Since our initial race in 1977, Grandma’s Marathon has grown bigger than just a 26.2 mile race along the scenic North Shore of Minnesota. It’s a moment where runners of all calibers come together to celebrate the vigor of the human spirit. Where the word “impossible” ceases to exist; a …
Since our initial race in 1977, Grandma’s Marathon has grown bigger than just a 26.2 mile race along the scenic North Shore of Minnesota.
It’s a moment where runners of all calibers come together to celebrate the vigor of the human spirit. Where the word “impossible” ceases to exist; a day where 8,500 people are your best running buddy.
So, tie up your laces and join us for the 43rd year of memories, miles and human might.
The Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon takes you from the edge of the city limits all the way to the heart of Duluth. Along the way you’ll experience the empowerment of thousands of people cheering you on—beside you and on the sidelines. Wind your way along the beautiful North Shore and let this race invigorate you and your love for running.
The William A. Irvin 5K kicks off an exciting weekend of running events and festivities surrounding Grandma’s Marathon. The 3.1-mile course starts and finishes near the William A. Irvin ore boat located next to the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC). This race is perfect for people of all ages and abilities.
The finish line is calling. Answer it.
I was a tad intimidated with this race originally just because of how huge it is (marathon caps out at 9,000 runners) compared to the races I normally do. However, … MORE
I was a tad intimidated with this race originally just because of how huge it is (marathon caps out at 9,000 runners) compared to the races I normally do. However, the race is so well planned it was a walk in the park. They plan several areas that you can park and then they just shuttle you to the start and back to your parking area when you’re done. The whole course is mainly downhill, there are pace groups, well stocked aid stations, and an awesome finish line party.
Flat, point-to-point course
Good course to set a PR since it was flat, point-to-point course with very few turns. Nice small-town, Midwestern atmosphere before, during, and after the race. Long lines to use … MORE
Good course to set a PR since it was flat, point-to-point course with very few turns. Nice small-town, Midwestern atmosphere before, during, and after the race. Long lines to use the facilities at the start – they could have done that better.
WORLD CLASS experience
Hospitality- wonderful running community support- GREAT “BIG RACE IN A SMALL TOWN FEEL”- unlike - ie- NYC- Special THANK YOU TO THE RUNNER FROM NYC- who - after my 16 … MORE
Hospitality- wonderful running community support- GREAT “BIG RACE IN A SMALL TOWN FEEL”- unlike – ie- NYC- Special THANK YOU TO THE RUNNER FROM NYC- who – after my 16 min final mile finnish- and after I declined medical- as I was wandering around lost, trying to clear my mind and get back to the hotel- he happened by and would not leave my side until he got me to a fantastic EMT/Medic at mile twenty five (right near my hotel)- AGAIN THANK YOU- At my lowest point- it meant everything.
The race – must run- Beautiful- IDEAL LAKE SUPERIOR on your left playing peak-a-boo- tailwind- 55 degrees, low humidity- but sunny- (if overcast- would have been perfect) – FAST FIRST HALF – great up to 23.9 then-…………..well there’s next year!!!- I Will be back!!
Just a flat-out great experience. I put this marathon behind Berlin but in front of Disney World. The people of Duluth are some of the most welcoming we have ever … MORE
Just a flat-out great experience. I put this marathon behind Berlin but in front of Disney World. The people of Duluth are some of the most welcoming we have ever encountered. The course itself is really nice – flat to a few low rolling hills. Lemon Drop Hill is more hype than hill and that was a relief. This was my 6th 26.2 miler since October and I was just tired (OKC, Dallas,Houston, Cowtown Ultra and Waxahachie (50 miles). I really ran to enjoy and it did not disappoint. Weather was great and the race production was superb. The t-shirts are some of the best made race t-shirts I have gotten. My wife and I were celebrating our 34th wedding anniversary and the marathon followed by the Viking Star dinner cruise was perfect. This race is an obvious BQ event. A field this size and my time I would have normally placed a bit higher. I was not up to par for this one with the given field but had a great time nonetheless.
Scenic and a tailwind!
