- 3 miles/5K, 13.1 miles/Half Marathon, 26.2 miles/Marathon, Virtual Race
- Road Race
- Event Website
I've run Grandma's twice, but I'm referring to the 2012 race for this review. First of all, I'll mention that if you're traveling to Duluth from out of town, book your hotel early! Room rates in this area are high for marathon weekend, and availability is tight the closer you get to race weekend. That said, no hotels are very far of a drive from the race expo and start/finish area. There are shuttle buses (or a train) to the start area for this point-to-point course. Buses are frequent and there is more than one pick-up location in town. A little planning is required, but the logistics are well organized.
The expo has lots of samples of food and beverages, and vendors selling all those last-minute things you may have left behind. The pasta dinner is co-located with the expo. My friends and I did the pasta dinner, and I have to say it is only so-so. If you're a foodie, don't do it. If you don't really care, than it's convenient and you can purchase beer and wine for an additional fee.
The marathon itself is really quite awesome. If the weather cooperates, like it did in 2012, there is a fabulous view of Lake Superior for several miles. The course is not completely flat, but it's fairly flat and is known to be a fast course where many people PR. I PR'd in 2012, and I wasn't even trying.
Aid stations are frequent enough, and you'll even pass an independent candy shop on the marathon course, which just might be open for business. There are lots of full marathon runners, so there's always someone near you. Around about Mile 19, the course heads into Duluth near a college campus. The students and other spectators are lots of fun, play upbeat music, and sometimes have treats for runners. This part of the course is very energizing and gave me my second wind. It was then that I looked at my watch, did some quick calculations, and knew that I could PR as long as I kept up my pace.
There is a nasty hill in the last couple miles, but then you run through downtown Duluth, which is scenic and has lots of spectators. After crossing the finish line, runners get their medal and finisher t-shirt (that's right, Grandma's does not give shirts at the expo…you have to earn yours). There was a good variety of post-race food and drinks available within the finish chute for runners only. This race really takes care of its runners. There is also a great beer tent, but I didn't visit it in 2012. Shortly after I finished (with nice weather the whole 26.2 miles), sudden rain showers erupted. I felt bad for the runners who were still out there on the course in the rain, but I chose to skip the beer and get back to my hotel.
I really enjoyed Grandma's Marathon weekend. I earned an unexpected PR. I saw Lake Superior for the first time. I was treated to a very well-organized race. And I made new friends. Highly recommended!