This was my fifth Grandma’s Marathon weekend, and I have to say it may have been my favorite. I was able to fully immerse myself in the entire weekend experience and I fell even further in love with the amazing Duluth running community. We came in on Friday morning to hit up the expo and grab my bib. We did the regular expo things…found my name on the car, ate some free samples, bought some new running clothes, and grabbed some cowbells.
Next up was the Whipper Snapper Races. My seven year old, Dot, was running. She’s ran a couple of the 5ks that Grandma’s puts on in the past and was so excited to be a part of the marathon weekend as well. After she ran with the other seven and eight year old girls, she collected her medal and we checked out the rest of what they had to offer for our youngest runners. She scampered up the rock wall, jumped in all of the bouncy houses, and had some fun with the tortoises from the Great Lakes Aquarium.
From there, we headed over to the William A. Irvin 5k course, where my family and I volunteered on the Lakewalk. I think manning that turn around point and cheering on the runners was more fun than actually running the race, which I’ve done in the past as part of the Great Grandma’s Challenge. My kiddo especially loved it, and requested that we do it every year from now on!
Friday was amazing-we had a full day soaking in the atmosphere and the sun and I went home fairly exhausted and excited for the marathon the next day.
My alarm went off at 5:00 on Saturday. The night before I had laid out my clothes and my pack with several GUs and a bottle of Skratch. I was doing everything wrong-I had all new clothes I had bought at the expo, new shoes that had came in the mail the day before, and was trying all new nutrition. However, I was treating the marathon as a long run in preparation for my first 100 miler in September, so it seemed like as good as time as any to try some stuff out. On the way to the UWS to meet the bus, I grabbed a coffee with some creamer to drink on the bus ride up to the start.
My seatmate on the bus and I chatted the entire time; discussing race goals, training, running during COVID times, etc. It was a perfect way to start the morning…good conversation, sipping my coffee, and looking out at all the beauty of Duluth in the early morning as we drove across town. The beginning of the race was like I remembered, there was electricity in the air-so much excitement and eagerness. I did what has become my regular routine. Get off the bus and hop in a portajohn line. There are a ton of bathrooms, but a ton of runners, so it is essential to get in line early! After visiting the ladies room, I did my warm up, ate another half of banana and got in the starting corral. The jets flew over, we sang the anthem, and before I knew it, we were off.
My race goal was to keep in a lower heart rate zone for the majority of the race and see how I felt the last few miles and if I wanted to kick it up a notch. Aside from keeping it relaxed, I wanted to fully take in this experience- talk with other runners, enjoy the beauty of the course, and high five every hand out there. I really didn’t know what to expect for a time, but was shooting for a 4:30 finish time.
The race went better than expected. The weather was perfect-cool and sunny, with a tailwind. I was able to talk with a few runners and hear their amazing stories. One many was running with his daughter-he was in his seventies and had ran dozens of marathons and was still going strong (I inspire to be still running at the age). The crowds were out in full force-cheering, showing off their amazing signs, playing music. The volunteers were also amazing-every couple miles providing water, Powerade, sponges, ice, and a ton of support. The first few hours flew by…and before I knew it, we were headed into town where I knew my family was waiting for me at mile 20.
This was the first time my daughter had ever seen me run a race. We’ve ran 5ks together, but she’s never been around for a long race. It was so nice to get a hug from her! The crowds and spectators in Duluth were wild! There were so many people out on the street yelling, ringing their cowbells, and cheering like crazy. All of a sudden I was at Lemon Drop Hill, which wasn’t as nearly as intimidating as I remember. (Moving to the area and running all these Duluth hills and trails has really changed my idea of what a hill is.) At this time, I knew I still had some gas in the tank so I started to pick up the pace. I’m happy to say that my final mile was my fastest! As I came in view of that finish and heard Mike cheering me on, I put it all out there and sprinted across the line in a time of 4:20:23-definitely not my fastest marathon time, but one I was happy with.
Mike met me in the runners’ area after the race and we made our way to the finisher area in Bayfront Park where we enjoyed some hard cider, warm coffee, and great music. Afterward, we went the the King of Creams and enjoyed a post run burger and fries, before once again picking up Dot and heading home. The marathon was perfect…the weather, the people, the course, the atmosphere. I am so grateful to be a part of such a great community and this weekend once again reminded me how much I love it here and how much I love the running scene of the Twin Ports. I can’t wait to do it again in June 2023.
Favorite Grandma’s Marathon Memory: Finishing my first marathon. I never in a million years imagined I was the kind of person that could run a marathon. However, after visiting Duluth several times, driving on the course, and just feeling the incredible excitement around Grandma’s Marathon, I couldn’t resist giving it a whirl. I signed up right away in October 2017-then spent the spring of 2019 training for my first marathon. I remember going to the expo and just feeling the electricity in the air. The whole community seemed to come out in support of the runners on Grandma’s weekend. The excitement was palpable. I stayed at Spirit Mountain that night-and it rained like crazy. I ended up sleeping in my car because my tent flooded. The storms cleared out overnight and early the next morning it was perfect running weather. Arriving at the starting line I was so nervous, but also so eager to see if I could actually pull off 26.2 miles. I loved every minute on the course, from “Chariots of Fire” as we left the corral, to the beautiful (but foggy views) of the lake, to the college kids lining the streets of London Road, to the last painful miles up Lemon Drop Hill and to the finish. My goal had been to finish in 4:30 and I did it in a little over 4:12. I was ecstatic! Finishing a marathon was one of my life’s biggest accomplishments and has propelled me forward in so many ways. A couple of years later I moved to the Duluth area-partly due to the fact of the running community, trail systems, and the outdoor scene. I’ve run the Grandma’s Marathon every year since, and have completed the Great Grandma’s Challenge twice. I’ve run almost all of the other races they have put on, and loved each one. I’ve decided that 26.2 miles isn’t far enough and have ran a few 50ks since and this year I am completing my first 100k. Grandma’s has forever changed me as a person-I am more determined, stronger, and more resilient than I ever thought possible.
Favorite Running (& Life) Quote: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” Thoreau *I want to know that I got every last note out of my life.
2022 Running Goal: I have two-we’ll see what happens. The first, to qualify for Boston at Grandma’s. (I’m in the slightly older category now, so I feel like I have more of a chance). Second, run a 100 miler.