Overall Rating
Overall Rating (94 Reviews)
4.5
(94 Ratings)  (94 Reviews)
DIFFICULTY
2.5
SCENERY
4.3
PRODUCTION
4.5
SWAG
4.1
Since its inaugural race in 1977, Grandma’s Marathon has grown into one of the largest and most popular marathons in the United States. Now much bigger than just a 26.2-mile road race, Grandma’s Marathon is now a “can’t miss” weekend that brings together runners of all calibers and from all … MORE
Local Historical Weather (Jun 21):
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H (°F)  73  73  84  63  77
L (°F)  55  59  65  47  48
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Recent reviews

    MarMil REPEAT RUNNER '24

    Ride the train if possible to avoid long wait out in the cold before to run. If you do the Grandma's challenge, don't take the 5k to hard. Save leg … MORE

    Ride the train if possible to avoid long wait out in the cold before to run. If you do the Grandma’s challenge, don’t take the 5k to hard. Save leg for the morning run.

    DIFFICULTY
    2
    PRODUCTION
    4
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    4
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    mgavinellison1 FIRST-TIMER '24

    The logistics of the race was hard to get to, but the course was all the hype was well worth it. It was fast and fun and spectators and entertainment … MORE

    The logistics of the race was hard to get to, but the course was all the hype was well worth it. It was fast and fun and spectators and entertainment did not disappoint. The con was the parking. There was not enough parking and we had to pay $10 daily to park at the convention center and the public park. With Grandma’s Marathon Weekend highly desired race to run by runners, the race itself have outgrown the small town. This race was definitely an experience, but it was a one and done for me.

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    4

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    Chinanow FIRST-TIMER '24

    This was such a fun fast race. I literally was surprised at how quickly I went from one mile to the next. The race follows the coastal road so on … MORE

    This was such a fun fast race. I literally was surprised at how quickly I went from one mile to the next. The race follows the coastal road so on one side is the lake and the other homes. Race support on the course was amazing, the city and people really embraces the race and runners. Though the city itself is hilly, the race only had two two hills mile 9 and 10.5. construction near the end narrowed the course a bit which made it frustrating because some people would walk 3 in a row narrowing the race route.
    Post race was great! Bagels, peanut butter, chips, apples and of course beer!! This year it rained at the end of the race and the wind made it cold, but during the half the weather was perfect. For those running the full the rain was miserable! Also, there are a lot of runners so there’s a lot of people zigzagging through the course and the first 4 miles can get tight! Also watch for pot holes, my run partner twisted his ankle in a pot hole. Another runner broke her foot when another runner smashed into it zigzagging.

    DIFFICULTY
    1
    PRODUCTION
    4
    SCENERY
    5
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    4
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    The course was beautiful and went quickly :) Everything was organized well. Lots of spectators cheering you on the entire way. Good way to shake out after a long road … MORE

    The course was beautiful and went quickly 🙂 Everything was organized well. Lots of spectators cheering you on the entire way. Good way to shake out after a long road trip or flight before the marathon

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    4

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    mgavinellison1 FIRST-TIMER '24

    The logistics of the race was hard to get to, but the course was all the hype was well worth it. It was fast and fun and spectators and entertainment … MORE

    The logistics of the race was hard to get to, but the course was all the hype was well worth it. It was fast and fun and spectators and entertainment did not disappoint. The con was the parking. There was not enough parking and we had to pay $10 daily to park at the convention center and the public park. With Grandma’s Marathon Weekend highly desired race to run by runners, the race itself have outgrown the small town. This race was definitely an experience, but it was a one and done for me.

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    4

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    M_Sohaskey FIRST-TIMER '23

    BOTTOM LINE: Honestly, it’s tough to find fault with the Grandma’s Marathon. Sure, I could complain that true to the law of supply and demand, local hotels and businesses jack … MORE

    BOTTOM LINE: Honestly, it’s tough to find fault with the Grandma’s Marathon. Sure, I could complain that true to the law of supply and demand, local hotels and businesses jack up their prices for race weekend—case in point, our room at the Holiday Inn & Suites in Downtown Duluth cost nearly $400/night, more than a room at the world-class Four Seasons Hotel in Sydney, Australia. And maybe I could argue that scheduling a race in mid-June dares Mother Nature to bring the summer heat. But at that point I’d just be looking for reasons to kvetch.

    Instead, I’ll say that Grandma’s is where small-town charm & hospitality meet big-city efficiency & logistics, with the world’s largest freshwater lake as its centerpiece. It’s a definite “feel good” race, and in that sense it reminds me of a Fargo (ND) or a Missoula (MT) or a Clarence DeMar (NH), though Grandma’s hosts a significantly larger field than its small(er)-town counterparts. So it’s no surprise that this year’s sellout was the fastest in the race’s 48-year history.

