Grandma’s Marathon 2015

Ever since I completed the Garry Bjorklund half marathon in 2014, I have been itching to do the full marathon in Duluth.  My friend Kate, mentioned she wanted to run her first half marathon, so once we were assured she was into the lottery entry half marathon, I had registered for my 8th marathon.

Video Recap

Saturday June 20, 2015. RAIN! 7:45 am. 60 degrees

Registration: This was available online, starting at $90 and increasing until the end of may, a cap of 8,500 participants. Included with registration was a bib (name if registered early) chip timing, finisher’s shirt, finisher’s medal, post race beer and festivities.

I also joined the Minneapolis running group via twitter. It was free to join and the more people to register in the group the more perks we would get. The registered participants had us getting an extra post race beer and a ticket to be in the official bleacher cheer zone. I understood there was to be a fancy bus to the start as well, but I did not take it or hear if that bust was a charter?

Expo / Packet Pick-up: The expo was held at the Duluth Convention Center, with a ramp for parking at $5. It was held the Thursday and Friday before the race, up until 11pm to get your packet. You could also have it mailed to you for $25. Someone else could grab your packet with a signed wavier. The packet pick up was in the back of the convention hall, once you had it, the chip on your bib was checked. The bib was in a clear bag that doubled for gear check, also had some paper flyers and a beet juice sample. We also received a virtual bag via email.


While I enjoy the virtual email bag, and the reduction of paper, I can never use anything in them. Races need to consider people travel to races and can’t use the coupons for the area. Also the deals they are giving the race are usually nothing any more special than your every day internet deal.

The expo included many of the same exhibitors you would see at most larger events. Shoes, head bands, apparel, nearby races. It was a decent size.

Pasta party: For only $12 (tickets could be purchased ahead of time or at the gate) you could choose plain noodles, marinara sauce, meatballs, or gluten free noodles. Then you could have some lettuce, bread, ice cream, milk, or popsicle. It was all you could eat.


This was the best deal! Duluth is crazy, all restaurants and hotels are super busy, the pasta party could accommodate many people, you could get right in and eat with no hassle. You were not stressed with finding a place or walking extra.  Also pro tip: book your hotel a year in advance, you could end up paying prices near $300/night.

Pre-race: Early wake up to board a bus by 6:15 am. The starting point had a lot of portapotties. Bag drop was available, use the bag you got your packet in the night before.  There were no pre-assigned corrals, but encouraged to line up by estimated finishing times. There was music over a PA. The National Anthem was performed live.

There could have been more toilets, I waited in line for 10 minutes and moved 2 feet, so I was unable to use. It was also a down pour, we were soaking wet and there wasn’t any shelter except for what I believe was a medical tent or information station. It was also hard to get to the starting line if you were a fast runner and arrived late, runners were dropped off at the back of the starting line. Also could someone tell me if there is a benefit to putting plastic sacks over your running shoes?

staying dry

Race: This was the 39th year of the race.It is a point to point race. It starts in Two Harbors, MN and ends in Duluth. The half marathon starts at the halfway point 45 minutes before the full. You are encouraged to take a bus or the train to the start of either race. Many buses depart from Duluth and Superior, WI hotels.


We stayed in Superior where there was a bus for the full but not the half. The hotel also had an early morning race specific breakfast.

Course: Run on old Highway 61 along Lake Superior.

  • FLAT! Elevation change is just under 200 feet
  • paved surface
  • each mile was marked with a sign and a yellow balloon
  • lots of hydration stops. Water and Powerade in separate paper cups, and at tables with signs.
  • Ice, sponges, gels, oranges and bananas
  • Spectators! All access points to the course had people with signs, ready to slap high fives. The areas in town had bacon stops, donuts, beer (non supported food) Lots of energy.
  • MarathonFoto on course, more photographers near the end
  • Port-o-potties on the course
  • Views of Lake Superior
  • 3 clocks on the course
  • Volunteers, they were at every intersection and very energetic.
  • Road closed to traffic, entire width of road to run on. Open for 7 hours


Finish: This was marked with an arch and timing clock. The announcer was catching names as people finished. Each side was lined with spectators. Once you cross the finish line there was a volunteer with a medal and a bottle of water. Then you went to get your gender specific finisher’s shirt and a beverage ticket. From here you had to continue walking to get a heat sheet, then grab your gear bag. Then you could proceed to the finisher’s food: strawberries, yogurt, peanut butter, chocolate milk, apples, bananas, oranges, bagels, nut rolls. Once through this area there was an alphabetized reunion area, or you could go to the beer tent to redeem your drink ticket. The beer tent area also had live music and a video set up to view finishers. There was a results tent, merchandise tent and coffee tent.medal


I finished with a decent time around 5 hours and I think some of the food was already gone, please take what you can eat.

