Grandma’s Marathon has been one of those iconic midwestern races that I’ve heard nothing but good things about, and I’ve been looking forward to my trip to Duluth. Jim signed up for this one as well, so the kids stayed with the grandparents and we were able to spend a lovely weekend in Minnesota together; and truly, ‘lovely’ is the perfect adjective for the trip. Northern Minnesota in the summer is picture perfect. We flew into Minneapolis/ Saint Paul and stumbled upon the best French restaurant, Salut, for lunch on Friday. (While Jim “won lunch” with his smoked salmon tartine order, both meals were delicious.) The drive up to Duluth was pleasant, and it was nice to see some of the state.I booked our hotel reservations nine months ago, so we were able to stay downtown near the race’s finish line. I apparently didn’t book them far enough in advance, however, as the only hotel that I was able to secure was a converted warehouse. It was a very nice place, but the interior rooms had no windows. This didn’t seem like it would be a big deal back in October, but there is something a bit creepy about a room with no windows…
The marathon is point to point, and race participants had the choice of taking school busses or a steam engine to the start line. We opted for the train, which provided us with a gorgeous view of Lake Superior and the surrounding forest. We also ran into Shannon and Brian, two members of the 50sub4 Club who we first met in Hawaii. One of my favorite parts of running marathons all over the country is the awesome people that we get to meet—and then randomly run into again and again—through the course of our travels.
The train dropped us off at a huge athlete’s village in what felt like the middle of nowhere. The most incredible feature about the pre- race setup was a special tent for running club members. I registered Jim and I with the Marathon Maniacs, and that allowed us access to food and special porta potties. This was a huge deal as the bathroom lines were quite long.
I had been concerned about the start of this race as was self- seeding for 6,000 runners, but there were no problems at the start line. The highway that we ran a lot of the race on was plenty wide to accommodate the participants and most folks were respectful in where they stood.
This might not be the most beautiful race I’ve ever run, but it was definitely high on the list. The first nine or ten miles are run through wooded areas, and then the course opens up to a view of Lake Superior. It wasn’t quite as magnificent as running along the Pacific Ocean at sunrise, but the lake views were gorgeous. It was a little warm on marathon day—the temperatures were in the high 60’s to low 70’s with some humidity—so the breeze off of the water was also a welcome relief.
I wouldn’t call this course difficult, but there were rolling hills throughout. That was a bit of a surprise as I had always thought of Grandma’s as being a flat race. There were a few challenging miles in the middle of the course, but the energy really picked up as we got closer to Duluth which positively impacted my pace. I was surprised how many spectators were out even in the rural areas, and when we got into town there were tons of supporters. (There was even a marching band or two!) This really helped to keep the last four miles enjoyable.
I really enjoyed this race, and it’s one that I would repeat if given the chance. The organization throughout the event was top notch, and the run itself was surprisingly enjoyable. I can definitely see why this marathon is consistently praised.
** Race Highlights: The scenery was beautiful. And there were a surprising number of spectators throughout the course.
** The Downside: The name! I thought that there would be a cool story behind it, but no, it was simply named after a restaurant chain that initially sponsored the race.
Sub 4:00 State #18, BQ State #16, Sub 3:30 State #6
Finish Time: 3:29:43
Overall Place Within My Gender: 149/ 2935
Favorite Race Day Song: “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake
Total Training Miles: 3,898
Shoe Total: 13