    The tranquil, tree-lined course parallels Lake Superior for 23 miles without a single turn before finishing at Duluth Harbor, a stone’s throw from the city’s most iconic architectural landmark, the Aerial Lift Bridge. And the lake’s not the only thing that’s Superior, as every volunteer I met was enthusiastic, supportive and helpful. Grandma’s is a major boon to the local economy, and clearly the city rallies around its race. As well it should— as the tenth-largest marathon in the U.S. in 2023, the pride of Duluth punches well above its weight class and merits strong consideration as the biggest small-town race in America.

    Dining Tip: For a memorable meal in Duluth check out Va Bene, an Italian eatery that boasts an enclosed solarium and outdoor deck overlooking Lake Superior.

    PRODUCTION: Show me a perennially popular race weekend that hosts nearly 20,000 runners in a town of 86,000 residents, and I’ll show you a level of professional excellence that’s second to none. When it comes to logistics and runner satisfaction, the Grandma’s team does pretty much everything well. In addition to getting the big important things right, the organizers show a thoughtful attention to detail that clearly comes from a legit combination of expertise and caring.

    Nothing about race weekend feels half-assed, from the bustling expo (among the best I’ve seen outside a World Marathon Major), to the start-line shuttle buses (comfortable and on time), to the highly visible balloon mile markers along the course, to the strategically positioned aid stations (officially every two miles for the first 20 miles, then every mile to the finish), to the finish-line gathering in Canal Park. I also heard good things about the post-race celebration in Bayfront Festival Park, though I didn’t attend. The race even offered a separate train and viewing experience for spectators (at $90 per person, including a pair of Grandma’s Marathon-branded socks) that Katie would highly recommend.

    SWAG: The 2023 Grandma’s Marathon medal is a well-crafted keepsake and an instant favorite. Suspended from a bright orange ribbon, the medal is a hefty handful of silver-plated hardware that depicts a scene of summer in Canal Park starring Duluth Harbor and the Aerial Lift Bridge. Adding a splash of color are the red race name and blue state outline of Minnesota with red dot showing the location of Duluth. Meanwhile, the finisher shirt—which as the name suggests runners received only after crossing the finish line—is the typical short-sleeve tech tee, though its attractive dark blue color makes it more appealing (and more likely to be worn) than the usual black, white or brightly colored alternative.

    For more details on race weekend specifically and Duluth in general, check out my race report at https://blisterscrampsheaves.com/2024/03/26/grandmas-marathon-race-report/

    DIFFICULTY
    2
    PRODUCTION
    5
    My Report
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    4
    My Media

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    jsauer FIRST-TIMER '23

    Grandma’s was a nice destination race though not my favorite (to be fair, I’ve been fortunate enough to do some really incredible ones). The course was nice, but it’s a … MORE

    Grandma’s was a nice destination race though not my favorite (to be fair, I’ve been fortunate enough to do some really incredible ones). The course was nice, but it’s a while before it starts running along the lakefront. It was tougher than I expected. I thought it would be pretty flat, but was surprised by the number of rolling hills. None of them were really bad, but they do add up and you feel it later. Crowds are sparse until you get to Duluth but they show out once you’re there. Support along the course is excellent and aid stations are plentiful.

    Overall it was well put together with a few small things they could do better. They could have used more toilets at the start area as there were a lot of people still in line when the race was starting. I caught the shuttle buses from the mall and was on a municipal bus that was not designed to seat everyone and ended having to stand for the ride to the start area. The shuttles did run smoothly though and got us there with plenty of time. The post-race production was nice, but the music, beer and a lot of the food was a bit of a walk from the finish—more than I really wanted to do on tired legs.

    If you’re coming from out of town, book your hotel really early and you have to call because none of them post on travel apps for that weekend. I booked in March—nothing was left in the area near the finish and I barely found something in Duluth at all.

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    4
    SCENERY
    3
    SWAG
    3

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    rayalanchow FIRST-TIMER '23

    This race was amazing. There were more runners than I expected. My friend and I had to wait a while to board the shuttle. Also, the porta-potty line was extremely … MORE

    This race was amazing. There were more runners than I expected. My friend and I had to wait a while to board the shuttle. Also, the porta-potty line was extremely long.

    The race was very nice with many spectators and ran along Lake Superior. I didn’t train as much as I would’ve liked but I could still get my PR on that day.

    Post-race, there were a lot of vendors and freebies as well.