The marathon lived up to its stellar reputation. The worst part was the traffic jam on the exit ramp into the event center, I sat in the ramp for over … MORE
The marathon lived up to its stellar reputation. The worst part was the traffic jam on the exit ramp into the event center, I sat in the ramp for over 1/2 hr and there was no one directing traffic into the parking lot where you paid $10 to park. But once inside, the expo was excellent and the spaghetti dinner was superb, biggest race dinner I’ve ever been to. Weather was ideal, low 50s with a tailwind thru mile 20. I stayed in university housing and it was perfect. They had coffee, hot water, bagels and fruit at 4:00 am. Shuttle picks up and drops off right at the university. Pre-race area had coffee, Gatorade and water. Plenty of room to stretch and change clothes. Plenty of port a potties at start. The start was kind of strange. The elites went off first, then the citizen runners were supposed to line up by finish time. I never heard a gun go off or an announcement that the race had started. I am a back of the pack runner and there were still a lot of runners that hadn’t lined up yet but the corral was empty so off I went. There were a lot of back of the pack runners so I had no worries about finishing as one of the last ones. We had the entire road to ourselves and the view of Lake Superior was stunning. Stay on the shoulder because the road does have a camber. There are gentle hills and lots of volunteer support. The miles clicked away so quickly that I ran too fast and paid for it in the last 6 miles. The last mile is not well marked is my only criticism of the course. Most of the food was gone when I finished and the route to the shuttle pick up is not well marked either. The last shuttle pick up is 7.5 hrs after race start so if you finish close to the cutoff time you need to hustle to the shuttle. This is one of the few times I used the coupons from the race. I got free moonshine at Tavern on the Hill which was very close to university housing and since I was staying over for a few days to hike, I used the gas discount coupon. Make sure you look at the virtual bag, there is a discount for Duluth Coffee and an excellent discount from storm creek. I highly recommend this race.
Fast course along lake Superior
There are a lot of things about this race I wish I would have known a long time ago. I knew it was a popular race, but I didn't know … MORE
There are a lot of things about this race I wish I would have known a long time ago. I knew it was a popular race, but I didn’t know how big it really was. The race is held in June. I originally tried to sign up for the half in December, but it was already sold out. The cap for the half was 8000. I decided to sign up for the full instead. The full was capped at 9000 and eventually sold out as well. In January, I started looking at hotels. Little did I know that everything within a 150 mile radius was already sold out. I called around and did find one, but the price was twice as mush as usual. A few of the colleges do release some of their rooms starting sometime in Spring, but I was traveling with others and it wasn’t a great option. Just keep all of these things in mind.
The race was on a Sat and I flew into Minneapolis the day before. It should be about a 2.5 hour drive to Duluth from the airport. Due to construction and slow-downs, I got to Duluth late afternoon during the 5K. Traffic getting to the packet pickup was backed up onto the freeway and was at a crawl. The only place that had open parking spaces was a parking garage that cost $10. Even then, I had to circle a while to find a spot. It was a bit stressful, so I would suggest going a lot earlier in the day if possible or walking if you’re staying close enough. They are open until 11 pm.
The race expo had a lot of vendors and was very spread out. You have to walk around awhile to find the bibs. You do not receive your shirt until after you finish the race. The spaghetti dinner is at the same location as the expo, but I did not participate.
The race start is in Two Harbors and busses must be used to travel to the start. They had a few bus pickup locations which were conveniently located. There is also an option to ride the train, but it fills up quickly and is 1st come 1st served.
The half marathon starts over an hour and a half before the full so the marathoners don’t have to worry about passing any of the slower runners. The starting area was large and had a lot of port-a-johns, but also had long lines. The bag drop area had a lot of trash cans with the bib number range and was like a well-oiled machine. It looked like there was water and maybe coffee at the start area as well. There was good space to get a little warm up in and plenty of places to sit. They did not have corrals, so runners are supposed to line up based on hopeful finish times that were marked. Only a few runners were not lined up correctly. I got in the corral a little late, so it was crowded and I couldn’t get to the pacer that I wanted to follow. The race started on time and had a flyover which I loved.
The street was wide and the crowd was able to spread out within the first few minutes after the start. Traffic was blocked from the entire route, so you did not have to contend with that. There were several water and sports drinks available on the course. Not as many at first, but they increased as the race progressed. There was fruit available at a couple locations as well. The course followed the coast from Two Harbors to downtown Duluth. A lot of the time there were pine trees between you and the lake, but there were spots where there were great views of Lake Superior. There was a lot of crowd support along the way, especially near the end when it was needed the most. It was better supported than any race I have run in the last couple years. The course has a few gently rolling hills with a little hill, Lemon Drop Hill, around mile 22. I had an overall elevation gain of 499 feet.