Overall: I love this race, the views, the spectators, the flat course. It would be a great first marathon.

Personal: While I have inserted personal snipets above, I will now go on with how I raced. I didn’t have a big goal as I went into this race. I have been having some issues with my shin / tendonitis, so training wasn’t on point. I orginally wanted to shoot for a super PR, but threw that idea out the window. I also told Laura, who I was running with that I was just going to run and see what happened.

As I mentioned it was raining. Now running in the rain isn’t so bad, but standing around  in the rain with no shelter, well yeah, not fun. I did decide to bring my rain jacket, but that was a lost cause. Everything was wet before we started, oh and my Garmin hates the rain, but I managed to hit start when it was time.

I also mentioned there were lots of toilets at the start, but there were not enough. I really needed to pee. Well when I finally gave in, I waited at a port-o-potty for 6 minutes. Laura went in the woods, which was a common occurrence in the first few miles, but with the rain and things, I just didn’t want to wrestle my clothes and moon everyone in the process. So I waited and I told Laura to move along, maybe walk ahead and I would catch up, she said she would move along slowly.

Well that was the last I saw of her until the finish. I don’t mind running alone, I had some tunes and the rain, some chaffing, and a view of the lake.

Then I came upon a runner with some “flatties” Ok, I live on social media, I was recently added to a fun group, the Sub 30 Club. I was no stranger as I had done a virtual 5k with them a few years back. Anyway, I was also running with flatties, these were pictures of other runners in the group that wanted to run with me. So there I was about mile 9 and I spotted Joy. We had never met in real life, but I was excited to see someone I recognized. We struck up a conversation and she put a spark in my step. She said she needed to walk when we hit mile 10, so I motored on.


I came to the halfway point feeling great, and the sun was starting to make an appearance. This was also where the half marathon started, so there were port-o-pots for days, I took advantage of no lines. I carried on enjoying everything, even hit the sides of the roads for a softer surface.


I high fived kids and adults. I took candy, donuts, and bacon from strangers. I enjoyed the sponges on the course to wipe the sweat from by brows. There was free beer, curbs lined with troll dolls. The community embraces this event.

trolls hghfive hawkeye donutbacno

I was also running in an Iowa Hawkeye tank top, there were so many cheers. I also passed a Hawkeye flag staked into the ground, I high fived the woman and she offered me some strawberries.


As I came to the one and only hill, with 4 miles left to go, I checked my watch. I was on pace to PR this race. However I knew I had that port-o-potty stop wait. I got to the top of the hill and I sped up a little. There were more spectator lined streets, and I knew I would be able to finish with a great time. I really enjoyed every minute.

smile jedi duluth course coffee bubbles

Then I hit mile 25. There are not many turns on this race course, it’s mostly a straight shot, however the last mile seems to take forever as you twist and turn to the finish. I spotted Kate, she had survived her first half marathon!!  I muttered some words, and then I came upon another familiar..ahem back side…it was Pam! She had rescued my 5k packet the night before, and another Sub 30 member.


I said, Hey Pam! She wasn’t doing so well. She told me she had issues with cramping. I didn’t like the sound of that, plus I was excited to once again see someone I knew, right near the finish too. I could have probably left her, but I wanted to make sure she was able to cross the finish line of her first marathon.

We chatted a little bit, I assured her the finish was right after the turn by the clock, and it was, we could see the archway. She did it, she finished her first marathon. She said it was the hardest thing she had ever done. True inspiration, to persevere through the pain and finish what she set out to do. Congrats PAM!!! (also check out the Sub 30 club, they’re pretty cool, a stranger sent me a gift too)


I also finished with a Garmin time of 4:52, hello PR!!! However the official chip time was a 4:58, but I will take it with my lack of training. Here is a sweet finisher’s video

I said my congrats to Pam and her friend Colleen who smashed her first marathon too. Then I reunited with Kate and Laura. Congrats to Kate on finishing her first half marathon, she is more disappointed her finisher’s shirt was too big.

Laura said she was just feeling it, so she never slowed down or looked back and set a crazy new PR. Laura was on the start of a great weekend, she became engaged the next day.


IMG_0769 beer

Shout out to Kristin, another 100 miles participant, she also completed the marathon, Congrats!. I was able to grab a picture with her post race.


This race just brings out the pure enjoyment of running. Yes there are hassles, but you can’t change the weather, and due to the popularity you can’t change the hotel prices.

Hope to see you next year! You can check out more reviews at



12 thoughts on “Grandma’s Marathon 2015

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  2. Congrats on a great finish! It was such a rainy day (I was there!!) but a fun course anyway 🙂

  3. Congrats!!!! I was there with my sister, and will return next year for sure!

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