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    4
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    4

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    d.dencklau FIRST-TIMER '23

    Pros: -Lovely course, first half along the lake, second half well supported by people cheering from their yards -Shuttle logistics simple and well organized -Truly amazing volunteers throughout the weekend. … MORE

    Pros:
    -Lovely course, first half along the lake, second half well supported by people cheering from their yards
    -Shuttle logistics simple and well organized
    -Truly amazing volunteers throughout the weekend.
    -Spaghetti dinner was also super well organized… but buy your tickets ahead of time!
    -Cannot say enough about how well organized almost everything was

    Not so good:
    -Start line port-a-pots…. they kept saying there were more farther up and there were! But getting to them through the mass of humanity… because there were so many people, you could not tell the lines… it was just chaos. Tons of spots on the course to stop with shorter lines.
    -Lodging can be pricey and hard to find, book early!

    Bottom Line:
    Great race, would do again. Hope they figure out the port-a-pot situation!

    DIFFICULTY
    2
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    4

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    TatumBurke FIRST-TIMER '23

    Running 26.2 miles is never an easy task, especially injured, but Grandma’s Marathon had the most well established aid stations I have ever witnessed! It was like a buffet at … MORE

    Running 26.2 miles is never an easy task, especially injured, but Grandma’s Marathon had the most well established aid stations I have ever witnessed! It was like a buffet at many of them, similar to what you would see in supporting ultra runs, food galore, fruit stands… the fresh watermelon and strawberries were refreshing! One of the best parts was the giant balloons you could see way up high marking every mile, giving every runner a great visual way before approaching the aid station. It was beautiful the entire route! Lemon Hill is not as big as I expected, being from Utah, but some runners were affected as the placement is right were things get tough in the marathon, hills in the last 10k are never easy but make us stronger! Overall, great scenic course along the lake and well organized from the energetic start to finish with a great shirt you can only get after crossing the finish and a nice medal! Highly recommend this one!

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    4
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    4

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    jahbrink FIRST-TIMER '23

    Aid stations well marked. Nice, paved route. One mean hill towards the end. Duluth area is AMAZINGLY beautiful. Run the 5k the night before for the extra swag. Great entertainment … MORE

    Aid stations well marked. Nice, paved route. One mean hill towards the end. Duluth area is AMAZINGLY beautiful. Run the 5k the night before for the extra swag. Great entertainment at the end of both races.

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    4
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    4

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    First time at Grandma's weekend and second half marathon. Beautiful views of Lake Superior, very supportive crowd and residents. The only downside was the extremely long lines for a portapotties MORE

    First time at Grandma’s weekend and second half marathon. Beautiful views of Lake Superior, very supportive crowd and residents. The only downside was the extremely long lines for a portapotties

    DIFFICULTY
    2
    PRODUCTION
    4
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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    A Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon Ghost Story: The Lost Toilets of the Land of 10,000 Lakes While the race on everyone's bucket list, Grandma's Marathon, was celebrating 47 years running, … MORE

    A Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon Ghost Story: The Lost Toilets of the Land of 10,000 Lakes

    While the race on everyone’s bucket list, Grandma’s Marathon, was celebrating 47 years running, the festivities of its equally esteemed half marathon counterpart, the 33rd Annual Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon, began in the dark early morning hours of June 17th, 2023, before the sun came up. At 4:30 A.M., the temperature was a damp 52° F, the humidity was about 81%, and the wind, thankfully, was non-existent. My ideal race conditions.

    The race organizers strongly advised bringing throw-away layers to wear on the 20-minute bus ride and while hanging out in the start corral, since Minnesota mornings get chilly. All clothing discarded on the course would be donated by the volunteers to Goodwill. The buses began departing at 5:00 A.M. from the convention center, and for those who could not make it onto a bus that wasn’t full, an optional participant train was offered, which also departed at 5:00 A.M. The bus dropped us off approximately 13.1 miles northeast from downtown Duluth on Highway 61, and we were about halfway between Duluth and Two Harbors.

    The bus drop-off was one-third of a mile from the start corral, which was at the intersection of Greenwood Road and Highway 61. At precisely 6:00 A.M., the race kicked off and we half-shuffled toward the start until every runner not waiting in line for the bathroom crossed the timing mat. The majority of the course ran south down Highway 61 along Lake Superior, until around mile 10, when we began to enter downtown Duluth.

