Why Run Grandma’s

Top Reasons to Run Grandma’s Marathon

“Disclaimer: I received entry into Grandma’s Marathon to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!”

I am no stranger to Grandma’s Marathon. I was introduced to the weekend of events, 3 years ago as I was fortunate enough to take part in the Garry Bjorklund half marathon as a Bibrave Pro. Since then I have run the marathon twice, once was part of the inaugural Great Grandma’s Challenge.

I’m ready to get back to Duluth to run my third Grandma’s, and here are my top reasons why:

Bacon – Yes, bacon! There is an unofficial aid station that cooks up bacon. Alright, maybe this reason should be the excellent crowd support and spectators. Sure, it’s no Chicago, and there are parts that don’t allow for easy access to spectators, but the sections of the course where people can get to are awesome. Signs, high fives, cheering for random strangers…. and of course bacon!

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Quirk! What is this you say? This is what makes the race unique, there are things you wont see at other races. There is a house that lines up troll dolls along the curb. Last year a guy with a banjo was making up a fun song about runners. A guy standing in costume handing out candy. You might even see Grandma too! These things are also placed just when you need a boost in your race. Oh, did I mention bacon? There is even a guy who runs to the start, and then runs the race, for a total of 50 plus miles of running.

Here is a video of my 2015 race.

The Train! This race is point to point, meaning you need to get to the start. While there are many free shuttle buses, some even from the hotel you might be staying at; you can take the train to the start. Also this train has bathrooms!!! Believe me, the bathroom thing is awesome, because while there are what seems like 100 at the start, it’s never enough. Plus the train is also open to spectators to ride.

The Course. The course runs along Lake Superior from Two Harbors to Duluth. While you may not always have a visual of the lake, it seems to appear just when you need it. It’s also flat, well it is for me, ok so there is “Lemon Drop” hill, but no rolling hills or steep climbs, just enough to keep the muscles working. It showcases the best of northern Minnesota, without getting lost in the backwoods.

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The Community. While Duluth is home for this event, the entire surrounding community opens it’s doors on race weekend. From the nearby casino to the south, the University campus, or nearby Superior, WI – you can find hotels with early morning breakfasts, shuttles to the race start, dorm rooms, and the friendliest people.

The Spaghetti Dinner. If you know me, you know I do not care for marinara sauce. I love me some fresh tomatoes, but put some gooey paste on my pasta, and you have ruined it. Enter, the Grandma’s Spaghetti dinner. First, it only costs $12 per adult, which is the most reasonable I have seen. Second, you can get a gluten free option. Third, you can go back for seconds. Fourth, you can get PLAIN NOODLES!!! Fifth, there is ice cream. Ok, so you don’t want to over do it before a big race, but there are options and you get your money’s worth. Oh, there is also all the bread you care to eat too.

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Late Packet Pick Up Hours. Packet pick up remains open until 11 pm the Friday before the race. This makes it possible to actually pick up your packet! (note there is no race day pickup) There is one major road to Duluth, you head north out of MPLS on I-35, it can get congested… so while you should allow enough time, the late packet pick up time makes it possible to actually get your things. Also if for some reason you still can’t grab your stuff, you can have it mailed (submit info by May 31, costs $25) or make arrangements for someone to get it for you.

Things to See. Just to name a few – you can tour an iron ore freighter – the William A. Irvin (this is what the 5k is named after), say hi to Pierre the Pantsless Voyager in Two Harbors (rumor has it he broke his arm), or just relax on the shores of Lake Superior… or maybe get that confused with Lake Shore Brewing 🙂

Well Organized. In 2015, there was a downpour at the start, in 2016 the race was “black flagged.” Weather is the one thing you can’t control on race day, yet I never felt unsafe or scared at anytime during these situations. The race takes care of the people. There are numerous aid stations on course as well as medical help.

This race still has all the standards too… an excellent medal, great post race beer, live music, and a shirt you have to EARN. However, the reasons I mention are why I keep coming back. The race and the community goes above and beyond to make you feel at home in Duluth.

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Registration is open! I hope to see you in Two Harbors, June 17th at 7:45 am!

 

Grandma’s 2016

On the road again…

Grandma’s Marathon is a great race, throw in their 40th year, and as a midwest runner, it’s a race you can’t miss.

Check out my official review at Bibrave.com

This year, Josh was going to run the full, and a group of friends from high school would be along (Laura, Kate and Laura) for the fun.

