While Grandma’s Marathon has enjoyed a lot of blanket news coverage over the years, it had never gotten quilt coverage. That is, until marathoner Linda Spencer gathered four decades of memories to sew a unique quilt for her father, longtime race volunteer Jim Greenfield.
The two of them are pictured here, standing on hidden chairs to fully display Linda’s 5’ x 7’ masterpiece.
“I knew my parents had Grandma’s shirts that dated back to the first races, and that other family members had dozens of shirts tucked away in drawers, so I thought it would be fun to combine them into a quilt,” says Linda, 55, who gave it to Jim as a 2015 Christmas present. “Most of the shirts represent certain milestones, but they’re not in chronological order.
I just arranged them so there would be an interesting mix of colors.”
Linda knows a little about race T-shirts, having finished 10 Grandma’s Marathons, five Garry Bjorklund Half Marathons and six other half marathons. The Hermantown resident is now training for her 11th full marathon in June.
Waiting to greet her at the finish line will be her dad, who by then will have completed his 24th year as a volunteer media vehicle driver. (Jim has actually volunteered for 37 consecutive years, with duties that included bleacher set-up, post-race cleanup and tent security before settling in behind the wheel.)
“Participating in Grandma’s Marathon has been a family tradition since the beginning, so this quilt contains a lot of memories,” says Jim, a Duluthian who will be 82 on race day. His wife, Elaine (a co-conspirator with Linda to gather shirts without Jim noticing), assembled and distributed race packets for many years. Their son, his girlfriend, their son-in-law and two grandsons are also veteran race volunteers.
“I’m still astounded by all the work Linda did turning 35 shirts into this beautiful quilt,” adds Jim. “She included everything from a first-year race shirt (the light blue one near the middle-right) to the only finisher shirt I’ve ever earned, at last year’s William Irvin 5K, which she put right in the center.”
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