The finish had a lot to choose from. The usual fare as well as some local things. The only issue was that I didn’t see any bags to collect all of my goodies. You pickup your race shirt at the finish and they give you a drink ticket as well. The shirt and medals were nice. Gear pickup was quick and easy.
The weather was good. Temp was in the 50’s with some wind. It was most noticeable during the last mile when you turned right into it. I started to falter a bit around mile 18, but I was able to hold on for a 1:12 PR. Overall, I think the race lived up to the hype.
As a side note, there is an option for spectators to purchase a ticket to watch from the train. I purchased this for my parents. The train goes along part of the course and follows the lead runners for awhile. They were served food, had a restroom and get to sit in the bleachers at the finish line. They said it was worth it.
Grandma's Marathon is one of the best executed race weekends that I have attended. All communication leading into the weekend was clear and consistent. Particularly appealing is the many transportation … MORE
Grandma’s Marathon is one of the best executed race weekends that I have attended. All communication leading into the weekend was clear and consistent. Particularly appealing is the many transportation locations around Duluth to get to the start and return busses to the pick-up spots at the end of the race.
The course is flat, but one should expect a steady, slow uphill for most of the second half mixed with a few down hill reprieves. I was able to maintain a consistent pace throughout the course, so flat is an adequate description.
The crowd support was consistent and enthusiastic! Multiple large cheering sections broke up the course so that your had beautiful Lake Superior views or hundreds of people supporting you to make the miles pass quickly.
One suggestion is that you familiarize yourself with the finish area and the celebration area. They are not near each other after having run a marathon. The finish area was a bit hectic and bag pick up was far past the food, so you end up carrying the food/swag when you are spent. It’s minor for sure.
My race review
Spectacular views of Lake Superior. Awesome medal, and crowd support was out of the world amazing. The course was very well marked, and the scenery was beautiful. MORE
Spectacular views of Lake Superior. Awesome medal, and crowd support was out of the world amazing. The course was very well marked, and the scenery was beautiful.
After everything I read, I knew when I was going to check Minnesota off the list, this was the race. I waited a long time to actually be able to … MORE
After everything I read, I knew when I was going to check Minnesota off the list, this was the race. I waited a long time to actually be able to get in as I kept missing the registration date and then it was always sold out. I chose to do the Great Grandmas challenge so ran the 5k on Friday night, the half marathon on Saturday.
This race starts super super early-need to be at the shuttle between 4:30-5am. I stayed by the mall so the shuttle stop there was super convenient. Book your hotel rooms early as everything sells out. The shuttle ride is quite long. Race morning was cold as well!
I ended up on one of the last shuttles so didn’t have to wait long to get going. The set up wasn’t super clear. They kept saying there was more port a potties-with 9000 runners, not the easiest to get up to the start line before the race gets going.
There isn’t much in terms of swag-a shirt for each race and a thin jacket if you do the grandmas challenge.
Getting to the expo was messy-tons of traffic and construction. Again, the expo was packed.
The course is gorgeous! A couple small inclines and 2 steep ones (one at mile 8 and between 11-12). Crowd support was amazing! Duluth really comes out for this race. The aid stations were plentiful and many residents set up their own aid stations. There are no energy gels but maple syrup on the course.
The finish area is blocked off for only runners but where you go isn’t super clear here either. You get your shirt at the finish not at the expo. Lines for everything were super long. I didn’t realize gear check was outside the runners gates and once you leave, they will not let you back into the runners only area.
I did like this race but thought it would have more of a small town feel and not as many runners as it did. It seems they had the logistics of transportation, placement of aid stations down. It is a great choice if you’re looking to run in Minnesota.
Great Grandma's Challenge
I did this 5K as part of the Great Grandma's Challenge. It was an alright 5K, but the parking was a nightmare.The race is around the same time as packet … MORE
I did this 5K as part of the Great Grandma’s Challenge. It was an alright 5K, but the parking was a nightmare.The race is around the same time as packet pickup so allow LOTS of extra time to get there, find parking, grab your packet if need be, and make it back to the start line. The 5K wasn’t anything extraordinary but you get some cool swag (quarter zip) for going the double challenge.