We left the Friday before the race, and picked up the rest of the gang in MPLS. The 7 hour ish drive was some what eventful as we detoured around a portion of I-35 that was under construction. With so many people heading north for the weekend, it backs up traffic. However the detour was fun, even saw this giant fish!

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We arrived in Duluth in time for the pre race pasta party. It closes at 9pm, an hour after the expo closes. However packet pick up remains open until 11 pm – BONUS!!  Anyway back to the pasta, for only $12 you can get a ton of food. Pasta how you want it, salad, milk, all the bread, and ice cream.

The race has no registration options at the expo, it actually sold out in December. They offered a track jacket with the 40th year logo, that was sent in the mail months ahead.

We grabbed all our things, ate all the food and headed to our hotel in Superior, WI. This hotel is great, it has a bus come pick us up at the front door to get to the start of the race. They also offer a runners breakfast starting at 4:45 am. Fruit, breads, yogurts, and COFFEE!!

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Saturday June 18, 2016. warm! 7:45 am. race start temp of 72, 80s at the end.

Josh and I made it to the start on the bus, while the others caught up on their sleep. We met up with Gina, who was running her first ever marathon. We also managed to snag a port-o-potty, even though all the lines were crazy long.

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The announcer kept telling everyone – how long before the start and the temperature. It seemed like it was 68 degrees forever, and then right before the race started it was 72.

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Josh and I parted ways as he found his pace in the starting corals, and I moved my way back.

Race/ course: Starts in Two Harbors, MN and ends in Duluth, running along old Hwy 61, following Lake Superior. The half marathon starts at the halfway point 45 minutes before the full.

I didn’t have a goal going into the race, just finish and have a good time. This was my second time running this course, and I knew what to expect, so I was just going to take it in.

GEAR: OM pack, Brooks ghost, Nathan race belt, pink Sparkle Athletic skirt, Pro Compression socks, Adidas 7″ boy short, Garmin Fenix, BibRave tech hat, xx2i usa1 sunglasses, lathered in 2 Toms.

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-FLAT! Elevation change is just under 200 feet – ok so there are some hills, but nothing crazy
-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, jolly ranchers at mile 18
-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 energetic younger people.
-MarathonFoto on course, mostly near the end
-Port-o-potties on the course, lots of them at the halfway point
-Views of Lake Superior
-clocks on the course, timing splits for the online tracking
-Volunteers / law enforcement, they were at every intersection and very energetic.
-Road closed to traffic, entire width of road to run on. Open for 7 hours
-Medical stations manned by the military (not sure what level or branch, assuming National Guard.

I made sure to hit all the water stops, it was going to get warm. I didn’t think it to be that humid, but some disagreed. I think my favorite thing to do was to get a cup of ice and then fill it with the blue Powerade, it was very good. The wet sponges were great too. I also ran with my OM hydraquiver vest pack one, and kept it full of water, either to drink or splash on my head.

Enough can’t be said about the spectators on this course, they are out at every intersection they have access too. Singing silly songs, fun signs and all the high fives.

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By mile 15 the race had issued their red flag warning, meaning due to the heat, the conditions were not great. Then by mile 17, they black flagged the race, meaning there was extreme risk for dehydration and things. I’ll be honest I wasn’t feeling any effects of the heat at mile 15, the breeze off the lake felt great! I did take warning and walked a lot and just kept on drinking. From about mile 18 to the finish there was no shade, the sun was hot and I wish I had some sunscreen.

It would have also been nice to see my friends somewhere on the course, I was expecting to see them near the “boat” (freighter) by the finish. However nothing… I figured they would meet me at the finish line…nothing…plus Josh was also running…then I was like ok what’s up?

However I took my moment across the finish line as the song “One Shining Moment” played, with a time of 5:32. I grabbed a bottle of water, the snazzy, heavy finisher’s medal, my finisher’s shirt and a mylar blanket. I proceeded to get some post race strawberries and chocolate milk. I turned my phone off of airplane mode.

 

I then got a call…”where are you?” Then it was the fun of reuniting with Josh, who was with Kate, because he had spent some time in the medical tent for dehydration. He was better, and some how managed to leave the med tent with a different hat. I sat with them while I ate my strawberries and drank more liquids, it was hot!

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We got up, and were eventually headed to Little Angie’s Cantina, where the Lauras had secured a table outside in the shade. I was going to make a stop at the beer first, I earned that post race brew!!!  It was a good one too, an O’dell’s IPA. We also hit up the race result printouts.

We all reunited at the restaurant, which was just by the finish line. We ate all the mexican food (pass the salt) and enjoyed the cheering. We topped it off with fried ice cream.

