- 3 miles/5K, 13.1 miles/Half Marathon, 26.2 miles/Marathon, Virtual Race
- Road Race
- Event Website
Grandma's Marathon was my first marathon back in 2016. It was downhill and fast I heard. What I did not know is that there were hills for miles on this course. After having a disastrous experience with the marathon, from lack of training, I vowed to return and run faster.
This year, 2021, was the year I was able to return to Duluth!
Due to the pandemic, Grandma's Marathon was operating on a much smaller scale. This meant that the races would sell out fast, but even faster since it was the 45th running of the event.
Registration opened in October 2020. The communications for Grandma's Marathon was fantastic. Every time there was an update, the race company reached out to let us know the new findings. The only issue I had pre race, was that the event did not get permits until early May of 2021. (Also not Grandma's fault :-))
Upon getting permits, Grandma's Marathon Weekend ran as smooth as ever. Each aspect of the weekend was executed to a tee!
I arrived midday on Friday and was easily able to find parking at the DECC for the expo. Be prepared as there is a cost for parking at the DECC. After parking I made my way up to the expo. The signage was excellent and got me to the correct room quickly! In past years the expo and spaghetti dinner were held in the same room. This year they were on separate floors. (I did not partake in the dinner, I did hear it was awesome!)
The expo was really spread out and had a good variety of vendors. If there was something you for got in your travels, you would be covered by going to this expo. Once you find the bib pick up at the very back of the expo, you will be greeted by extra friendly volunteers! Usually there is a long line to pick up your bib, but this time there was not! I was in and out in 5 min. To ensure your bibs are activated, you scan your bibs. I love this aspect, because it ensures that your bib is registered to your name and has the right age!
The next morning I rode the train to the start line. Since I travel with friends, I sat with them. Otherwise, I would have been able to sit socially distanced away from others. The ride is slow and gentle. It is also super fun to see all the area between the start and finish line.
Upon exiting the train, riders were guided off the train to the start line area. Port-a-potties were everywhere! Usually the lines are miserably long. Even though the field was cut down to 50%, the lines were still long, but very organized.
Announcements were made loud and clear for everyone to hear. When the National Anthem was played, it was concluded by fighter jets flying over the crowd. That was a nice patriotic touch to the start of the event.
In the starting coral, there were rows where you moved slowly to the start, It was nice as there was no count down to the start of the race. It took the pressure off, allowed for a relaxed start. After starting the race was smooth sailing.
Regardless of your fitness beware. This is a downhill course. Down hill does not always mean fast, rather that your quads could wear out quickly from the load!
The first 13.1 miles are brutal as there are very few spectators on the course. You have to be mentally ready to run solo and cheer yourself on. There are water stops every other mile with water, gatorade and ice. Each mile has a nice yellow balloon as a marker too! Sometimes you can see the balloon from a mile away. This is one of my favorite parts of Grandmas Marathon!
Once you pass mile 13, there are more crowds along the way. At mile 19, the streets start to be lined with people, cheering you on and encouraging you to the finish. at mile 23, it starts to be all down hill minus an on ramp you take to the finish line. This helps to make fast race finish. I personally had my fastest mile as my last mile this time around.
More people are present to cheer you on once you are in the heart of downtown Duluth. After reaching mile 25, you are escorted by the metal white fence to the finish line! can seem like the end is near. Don't let the fence fool you! There are many steps to go at that point.
After passing the William A Irving museum and boat, you turn a wide corner to reach the finish line. After finishing, in non cove years, you receive a finisher shirt and medal from a cheerful volunteer! (Honestly, the finish line volunteers are my favorite as they are so chipper!) after gather your race swag, you head to the finish area. Usually there is tons of food at the finish, but this year it was very basic. Not a bad finisher area, just more modest that pre covid.
Overall, yes I do recommend this race! I also recommend that you bring friend with you to help you get back to the hotel! The little hills in Duluth make it hard to walk. Grandma's Marathon is a wet organized and executed event. Please consider this event as it is amazing.