Latest reviews by Casey Nelson
The Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon (sometimes known as the Grandmas Half Marathon) in Duluth, MN is one of my favorite races of the year, that’s probably why this was my 8th time running it! This race was held on Saturday, June 18th, this year. As far as I can tell, this race is always held on a Saturday. I personally prefer a Saturday race so I don’t feel like I have to rush home as soon as I cross the finish line allowing for more of a post-race celebration with my friends! This weekend showcases a 5k (William A. Irvin 5k), a half marathon (Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon), and a full marathon (Grandmas Marathon). The 5k is held on Friday night and the half and full marathon are both held on Saturday.
The Essentia Health Fitness Expo, which was held at the DECC and was only a few blocks from my hotel (close to the finish line). Parking at the expo cost $5 per day. Even though I didn’t drive there, my brother did and it would have been nice if there hadn’t been a cost to park during expo hours. The expo itself was spacious and had a lot of vendors to check out. The expo was also the location of the Michelina’s All-You-Can-Eat Spaghetti Dinner (cost was $12). Although I didn’t eat at this spaghetti dinner, there was plenty of seating and food to go around for the people that did.
The buses took off at 5:15 AM and drove all the runners to the starting line where the race was scheduled to start at 6:15 AM. The race runs down the shore of Lake Superior and the bus route out to the starting line basically takes you in the reverse order of the race (finish to starting line) so you can see what you are in for. After getting off the bus I was able to stretch and loosen up a bit. There was a lot of bathrooms located along the road leading up to the staring line. This was the first year I saw them staggered along the entire route from where the buses dropped me off up to the starting line (also leading to a larger restroom area closer to the start). I think if there would have been signs up showing people once they got off of the buses where all the bathrooms were located, and that there was a larger restroom location closer to the starting line, there wouldn’t have been so much traffic so far back in the starting line.
The temperature was in the low 60’s with 90+ humidity. The start of this race is at the halfway point of the full marathon (which was scheduled to start at 7:45 AM). Based on this there really isn’t room for corrals for different running goals or abilities. They say that you should find your pace group and try to start close to them with the slower runners starting in the back, but there are so many people at the start all standing on the same road leading up to the starting line that it was really really hard to get past them to the pace group I was looking for.
Normally the first few miles of all of my long training runs have been really easy and breathing was never a problem, but on this day I was already breathing heavily 3/4 of a mile into the race. I was not expecting 90+ humidity. This slowed my pace down a bit and I had to do some catch up to get back with the pace group I was following. The scenery was great on this run. For the first half of the race you had trees on your right and Lake Superior on your left. This race started early enough that the heat didn't really bother me until the last few miles, but I heard it was an issue for the full marathon. From my previous experience at this race, I think it had been about 8 years since there was a really hot race day like this one. There were plenty of water stations along the route (I think they were at miles 2, 4, 6, and then every mile until the end). I found two different locations where volunteers were handing out ice cold sponges along the course. There are plenty of spectators, especially after mile 6-7 and you are heading into Duluth. The last mile is completely covered with spectators cheering the runners into the finish line.
After crossing the finish line I was given a race medal, running shirt, and a drink ticket before heading through the drop bag pickup location and into the post race runners food/drink area. There was also a massage tent for the runners to use.
The medals were very nice this year. It was heavy and of high quality.
The drop bag pickup location was very conducive this year for the runners. In other years this pickup location wasn’t the easiest to get to since it was outside of the runners only location. 3 of the 4 people in my running party found it very easy to get our drop bags this year. The 4th, my brother’s wife, was continually told that her bag hadn’t reached the finish line yet, even though both her and my wife dropped their bags in the same container at the starting line. Eventually she got her bag, but it took 3-4 times of waiting in the long lines and getting to the front to check again.
The post race food provided for the runners was pretty good, not quite as many vendors or food selection as in prior years, but still more options than I have found at other races. These options included fruit, chips, nut rolls, orange juice, water, chocolate milk, yogurt, bagels w/ peanut butter, chicken broth, and others that I am sure I am missing.
There was a message tent, but I did not use this year.
There are tents set up at the finish line with live bands playing for free in the afternoon and then those same bands come back that night to perform again for the late night crowd ($10 to get in at night). I made my way down to the entertainment that night and made sure to get my free beer using the drink ticket I got from the race. I also watched the bands for a while which was fun and entertaining.
Once again this race weekend did not disappoint. The weather was great, mainly for spectators and not runners due to the heat, but made for a great post-race day! The course is a gradual decline in elevation from start to finish which helps when going for a PR like I was. There are plenty of things to do for runners and fans near the finish line which keeps spectators around to cheer on all the runners. This is definitely a race I will look to run again!!
The Medtronic 10-Miler is a great distance to run. Still a long race, but not quite as long as a 13.1, so you don' feel like you need to kill yourself in training to be able to complete this race. This is a raffle entry, so you are taking a chance every year in determining if you get in or not. This year I signed up as part of a group of 4 and made the cut!! The race is held on Sunday.
The expo is held in St. Paul, MN. Since I live and work in Minneapolis I was able to get my brother to pick up my bib this year. From what he said the expo was very nice, but I only know that second hand. Along with my bib I also got a runners buff.
This race starts in downtown Minneapolis, MN and ends at the Capitol in St. Paul. As you can expect in the downtown of a major city that parking will be in short supply. I planned for this and parked at my brothers place who lived on the outskirts of downtown. Then we took the light rail from his place to the starting line so that we didn't have to deal with finding a parking spot or the post race traffic when everyone is leaving. Post race there were buses or the light rail ready to take people back to the starting line. I took the light rail back so that it could bring me all the way to my brothers place without having to get off. This made for a great experience to and from the race.
I think there were 4 corals set up at the starting line based on your expected finish time. Each coral started a few minutes apart allowing for runners to be spread out on the course. I always like when a race has corals. Then I know that even though I will still be doing some side to side running to get around people for the first few miles, it wont be as bad as it could have been if everyone started all at once. This race was just as I expected. I still had to run around a few people, but how can you expect anything else from a race with so many runners. After a few miles this was a non issue and I was just able to enjoy the run. There are spectators everywhere on this route. The weather was a bit on the brisk side, but once the race started it was great conditions. The highlight of this route for me is the last 0.5 miles running down Summit Ave. This is all downhill and you can't help but take in the spectators and the finish line that entire way.
After crossing the finish line you are provided with some post-race food (bagels, chicken broth, chips). I was also rewarded with a finishers long sleeve technical shirt. THIS SHIRT IS GREAT!! Black is a great color for a finishers shirt, and for me personally, I love running in a long sleeve shirts so was so excited when I saw what we got. This is the first race I have taken place in that has given a long sleeve shirt. It is almost always a short sleeve technical t-shirt. The other great plus to finishing the race, you are given a free Summit beer (Summit is a brewery located in St. Paul).
I would recommend this race to others. This was the 3rd time I have run this race and will look to build upon that number. Its a great fall race and at the 10 mile distance you will still be able to celebrate afterwards!!