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The Run Around: Grandma’s Marathon Review & Race Recap

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My best running friend Kate recently ran Grandma’s Marathon and crushed it. She had such a great experience and that race is now on my bucket list! I asked her to write a recap of her race, and since she didn’t include her race time in her Grandma’s Marathon review and race recap, I’ll brag about it for her. She ran a 3:24 with only eight weeks of build-up. She’s such an amazing runner!

She trained under Enoch Nadler with Team Florida Track Club and I’m hoping to get her to do another post all about training with them. Because, um, DANG she has gotten really fast. It seems like such an amazing group!

Kate is currently running around Scotland with her husband Jason. And they just moved back to NC from Gainesville, Florida, which I’m THRILLED about. She won’t be back in Winston-Salem, alas, but I’ll take what I can get. And hey, it gives us an excuse to meet up for runs in a new place between us.

Okay, I’m handing the blog reins over to Kate!

Grandmas Marathon Review & Race Recap

Teri, thanks for letting me share my thoughts about Grandmas Marathon!

Grandma’s Marathon is located in Duluth, Minnesota and takes place in mid-June. The timing is perfect for people who have decided to try to qualify for Boston prior to the September registration (like me) and the weather is still fairly temperate. I have family members in MN which also makes it convenient and more fun. To be honest, I didn’t expect to love Grandma’s Marathon – but I did! Teri, maybe we can run it together next time.

grandma's marathon review

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I don’t really care about expos and this one didn’t change my mind (I’m not sure what that would take). My aunt and I walked in, picked-up my bib and packet, purchased some glide, found the free cowbells, and headed out (after my aunt sampled some free beer). We showed-up to the expo around 4pm on Friday and traffic was horrid – my aunt and I hopped out of the car while the rest of my family drove around before picking us up again. I would definitely recommend getting there earlier or having a drop-off/pick-up plan in place. They did have a spaghetti dinner that you could purchase at the expo and a 5k Friday evening.

kate egan

Getting to the race

Grandma’s is a point-to-point course that starts in Two Harbors and finishes in Duluth. While there are some accommodations in Two Harbors area, I would recommend staying in Duluth for the afterparty and all that Duluth has to offer. There are ~ 10 hotels in Duluth with shuttle buses to the start running from 5:45-6:15. Runners are able to use the buses even if they aren’t staying at the hotel. We stayed at a friend’s home and I hopped on a bus at the closest hotel – it was super easy. I did hop on the very first bus at 5:45 so I can’t speak to the process if you were to wait longer. There is also an option to ride the train to the start but that required waking up even earlier.

“Athlete’s Village”

I hopped on the first bus at the hotel so I was at the start pretty early – I didn’t even have to wait in line at the porta potty when I showed-up! I did have to wait in the porta potty line just prior to getting into my corral. Tip – go to the porta potties closest to the start line (farthest away from the entrance to the village) because the lines were much shorter or non-existent. You can get to your corral via a roped off lane in the grass. This was great because you didn’t have to walk through the porta potty line or all the corrals depending on the direction that you were going. I don’t remember seeing coffee or food – just water – but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t there (or maybe it does). You are able to bring your gear check bag with you and they take it to the finish which was very convenient.

The Course

Grandma’s is a point-to-point course that runs (pun intended) parallel to Lake Superior in Minnesota. I REALLY liked the course. It was very picturesque – you were either overlooking the banks of Lake Superior or in the middle of gorgeous trees. The last 8 or so miles took you into the city of Duluth. There was more crowd support than I expected in the first 18 miles and it really picked-up when you got into Duluth. Unexpectedly, I appreciated the solitude and solidarity with the other runners at that start of the race. For most of the race, I was running next to another woman my age and I just pretended that she was my running partner. We found each other after and we shared that we kept each other going – I just love the running community!

There were very gradual rolling hills throughout the course that kept things more interesting than challenging. I was warned about Lemon Drop Hill that occurs at ~ 22 miles but I didn’t find it to be bad. It was short and not too steep but the placement can make it challenging. That being said, I developed sharp pains in my right hip flexor and knee right after the hill. The last mile is deceptive because there are a lot of turns. You think that the end will be around the next turn – the good news is that this eventually does come true. Luckily, my aunt (she’s run Grandma’s 7 times!) shared this with me prior to the race. If you want to experience the course without running a full marathon, there is also a half marathon on the last half of the marathon course that starts before the marathon.

grandma's marathon review

Other important things to note about this Grandma’s Marathon

The weather has been hit or miss and this year was no exception. When I went to bed on Friday night, there were threats of morning thunderstorms and lightning. But, thankfully, I woke-up to birds chirping outside and no rain at 4:30am (before my 4 alarms). It stayed overcast and in the 50s throughout the race which was amazing since it has been warm in recent years. The weather didn’t stop me from dumping water on myself throughout the race though since it was still pretty humid. There’s a big party in Duluth the rest of the day and night after the race. We skipped it and drove three hours home so I could spend time with my family (after being treated to a bloody mary, of course).

grandma's marathon review

If you didn’t read the blog post earlier this year about how Kate and I became friends, read that here. We started out as running rivals and now we take vacations together.

Kate, thanks so much for this post! I’m a little (okay, a lot) jealous of your amazing weather after my, um, epic Boston Marathon. But I wouldn’t have wished those conditions on you, even when you were a rival. 😉 I can’t wait to run Boston together next year! (Thanks for getting a BQ in so quickly to run it next year!!!) And yes, let’s plan on Grandma’s after that. <3

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    2 responses to “The Run Around: Grandma’s Marathon Review & Race Recap”

    1. Congrats on a great race and BQ! I ran the grandmas half back in 2009 on a warmer day but since it was just the half no biggie. It was a great race and the whole town participates! I was running that race with my boyfriend at the time as we were going through a break which ultimately lead to the breakup so my main goal for the race was beating him, which I dd!

    2. I’m so glad you enjoyed your Grandma’s experience, Kate! I’m originally from MN and have run Grandma’s 3 times (2010, 2012, and 2016). I love the race and enjoy spending time in Duluth afterwards, but like you said, the weather can be inconsistent. I got my first BQ there in 2012, but then tanked in 2016 with the hot, humid weather that ultimately caused them to change the flags to black. I hope to go back some year and get redemption! 🙂

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