Behind the Scenes at Grandma’s Marathon


October feels like the start of a new year here at Grandma’s Marathon with registration opening and our event season wrapping up. It’s one of the those deceptively busy times where you think everything should be easy going but our office is almost at marathon weekend levels of chaos. These are some of the highlights of what our team has been up to the last month (yes, all nine of us work full-time, 12 months a year. Organizing a 20,000 person weekend takes a lot of planning).

Registration Open – October 1

October 1 is one of my favorite fake holidays — Grandma’s Marathon registration day! Seeing 8,000+ people sign up for your event in the first 24 hours makes us all excited for what is to come in the next nine months. While some of our staff were down in the Twin Cities helping with their marathon, the rest of us spent the evening in the office making sure the website didn’t crash and feeling your excitement through social media. We’re very excited to be planning a full capacity event for June 2022 and getting back to some sense of normalcy. You’ll have to stay tuned to see how all our plans come together to make it the best Grandma’s Marathon weekend yet.

Our half marathon capacity did increase to 8,000 runners, but the Garry Bjorklund is officially sold out for 2022. Spots are still available through our Charity Partners, Great Grandma’s Challenge, and our Guaranteed Two-Year Entry Program.

Expos – Twin Cities Marathon & Chicago Marathon

We love getting to see our past (and future) participants at expos. Thanks to everyone who stopped by, we made some new friends from all over the country and the world who are interested in running Grandma’s Marathon at some point.

Our race director Greg Haapala helped out at the Twin Cities Marathon (TCM) setting up their start line and in their race command center. His wife Kelli works for TCM so he is somewhat obligated, but we think he might enjoy it. Still up for debate in the Haapala household.

In Chicago, I got to help at the start line of their 5K on Saturday and help with some finish line set up. I was lucky enough to be on the team that got to separate all the bananas for the 30,000 marathon runners the next day. On race day, myself and the rest of team in Chicago helped at the hospitality tent before catching an early flight back to Duluth.

North End Nightmare 5K – October 31

The North End Nightmare 5K wrapped up our event season for 2021 the night before Halloween. Looking back, I think everyone in our office realizes how lucky we were to have pulled off a complete event season that turned out to not be too far from normal.

This 5K really started because our executive director, Shane Bauer, loves Halloween. I’m not super into it but I did dress up as traffic cone. The best part of the night (in my opinion) is the Spider Dash, and the kids didn’t disappoint this year and came out in full costumes (all worthy of prizes). Watching a bunch of little kids run at you in their little animal and super hero costumes is the best (that and the corgis that live on the course). The North End Nightmare is labor intensive but well worth it in the end.

New Board Members

Some of our Board of Directors have been with Grandma’s Marathon since the start of our time as a nonprofit after the 10th anniversary of the race. Four of our longtime Board members retired this year, and we’ll miss them. The impact they have had on our Board over the years is long lasting. We are always proud to have a working Board full of people dedicated to the success of the marathon financially but also operationally. As a staffM we know the Board is always there for us regardless of the task. They can be found working marathon weekend, overseeing packet pick up to helping at a water station to running it and then working.

Retiring Board Members: Candy Furo, John Hartwick, Bob Hartl, Sheila Fryberger

New Board Members: Ross Fremont, Laura Gubelman, Wing Chan, Paige Stratioti



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