Grandma's Marathon

Grandma's Marathon

Grandma's Marathon

( 82 reviews )
100% of reviewers recommend this race
  • Duluth,
    United States
  • June
  • 3 miles/5K, 13.1 miles/Half Marathon, 26.2 miles/Marathon, Virtual Race
  • Road Race
  • Event Website

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Grandma’s Marathon began in 1977 when a group of local runners planned a scenic road race from Two Harbors to Duluth, Minnesota. There were just 150 participants that year, but organizers knew they had discovered something special. Grandma’s Marathon is now a self-governed nonprofit organization with a 17-member board of directors. Grandma’s Marathon weekend draws more than 18,000 participants for its three-race event each June: Grandma's Marathon, the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon, and the William A. Irvin 5k.

Runners from all over the world travel to Duluth to participate in the weekend festivities. There were 39 countries and all 50 states represented in the 40th annual Grandma’s Marathon in 2016. Grandma’s Marathon has now grown bigger than just a 26.2 mile race along the scenic North Shore of Minnesota. It’s a moment where runners of all calibers come together to celebrate the vigor of the human spirit. Tie up your laces for the 42nd year of memories and miles!

Jenn Savedge

Luray, Virginia, United States
25 15
"There is a reason Grandma's Marathon is a bucket list race!"
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Race Management
Jenn Savedge's thoughts:

This race is fantastic. Super-well organized, fun crowd-support, a beautifully scenic course, and enough people on the course (around 6,000 marathoners) to make the atmosphere fun without feeling overwhelming. 

Probably the most challenging aspect of Grandma's for most runners is the logistics of getting there and staying nearby. I wound up making the 15-hour journey via car which meant that I had to build an extra day into my travel time. Also, lodging in and around Duluth is not cheap. Most hotels charge upwards of $300/night and require a two-night stay over race weekend. 

A friend and I wound up staying in a dorm about 3 miles from the course which was easier on the wallet but made for some extra juggling to figure out parking on race morning. Fortunately, we are both early risers and so we arrived at the transportation area for the shuttles around 4:30am and had our pick of parking spaces. I easily boarded the scenic train to the marathon start and my friend got on a 4:45am shuttle to the half start.

The train was lovely. However, I will say that the bathrooms were disgusting within about 30 minutes of the trip. Train lavs don't flush very well and with that much use, they were blocked and overflowing pretty quickly. I talked with a woman who has ridden the train in year's past and she said the same thing happens every year. So if you're riding the train to enjoy the scenery then go for it; if you're riding the train to take advantage of the bathrooms, skip this "perk" and take your chances with a porta-potty instead. They are plentiful at the start line as well as along the course.

Grandma's is a point-to-point race course starting in Two Harbors, Minnesota and finishing in Duluth (hence the shuttles.) The course is pretty much flatish -I live in a hilly area so this felt flat to me but there are a few gentle rollers and short but steep "hill" dubbed the Lemon Drop which is more feared than it needs to be simply because you hit it around mile 21 of the race. 

There is lots of crowd support and music along the course so if you feed off of the energy of the crowd, you can get your fill here. The crowds aren't huge but you are rarely alone on the course. If you prefer, you can just look to the left and soak up the view of the tall pines bordering Lake Superior. Even though it was foggy and overcast on the day of this race, I could still and smell enough of this scenery to really make me fell like I was at a destination race. 

After the race, you can grab your medal, t-shirt (only finishers get shirts!), and food which this year consisted of fresh fruit, bagels, chicken broth (because it was a pretty chilly day), and snack bars. The finish line also has showers where you can get cleaned up and a rockin' party that certainly outlasted me although that wasn't really saying much!

Bottom line: Grandma's is a fantastic race that is so fun and well-organized that you'll be glad you added it to your list.

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