Grandma’s Half Marathon Race Overview

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Grandma’s Marathon offers everything you need for an incredible running experience, no matter if it is your first or fiftieth marathon. Created in 1977, it has evolved into an effective machine providing runners with all they need for the ideal experience.

Dominic Ondoro of Grand Prairie, Texas won the men’s race with an official time of 2 hours and 9 minutes and 34 seconds while return champion Dakotah Lindwurm took home victory for her race with 2 hours 25 minutes 1 second.

What to Expect

Starting as a modest road race between Two Harbors, Minnesota and Duluth in 1977 with just 150 participants in its inaugural year, Grandma’s Marathon has grown into one of the premier running races nationwide. Deriving its name from Duluth-based chain of Grandma’s restaurants that were among its major sponsors at first, today the non-profit is run independently with an 18 member Board of Directors overseen by 11 Full Time Employees/ Seasonal staffers and seasonal volunteers working under them.

On Thursday and Friday, participants can visit over 100 vendors offering running-related gear at the Essentia Health Fitness Expo held at Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC). Kara Goucher, Olympic runner from Duluth who wrote “Running While Black,” will also be in attendance as one of several special guests and authors presenting.

On Saturday morning, the action truly kicks into high gear. Both half and full marathon events begin simultaneously at 6:00am, sharing an identical point-to-point route along Lake Superior’s waterfront. Participants in both distances can look forward to seeing giant, helium-filled balloons at each mile marker along their course!

Finish Line

After crossing the finish line, runners can celebrate in many different ways. Michelina’s Restaurants will provide a free pasta dinner as part of their post-race party; additionally all participants will receive a commemorative medal and T-shirt as mementos of this milestone event.

Garry Bjorklund won the inaugural Grandma’s Marathon in 1977 before going on to compete in 1976 Montreal Olympics. To recognize his many accomplishments, his name was added as part of the half marathon race’s name in 1991 – now drawing over 10,000 runners annually from all around the globe!

On the day before Grandma’s Marathon and Garry Bjorklund Half is the 5K run through Canal Park, taking runners past landmarks like Great Lakes Aquarium, Sister Cities Park and War Memorials before coming full circle back along Superior Bay waterfront to finish at S.S. William A. Irvin docked nearby.

Course

The full and half marathon races offer point-to-point courses along Lake Superior, starting in Two Harbors and ending in Canal Park. Both events feature mostly paved surfaces as well as some challenging hills aimed at helping runners qualify for Boston or establish new personal records.

The course is well-marked with large yellow and teal helium balloons marking each mile marker (marathon: yellow; half-marathon: teal). Runners will cross multiple bridges on their journey towards Canal Park. There are five drop-out zones on the route as well as medical support throughout the event.

runners looking to take on an extra challenge can participate in the Grandma’s Challenge, combining running both a half marathon and marathon on the same day. Finishers of this challenging run will receive a medal as well as t-shirt and jacket souvenirs to commemorate their achievement.

If you plan to run the race, make sure you arrive early on Friday to collect your registration and bib number from Bayfront Festival Park (near DECC). The expo opens at 4:30 p.m.

Grandma’s Marathon also offers a 5K race, taking place the day prior to both marathon and half marathon distances, which provides runners looking to build endurance with scenic routes through Duluth an ideal way to do just that. Beginning a few blocks north of Clearwater Grill overlooking Lake Superior, its route follows similar terrain as both races. The 5K was named in 1991 to honor Garry Bjorklund – winner of its inaugural edition back in 1977 as well as representing Minnesota in Montreal Olympic Games that year; now considered legendary figures by local residents in Duluth community members! This 5K course also bears his name to honoring him and Duluth residents alike!

Registration

Duluth’s Great Grandma’s Marathon Weekend reached total sellout status for the first time ever this year thanks to great weather for runners and several personal best performances. This year’s weekend includes William A. Irvin 5K, Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon, and full Grandma’s Marathon; participants may register for one or all three races during their registration, with runners also opting for participation in Great Grandma’s Challenge with its own unique medal in addition to those earned after individual race(s).

Registration opened October 1 and operates under first come, first-serve with tiered pricing – full marathon is currently $120 while half and 5k races cost $104. Runners who register before December 31 can also purchase commemorative 40th anniversary jackets at discounted prices.

Participants of this world-class race will experience Lake Superior’s stunning waters as they run along Old Highway 61 between Two Harbors, Wisconsin, and Duluth, Minnesota. It offers beautiful, challenging, and unique running experiences while runners benefit from thousands of fellow participants and spectators supporting them throughout their course.

Grandma’s Marathon not only brings premier running event to Minnesota, but is a significant economic driver. Recognized as one of the BibRave 100: A Definitive List of America’s Best Marathons by Explore Minnesota Tourism; one of 20 largest events by distance across America that brings in over $16 Million direct visitor spending alone!

As you prepare to run either the Great Grandma’s Marathon, Garry Bjorklund Half or William A. Irvin 5K races this race weekend, please show courtesy and respect for local residents by parking responsibly and not impeding access to homes or businesses or creating undue burden on local roads. Runners should use porta-potties provided by Grandma’s in lieu of urinating publicly or private yards and gardens.

Volunteer Opportunities

While Grandma’s Marathon is already sold out, there are still volunteer positions open that you can sign up for to assist this weekend’s race. From handing out water or cheering runners on to volunteering as part of this year’s event (check here for all available volunteer roles), group, individual and child participation is welcome and each volunteer receives an official 2011 Grandma’s Marathon T-shirt as well as refreshment tickets!

Don Fennessy Award recognizes those volunteers who go above and beyond to ensure a successful Grandma’s Marathon weekend. Joan Andrews and Tom DeSutter, co-coordinators of the information booth, both have more than two decades of volunteer service to Grandma’s Marathon; both work year round to recruit, train and serve as “go-to voices” during race weekend for runners as well as community members.

Both DeSutter and Johnson say they’re inspired by the enthusiasm of local people: “I find it amazing that Duluth embraces this event with such gusto year after year,” DeSutter states. When compared with similar events held elsewhere, “Duluth really punches above its weight class compared with others that offer similar events – that speaks volumes about its incredible volunteers who help make this event such an amazing one!”

McConnell decided this year to challenge herself by participating in the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon for the first time ever and as her second bucket list item. Although she’s excited about this new challenge, she misses being part of volunteering their event: seeing all those smiling faces and hearing their stories is truly special; “it makes it all worthwhile”. McConnell loves coming back because “the energy of it all makes it worthwhile”. This event takes place June 15-17th at Duluth DECC; Essentia Health Fitness Expo on Thursday and Friday starts things off nicely with Essentia Health Fitness Expo Thursday/Friday for those attending.

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