made this weekend one for the record books.

Shannon Hogan

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Favorite Grandma’s Marathon Memory: This will be my seventh Grandma’s marathon and I’ve loved every race. Up until this past Grandma’s I would have said crossing the finish line for the first time. But now it is involving my daughter and making the entire weekend a celebrated family affair…from visiting the expo to participating in the Whipper Snapper races, volunteering at the 5k, and seeing her cheering out on the course. We both love it!

A Quote that guides, inspires, or embodies your training, racing, or life: “What good is livin’ the life you’ve been given if all you do is stand in one place.” Lord Huron

A Song that must be on your running playlist: Holocene by Bon Iver

Favorite pre-race meal: Oatmeal with almond butter and chocolate chips

2024 Running Goal: PR my marathon (a BQ would be an incredibly lofty goal) and finishing the Superior 100 for the second time.