Overall: This was the second year I ran the full, 3rd year at this event. I still love it, and have already made my hotel reservation for next year. Grandma’s is a great marathon!

The gang stayed an additional night in the area. Which was a great idea, we could check out the sights, which we did sans Josh as he needed some rest and still wasn’t 100%.

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There is a little candy store on the course at about mile 5, so we piled into the car and headed north. MMM I can still smell the chocolate…we all bought a variety of treats. We also made it up to Two Harbors.

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After some time skipping rocks at a road side park, it was getting time to eat again…duh!

So we picked up Josh and found this supper club in Superior. It was like stepping back into 1985. The restaurant was above the liquor store and bar on the first floor.

Josh and I enjoyed some fish from the lake and topped off the evening with a Golden Cadillac. It’s an ice cream drink with alcohol, we were surprised the waitress (also someone’s grandma) knew what it was.

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Ok I am rambling on here…but we had a great time in Duluth, we couldn’t leave without eating breakfast at a “greasy spoon”

There was still some traffic backups on the way back to MPLS, so we took some adventurous roads back. Note to self, google maps is not always right, hello dead end gravel roads.

On to the next adventure…

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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.

BEER!

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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.

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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 Bibrave.com

 

 

Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon

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.

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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.

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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.

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*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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Once the racers were done, we went and explored Duluth. It’s a great place!

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Red Shoe Half

Ronald McDonald House Red Shoe Half (& 5K). Sunday May 4, 2014. 8 am. Cloudy, sprinkles 45 degrees.

Registration: This was available online or you could fill out a form to send in. Rates started at $40 and increased to $50 on race day. This race is also part of “Iowa’s Longest Marathon” in which you could also register for the Run for the Schools half in October. Included with your fee was a short sleeve tech tee, chip time, coupons, flyers & chapstick.

Packet Pick up: Many chances to get your things with 3 different pick ups. One Friday at the RMH, one Saturday at the mall, and one before the race.  Someone else could pick up your packet. Organizers always kept participants informed through emails.

Pre-Race: Parking was available near the start / finish in adjacent lots around Carver Hawkeye Arena. CHA was where race day registration & packet pick up were taking place, but it also meant the bathrooms were open, access to the drinking fountains. and keeping warm.

Race / Course: There were 3 races, a half, 5k, and kids run. Each had a different start. The start of the half was at 8 am, and after we all lined up in the finishing shoot, someone said go and the race was underway. The course was on paved streets & sidewalks, no major cracks or pot holes. There were a lot of hills, nothing steep or long, just a lot of hills. There were law enforcement officials at the busy intersections, and volunteers at most other intersections or turns. There were also arrow signs stuck in the ground. Each mile was marked. Various hydration stops with blue Powerade and water in paper cups, some stops used different cups for different liquids, usually volunteers shouted what they had. No food stops on the course, unless you knew a friend. Spectators were few and far between. There was a halfway timing mat. There were port-o-potties on the course. There were photographers on the course, but at my pace I did not see any of them, except at the start. No course entertainment. The finish was also the start, marked with an arch and the clock. There were two chutes as the 5k was ran during the half.

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Post Race: After a medal was placed around your neck, there were plenty of food choices. Bananas, apples, oranges, granola bars, fruit snacks, bagels, chocolate milk, orange juice, apple juice & water. A time print out station was set up to get your finishing time. A special presentation with a great family was made about how the Ronald McDonald house helps families, then awards for overall and age group winners were handed out.

Overall: I will always try to run this race because there are not a lot of longer distance races in my town. I also like supporting the Ronald McDonald House. The course is also a nice challenge, would be nice to have more spectators.

Personal: This was my first long race after Blue Ridge. I had taken the entire week off from running, well I guess there was the Nacho5k, I needed the break. I wasn’t sure how I would do, but I had a great base and my quads didn’t hurt to walk.  I was able to run with Laura again, she is the best for pacing, she carried me to about the 12.25 mile mark. I finished the race, my quads felt like Jell-o.It did feel great to be back running again. I had a great time of 2:08:43.

I also was part of a twitter campaign for this race, it was really easy, all I had to do was tweet & RT things about the race using #redshoehalf. You can follow the house at @rmhc_eiwi

I am now trying to focus on breaking 2 hours in the half, I hope to do that at the Garry Bjorklund half as part of Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, MN in June 21. I was able to enter this race as part of Bib Rave. I can’t wait to get there and accomplish this.  Don’t worry there will be other races to read about in the mean time.

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