We are from Cincinnati, Ohio. Stayed at an VRBO close to Duluth. The race was super well organized, staff was extremely friendly, communication was great, scenery was beautiful, weather nice … MORE
We are from Cincinnati, Ohio. Stayed at an VRBO close to Duluth. The race was super well organized, staff was extremely friendly, communication was great, scenery was beautiful, weather nice by the lake and I highly recommend this race!!
Great Grandma's Challenge
Since I was in Duluth, might as well run both races and get some extra swag and a final run in before the half marathon on Saturday. The race is … MORE
Since I was in Duluth, might as well run both races and get some extra swag and a final run in before the half marathon on Saturday. The race is Friday night at 6pm-it was beautiful weather-perfectly sunny and warm. There were a ton of runners and I loved seeing the families participating together.
Lining up was a bit unorganized-they had us line up super early but non runners will in the corral some with bikes, some with dogs. The race runs part of Duluth but also runs with the water on your side. Quick and easy! There was 1 hill that didn’t take long at all. It was right around mile 1.
There is one water stop around mile 1.5.
There were not enough volunteers handing out medals so getting across the finish line and through the chute was a challenge. It was clogged up with runners waiting to get their medals.
The post race festivities were fantastic-lots of tents with food and vendors and music as well. I did not stay too long as it was a super long day with traveling but looked like a good time.
Really happy I decided to run this and conquer the Great Grandmas challenge!
Second to none
I've done this race three times, going back for a 4th. Always my favorite weekend of the year. Very well done, very fun race. The lake is a perfect running … MORE
I’ve done this race three times, going back for a 4th. Always my favorite weekend of the year. Very well done, very fun race. The lake is a perfect running partner for the first 19 miles and once you get into Duluth the streets are lined with some great supporters.
My fastest race yet!
The Garry Bjorklund Half was excellent - course is pretty flat and fast, race day support is top-notch, and running alongside the lake is so peaceful. The air just feels … MORE
The Garry Bjorklund Half was excellent – course is pretty flat and fast, race day support is top-notch, and running alongside the lake is so peaceful. The air just feels fresher (and chillier!) up here. There aren’t tons of spectators, but there are enough, especially when you pass through more inhabited areas of the course. This race had been a bucket list one for awhile and I’m so glad I sat by my computer and registered immediately when it opened (true story). Absolutely recommend, whether you’re trying for 50 States or not!
This was my first time in Minnesota and Duluth is a magical place. This was the first marathon that i trained for. Lake Superior is incredible and the course is … MORE
This was my first time in Minnesota and Duluth is a magical place. This was the first marathon that i trained for. Lake Superior is incredible and the course is so beautiful with all of the pines too. Good crowd support, awesome swag, definitely a race I will never forget.
Dedicated to my Grandmas
We do what we do for a myriad of reasons. Most run, some bike and a few swim while only a handful do all three — I run. I ran … MORE
We do what we do for a myriad of reasons. Most run, some bike and a few swim while only a handful do all three — I run. I ran this marathon in honor and loving memories of my Grandmas. Grandma Burros prayed me into the Kingdom of God while Grandma Templeton, who I’m sure prayed as well, taught me about the Godly lineage of our family. Both of my Grandmas lived lives that honored our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ. Grandmas, this one’s for y’all.
Grandma's/Gary Bjorklund Half LIVE!
As usual and awesome race and absolutely perfect weather. It was just so great to do the race live this year I don't think anything would seem bad except I … MORE
As usual and awesome race and absolutely perfect weather. It was just so great to do the race live this year I don’t think anything would seem bad except I did it on a bum knee (injury from a race in May). But this race is organized so well and is so beautiful. Support along the course is great and the finish area very well organized with a lot of goodies/freebies. The After party was located at the Bayfront Festival area which I liked to get away from the Finish area, less crowded and could spread out more and find a place to sit, plus it is right by Lake Superior. The shirt was ok, the colors were interesting this year, not my favorite but I still liked it and the medal. Do this race if you haven’t yet! It should be a bucket list race!
"This is the Grandma'am of 'em all!"
