- 3 miles/5K, 13.1 miles/Half Marathon, 26.2 miles/Marathon, Virtual Race
- Road Race
- Event Website
Grandma’s Marathon was my 14th full marathon and absolutely ranks as one of my favorite races of any distance. This is a really fun race and is completely worth the trip to Duluth.
That trip was the only part of the race that was difficult in any way. I flew into Minneapolis and drove a rental car 2.5 hours to get to Duluth. There are flights from Minneapolis or Detroit to Duluth, but you need a car in Duluth anyway so the drive was better than the extra expense of flying directly into Duluth. The drive wasn’t that bad, and the view coming into Duluth was spectacular.
I stayed at the Radisson and paid about 3 times the normal rate as all the hotels in the area jack up their rates for this weekend. Since that is out of the control of the race directors, I don’t consider that a negative against the race. The Radisson location is fantastic and is walking distance to the expo and the finish line where you can take the train or bus to the start line.
The expo was good, appropriately sized for the race with plenty of race merchandise for sale. I got there early on Friday morning so I didn’t have any issues with huge crowds of people. Packet pickup was easy and they had a station to double check your time chip on your bib which was a nice thing to be able to do before leaving.
The weather forecast leading up to the race was calling for thunderstorms for race morning. The afternoon before the race a large storm did blow in and knocked out power briefly and rained several inches in just a short period of time. Everyone was afraid that this was a preview of what was to come the next morning.
I got up early on race morning to be able to take the train to the start line, which I highly recommend over the buses. The first thing I checked when I got up at 3:30am was the forecast and was amazed to see the storms had been moved rom early morning to late afternoon and the chance of rain during the race was dropped to about 30%. The forecast temperature of 59 turned into an actual temperature of 50, pretty close to perfect conditions.
Taking the train to the start line was an option for the first 1000 runners wanting to ride. The train departs about 5:45 so the sun is up and the views heading out along Lake Superior are fabulous. The train is also plenty warm and roomy and there are lots of toilets available. The only downside is the trip takes every bit of an hour so if you want to get to the start line super early don’t take the train.
The race start is well organized with most runners lining up in accordance with their expected finish times. With the half marathon starting an hour earlier and starting from the marathon half way point, I never saw anyone with a half marathon bib and couldn’t even tell you what color their bibs were.
The first 19 miles of the course are along Lake Superior which is unfortunately very often blocked by all of the trees. We did deal with a pretty heavy fog and off and on light rain for most of the race, but the wind was at out our back and I never felt like the scenery became monotonous. Crown support during this part of the race was limited to certain spots along the road but was very enthusiastic in those spots and provided much needed boosts. The aid stations had clearly labeled water and power aid and was always water first. The volunteers did a spectacular job, you could tell this race has been run for over 40 years, these were some well trained and experienced volunteers.
Just past mile 19 the course heads into Duluth and the pine trees and lake views change to a city run with spectators everywhere. The final 6 miles were full of rowdy spectators providing a ton of distractions, even a long line of troll dolls along the curb around mile 22 which qualifies as one of the strangest things I’ve come across during a race.
The finish was great, there were a lot of twists and turns in the last half mile or so, but it didn’t bother me as much as I feared from previous reviews. The finish line area was plenty busy, but I had no problem getting my medal and finisher’s shirt and there was plenty of food and beer available. I actually like the fact that you get your finisher shirt when you finish the race, that’s the definition of finisher shirt. The medals were big and heavy, certainly appropriate for the accomplishment.
I love events where it seems like the whole town shuts down for the race and they really appreciate the runners who came to be a part of it. The way Duluth embraces the race and the runners is extremely impressive and rivaled the support I’ve experienced at much larger events like Chicago. If you can get to northern Minnesota in June you won’t find a better event than Grandma’s Marathon.