5 Reasons to Register for Grandma’s Marathon in 2017
If you’ve been involved in the Minnesota running scene for a little or a long while, chances are you’ve heard someone mention Grandma’s Marathon. The late June race (in 2017, it’s on June 17) is a staple in our running community, and a favorite and beloved race for many. Several of us here at Minneapolis Running have run Grandma’s (it was mine and Nathan’s very first marathon, Rich’s second, and a favorite of Justin and Jenna) and can’t wait to run it again!
Registration officially opens for Grandma’s Marathon on October 1st, so we got to thinking about what makes this race so great. Below are our top 5 reasons to run in 2017:
1.Scenic Point-to-Point Course
Grandma’s Marathon has a beautiful point-to-point course that runs along Lake Superior from Two Harbors all the way to downtown Duluth. What makes this course the best however are the miles of quiet scenery, gently rolling hills, and massive amount of spectators once you hit the edge of town. For me, the Grandma’s course is the best of both worlds: remote and scenic, while also filled with loud crowds.
If you’re looking for a relatively flat and fast course for a PR or a BQ, Grandma’s is also your race. Nathan notes, “The worst part of the course is at Lemon Drop hill around mile 22, and again on the overpass going over 35W just past mile 25. Neither hills are significant, unless you’re legs are toast. With Lemon Drop, you can see it for awhile, so it looks bigger than it actually is – remember, it’s really nothing to worry about!”
And while the course is fairly flat, Rich notes that there is one other challenging aspect to the Grandma’s course, “You can see the lift bridge [where the finish line is] on the horizon for over half of the race, looming off in the distance. You have to make your peace with the bridge and refocus; it’s definitely a mental challenge.”
But fear not, because a whole slew of crazy, cheering running fans will be there to carry your legs to the finish (and to beer)!
2. Small Town Race with a Big City Feel
If you’ve never been to Duluth then you should know this: it’s no New York, Boston, or even Minneapolis, but trust us when we say that the entire city comes out to support the race. By most standards, Grandma’s Marathon is a relatively small race with about 9,000 runners, but the organization and the amenities make this race feel much, much bigger.
Nathan says, “One of my favorite things about the race experience is that it is a pretty big event, but has a small town feel. Duluth isn’t very big, so it really feels like everywhere you go, people are into the race. Almost like you’re a celebrity!”
3. World Class Race Amenities
Oh and about those race amenities? For starters, packet pick-up and the race expo are located in downtown Duluth at the DECC. The expo is large and packed with great race sponsors, and the spaghetti dinner (also in the DECC) is cheap, delicious, and well-attended. Rich notes, “I typically don’t do much at race expos beyond picking up my packet, browse a few booths, and get back to relaxing, but you would be missing out if you don’t go see Dick Beardsley speak at the Grandma’s Marathon expo. He has an amazing story to tell on so many different levels – from running at a very high level to personal disappointment and tragedy, all while wearing his heart on his sleeve and truly representing the magic that is racing at Grandma’s Marathon.”
On race morning, there are plenty of shuttle busses (and even a train) to get to the start line, and once you’re there, the start area is packed with port-o-potties. (Nathan’s Pro tip: ride the train to the start line instead of taking the bus. You will need to get up a bit earlier, but you’ll be able to use a bathroom and relax on the train.)
Along the course there are tons of water stops (approximately every 2 miles), plus GU, bananas, oranges, and even beer from some friendly spectators at the top of Lemon Drop Hill!
At the finish, runners are rewarded with technical t-shirts, a huge and heavy duty medal, the usual food and water, massages, changing tents, and a finish-line party like no other. (Pro tip: Hop into Lake Superior at the end of your race to sooth sore muscles with an all-natural ice bath!) Food, beer tents, live music, and more are setup in Canal Park until late in the evening. It’s the perfect way to celebrate your race!
4. PR Perfect Weather
A note about the weather at Grandma’s Marathon: it’s typically cool, overcast, and PR perfect! The race takes place in late June, but don’t let that fool you, this is the North Shore afterall. Temperatures typically range between 40-60 degrees, though there have been cooler, hotter, and wetter years (I’ll spare you the details of the downpour in 2015). That being said, you may want want to train for Grandma’s like it’s a warm weather race, just to be sure your bases are covered.
For close to 4 years, my PR was held on the Grandma’s Marathon course, and I know that I’m not alone. On cool, spring mornings, I can feel myself running along Lake Superior with the lift bridge in the distance, remembering my favorite parts about the marathon. It really is the best.
5. The North Shore Experience
One of the things that makes Grandma’s Marathon so great is its home city of Duluth. If you’re new to the area, and even if you’re not, be sure to stay a few days before or after the race to take in the North Shore.
Rich says, “Get up to Gooseberry Falls and put your feet in the cold water, sit at Canal Park and watch the big ships roll in, and then climb to the top of Enger Tower for one of the best views in the city! You can certainly find plenty of ways to do some active recovery before hopping in the car for the return home, and the views will put you well on your way to recovering mentally as well!”
Overall, Grandma’s Marathon is a race for runners by runners. Everything about the race organization from packet pick-up, to the shuttle to the start, to the finish line is flawless, and the race experience is incomparable. For a smaller race, it is certainly put on like a world class event, and one that no runner in the Minnesota area should miss!
Registration for the 2017 Grandma’s Marathon, Gary Bjorkland Half Marathon, and William A. Irvin 5K opens at 10:00 a.m. on October 1st, see you there!