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Grandmas Marathon (41st Annual) was on Saturday June 17th in Duluth, MN. The race start time was 7:45 AM starting in Two Harbors, MN and ending in Canal Park in Duluth, MN. This is a road race that takes you down the scenic highway along the shores of Lake Superior. There is a tiered registration system in place for this race (the closer to the race day you register, the more you will pay for this race). This year if you signed up before the new year you also got a long sleeve quarter zip training shirt as well with the cost of entry into the race.
The Expo is held at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC) with plenty of vendors present to spend a good hour walking around and checking out all the running related products. At the expo is where you pick up your bib as well. This race has the bib process perfected. There was no wait to get my bib and the lines to make sure the time chip worked appropriately moved very smoothly. This year I also went and listened to Kara Goucher speak (she was running the half marathon this year) which was very inspiring to hear her running story.
My hotel was right next to the finish line so I was able to walk from there to the DECC to catch one of the buses that brought me from Duluth to Two Harbors where the starting line was located. Prior to leaving my hotel I had my usual english muffin with peanut butter, a banana, and a cup of coffee. Once on the bus it was smooth sailing to the starting area (although the bus sure was hot)! At the starting area I had no problem finding a port-a-potty right away with no line. I then did some stretching and a warm up run to loosen my legs up prior to the race. Bag drop was very easy to get to and very easy to find my bib number range for dropping my bag off. I planned on starting around the 8:45 pace group so had to make my way towards the middle of the coral pack. This process was very easy as they had fenced off lanes along the outside of the coral with pathways into the coral at different entry points so you could get to the starting area you needed. I listened to the national anthem being sung, and then waiting for the race to begin!
I must say, this race is just so well organized. There are so many volunteers working at each and every one of the aid stations, and an abundance of fans cheering you on (more so as you get closer to the downtown Duluth area, but you would find fans staggered all over the course). There are families who set up sprinklers at the end of their driveways to spray the runners, and cheer stations of all ages set up along the course. The views of Lake Superior cant be beat as well! The first half of the race had aid stations (with water and Powerade) every other mile with the second half of the race having aid stations I think every mile. There were a lot of aid stations that had cold sponges to grab as well. From what I could see, there were plenty of port-a-potties along the course.
My race was good from the perspective of completing another 26.2 miles, but not exactly as planned in regards to goal time. The first half of the race went good (hitting the half way mark at 1:51:43). Up to this point the weather was still decent (mid to high 60's) with cloud coverage. After the half way point I feel like the clouds parted, the small breeze that I felt in the first half completely disappeared, and so did most hopes of findings shade along the course. From about mile 17 on I felt like I was getting dehydrated. I needed to start taking 2 glasses of water and 1 glass of Powerade at every aid station, along with a cold sponge whenever it was offered. Even with getting this, I still felt like I was always needing more. Slowing down to get more water at the aid stations, along with my legs feeling extremely sore, really slowed down my overall pace. I still managed to finish in a 3:57:25 time, but was a ways off of the time I thought I was capable of getting. In the end I am just grateful to have run another marathon, had wonderful family and friends cheering me on, and getting to spend another wonderful weekend in Duluth, MN where I went to college!
I crossed the finish line, and what did I want...my medal!! And boy does Grandmas deliver in this department. I think starting last year, and continuing this year, they have really done a good job of giving you a high quality, heavy duty (AND I DO MEAN HEAVY) medal that showcases something iconic about Duluth. This year it was the waves of Lake Superior! After getting my medal I did feel like I had to walk a little ways before I was able to find any water (the distance itself probably wasn't that far, but when you are finally done running, I feel you want water to be right there for the taking). Next I grabbed my finisher technical shirt (you have to earn these shirts by finishing the race, not by getting them along with your bib at the expo) and headed into the racers finish area that is only accessible for people who participated in the race. This had the bag drop area in it, along with plenty of food to get those calories back after finishing the race. Beyond this area was a massage tent where I attempted to wait in line for a free massage, but after waiting about 20 minutes and the line barely moving, I gave up. There is also a large tented area for fans and racers alike to take in live music being played and refreshments being served!!
It had been 9 years since I had last run the Grandma's Full Marathon, and once again it did not disappoint. As with any race of this distance, there are many challenges to overcome, but at least I know that how the race is being put on is not one of them. With 41 years of experience under their belt, the Grandma's Marathon race, and weekend, experience is something that cant be beat!