Grandma’s Marathon Weekend, Duluth, MN. June 21, 2014. 6:15 am. Foggy, mist, 46 degrees.
I was taking part in the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon as a runner for BibRave, meaning my entry to this lottery only race was paid for.
Registration: Online. The half marathon was a lottery system, but the full was open to all, and I believe in the $100 range. Included was a bib (still trying to figure out if having your name was an extra cost), timing chip, race brochure, finisher’s shirt, & post race beer.
*I did not secure a hotel early enough, and was not going to spend the money to stay at the dorms. I spent the night before in MPLS, and woke up at 1:30 (Disney had me prepared) and drove to Duluth. Therefore I did not attend the expo. I was able to get my packet sent to my house a week before the race for $15.
Pre-Race: Each race is a point to point, meaning you would not be starting where you finish. The school bus shuttle started at 4:45 am and continued to 5:15 at various locations near the finish. These pick up spots were also close to parking areas. I parked at the Duluth Convention Center for a $5 all day fee. There was plenty of parking when I pulled into the ramp at 4:20 am. There were also numerous port-o-potties at this location.
Once each bus was packed with runners, it left for the start, north of Duluth. We were dropped near the starting corrals. There were port-o-potties as far as the eye could see. A water station was set up with paper cups. A sign was placed that all runners should be in the corral by 6 am. A gear check bag drop was available, the clear bag and number sticker was provided by the race.
*I actually forgot my bag in MPLS, which I could have used to stuff a jacket in as I waited for the race to start, it was cool and damp.
Once in the corral area, we were instructed to line up by pace, however it was a tad confusing. There were signs that displayed per mile paces, but near the back it went from 8:30 per mile to walkers and slow runners. This is where I was, and it was crowded. Then the pacers showed up, the 2:30 pacer was standing near me, so at the last minute I made my way closer to the front, found the 2:15 pacer near the 7 something per mile.
The elite corral was off first at 6:00 am, after a live rendition of the National Anthem.
Race / Course: The course was run on paved roads, cement or asphalt. There were no potholes or hazards, but because of the dampness the painted lines or repair spots were slippery. Each mile was marked with a blue balloon in the air. There was a clock near the halfway point and the 10 mile mark. The course is flat and runs along Lake Superior, due to the fog the Lake wasn’t too visible. There were hills, which were highway overpasses. There were many hydration stops with water & blue Powerade, each in paper cups and marked with a sign. There were ice stops, a wet sponge stop & bananas, oranges & strawberries. Lots of volunteers, many law enforcement officials at the busy intersections. MarathonFoto was on the course taking pictures.
Spectators: The course north of Duluth is remote, however there are still many spectators with great signs. There was a person in a Lion costume jumping on a trampoline, there was a troll doll display, and let’s not forget the free bacon stand. There were more spectators as we neared the city, lots of cheering.
The last mile had a lot of twists and turns, but the finish was in sight marked with a clock and arch of red balloons.
Post Race: A medal was placed around your neck, then after a few more feet a bottle of water was handed to you, then you had to wait in line to get your finisher’s t-shirt – yes you earned the shirt! Different shirts & medals for the half & full. Then you could get a mylar blanket & your refreshment ticket and proceed to the food. There were sliced bagels, peanut butter on a spoon, yogurt, strawberries, orange juice, chocolate milk, & ice cream sandwiches. The food was not set up linear, you just went from booth to booth. There were also volunteers near the trash, recycle & compost bins to get the correct items in the right containers.
Once a racer went through the runners only food area, there were stakes with letters to meet up with friends and family. From there if you wanted to redeem your refreshment ticket you had to go to the big white tent in a separate area. You could redeem your ticket for one of 3 variety craft brews, an aluminum bottle bud light, or coffee. In the tent area was a large screen showing the finishers and a stage for the live music. There was a merchandise tent too.
The gear check area was nearby, but it looked like a disaster. Didn’t seem like there was a plan or organization.
Overall: I would definitely run this race again. The biggest problem is the starting corral, but it’s manageable. The flat course and great town has me considering the full.
Personal: This was the first half marathon where I was going to race, I was chasing the sub 2 hour half marathon. I DID IT! I finished with 1:58:27. When you are racing instead of running the race, you are focused. I only stopped at one water stop, I didn’t take the free bacon. Every time I slowed I kept telling myself, this could be the difference between 1:59:59 and 2:00, keep going. It took a lot of talking to myself. It also helped that it was probably 50 degrees and I had been training in 70 & 90% humidity. Everything came together for me to run my race, and now I am not sure if I will ever run that fast again.
I was also fortunate to have a good friend, Kate, join me on the trip. Even though it was a lot of waiting around for her, it means a lot ot have support.
After my race, we grabbed a bite to eat at Little Angie’s, and watched many finishers. We saw a guy crawl to the finish, a guy helped as his legs wouldn’t function, and smiles as big as Lake Superior.
Also maybe we stayed and cheered for those at the end because of the blog post about back of the pack runners. Or maybe we were just caught up in the atmosphere, but the people at the end are on the course the longest, they deserve the same treatment. MarathonFoto was packed up near the finish when the clock was at 6:41 ( there was still a photographer at the finish) The clock was packed away at 7:17 ( I think the course closed at 7 hours) However there were still racers out there and the street was still set up to cheer, and we were not kicked out. Or maybe it was because the sun finally came out, and we finally warmed up.
Once the racers were done, we went and explored Duluth. It’s a great place!