If you've run Grandma's before, then you know all the stories are true. This is a bucket-list experience that does not disappoint. Run almost entirely along the North Shore of … MORE
If you’ve run Grandma’s before, then you know all the stories are true. This is a bucket-list experience that does not disappoint. Run almost entirely along the North Shore of Lake Superior, the event is incredibly beautiful, deceptively challenging and expertly staged. Weather is always a factor, as Mother Superior is creative and capricious in what she delivers off of the Lake. The 2021 Edition was characterized by what the locals hailed as, “…the best weather in a decade.” Clear and 60 Degrees at the Start, but a cool front moved through within the hour, providing cloud cover, a dramatic sky, and capping the temps in the high 50s. The view on the left side of the course, out over the Lake, was every shade of intermingled blue and gray imaginable. Both sides of the course are lined with a profusion of spruce, pine, birch and spectacular purple lupine wildflowers. Just about as scenic as any racecourse could ever aspire to be.
A few shout-outs of appreciation to folks along the course:
* The band comprised of 3 fiddles, a bass, a guitar and drum at Mile 3 playing folk music, reminiscent of “O, Brother, Where Art Thou?”
(Wanted to stay and listen, but had to R-U-N-N-O-F-T.)
* Grandmaster DJ Kelly, who kept the hits coming along the course from her wheelchair, pushed by a strong and faithful friend. Kelly was spinning Queen, Bowie, Billy Joel and even got the “Led” out. Nothing quite like hearing “Kashmir” as you’re grinding the grade at Grandma’s.
* The lady who gave me a cake donut and a cup of pickle juice at the same aid station. Must be a Minnesota thing…..
* My new favorite bartender, Kyle, who provided me with a very large, very strong, exceptionally good, Bloody Mary at Mile 20, complete w/ a beef jerky swizzle stick. I gladly accepted, as I was receptive to any pain management options at that stage of the race. Don’t remember a lot between Miles 20 and 22, but I may have hit a tree…….
* The gentleman who provided me with a chili dog at Mile 23. It was awesome! Probably should have had that before the Bloody Mary.
* The sweet, kind lady at the Finish Line who insisted I take a foil warming blanket because, “….you Oklahoma boys aren’t used to our Minnesota weather.”
I wonder, could that have been ………. Grandma?!?
Micro-Brew Review: I highly recommend the south-side vibe at “Bent Paddle Brewing” and “Ursa Minor Brewing.” “Canal Park Brewing” is a bit more upscale and located down in the wharf district. And “Earth Rider” and “Thirsty Pagan” (located in a renovated train station) are worth the drive across the bridge and over to Superior, WI to hoist a pint.
Amazing Community Support
The only suggestion I have is for the race to start earlier than 8 am. Other than that, this is a top-notch event assisted by so many wonderful community members. … MORE
The only suggestion I have is for the race to start earlier than 8 am. Other than that, this is a top-notch event assisted by so many wonderful community members. We rented a hotel Airbnb in Two Harbors and had a good choice of local restaurants. The race did a good job of spreading out the expo post Covid and minimizing participants while still maintaining a big-race feel. The shirts are great and I really liked the Great Grandma’s Challenge shirt with the hood. It’s a great green color. You received that if you ran the 5k the night before. The timing of the 5k was at 6pm the night before the marathon which meant you were eating after 7. I’m not sure I’d do that again as I have a routine and it messed with my head, but then again, I really liked the shirt and I’m never going to break any land speed records. This race is a ‘must do.’
Fine race. Nice scenery.
Lake Superior was gorgeous! The race itself was well run but the aid stations were mostly water, powerade, and ice with only 2 or 3 stops having gels, fruit, or … MORE
Lake Superior was gorgeous! The race itself was well run but the aid stations were mostly water, powerade, and ice with only 2 or 3 stops having gels, fruit, or pickles. The course was kind of monotonous running down a rolling hills highway with trees blocking or obscuring the lake view. The spectators were super cheerful and even with my slowish finish time plenty of people were still around to cheer me on. The design is overall kind of boring and I found a better marathon shirt design in town at a local shop.
The portapotty available was excellent and the expo was well organized.
Duluth was a better city to hang out in before and after the race when I just sat at the local ice cream shop and enjoyed the sail boats going by.