    Throughout the entire course, the crowd support was phenomenal, and the organization and number of aid stations were the best I’ve ever experienced on any course, especially for a large race. I have been accustomed to aid stations approximately every 2 miles or so, but the Garry Bjorklund Half generously had an aid station nearly every mile. In between the sanctioned aid stations, locals came out and were grilling steaks and ribs, offering us water and electrolyte drinks of their own, fresh fruit, and various forms of sports nutrition. One runner later reported snagging a BBQ rib on the course. The Duluth residents and volunteers held up the usual gamut of humorous signs and cheered every runner on. Duluth delivered.

    Mile 4 is where my chip time, quite literally, went in the toilet. I had to pee, and I decided my options were to suffer now or later when it came to the porta-potty lines. If I held out until mile 8 or 9, the lines would be just as bad, the temperature would be warmer, and at that point I’d likely be desperate. My bathroom pit stop added 11 minutes to my official finish time.

    The bottom line is there were not enough water closets at each location, and for 9,000 half marathon runners (16,357 total participants when the full marathoners joined us on the course), there were two porta-potties every two miles with lines that exceeded a ten minute wait at each stop. Hopefully in the future this is something that is addressed, as it’s my only complaint about an otherwise totally spectacular event.

    The first 5 miles of the course consisted of rolling hills, which to many were probably imperceptible, but I felt them. Anyone who says this is a “flat course” is lying to you. It’s not flat, but it’s not uncomfortable, either, and even though I felt the gradual inclines and declines, my momentum was consistent the entire way until Lemon Drop Hill. At mile 9, we reached the infamous Lemon Drop Hill which is the steepest grade on the course. As we crested Lemon Drop Hill, we ran under a sign that encouraged us with, “Only 4.1 miles to go, great job runners!”

    There was a giant billboard-sized television screen set up off to the side after Lemon Drop Hill, where loved ones of runners sent them videos of encouragement as they passed by. Many of us passing by and watching the recorded motivational videos got teary-eyed. I thought this was a beautiful surprise for those runners whose loved ones made the videos for them, and who needed the encouragement this close to the finish.

    The production of this race, the swag, finisher’s festival, and expo were all spectacular, and pretty much the best of any race I’ve done thus far. I tremendously enjoyed the expo especially, and had the opportunity to not only gorge myself on spaghetti at the Spaghetti Dinner, but I got to meet Kara Goucher, which was one of the best experiences of the weekend. All in all, I’d do this again… except maybe hold my bathroom breaks until the end unless the bathroom situation is improved.

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    5
    My Report
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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    pablopelos FIRST-TIMER '23

    Lemon Drop Hill is over-rated, local support of the race is top notch, during the race I had a full can of corona light, a truly seltzer, a grapefruit mimosa, … MORE

    Lemon Drop Hill is over-rated, local support of the race is top notch, during the race I had a full can of corona light, a truly seltzer, a grapefruit mimosa, a hot dog with onions and mustard on it, a very chewy peanut ball, and other stuff I forgot! The after race festivities were located about 0.75 miles away which was a pain but very nice. Like I said before I will be back in 2026 for the 50th!

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    5

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    cherylmc411 FIRST-TIMER '23

    They bus you out to the start of the race since it's point to point. I didn't like getting up so early to catch a bus, and the line waiting … MORE

    They bus you out to the start of the race since it’s point to point. I didn’t like getting up so early to catch a bus, and the line waiting for the bus was quite long. However, we made it to the race start with about 15 minutes to spare. Thankfully I didn’t need to use the bathroom, because there was a long line at the Porta potties at the start! The route was scenic, good views of Lake Superior for most of the run. The infamous Lemon Drop Hill was not nearly as intimidating as I expected. Living in the Ozarks, we tackle hills pretty regularly. The Hospital Hill Run in Kansas City was MUCH hillier in comparison. The crowd support along the entire course was absolutely fantastic! Music, drinks, food… lots of people with funny signs and dressed up too! I loved how they marked the miles and the Porta potties with balloons. There did seem to be a Porta potty shortage… it seemed like there was a long line every time I passed one. I did the Great Grandma’s Challenge so I got an extra medal, but I struggled with figuring out where to go for that. I also got a drink ticket that was for Bayfront Park, and I was unsure how to get there from the end of the race. Some signage for those things would have been useful. I didn’t have a drop bag, but the process for finding them at the end looked very organized. Decent snacks after the race. The tech shirts were nice, and the medals were high-quality. Only complaint overall was that any hotel nearby was probably double the going rate, but it was easy to take the Skywalk to the expo and to catch the bus in the morning. Will probably go back for the 50th Anniversary in 2026!

    DIFFICULTY
    2
    PRODUCTION
    4
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    5

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    taytaybrownie FIRST-TIMER '23

    This race was flawless! The course is absolutely gorgeous. The aide stations were stocked and smooth moving. The logistics were flawless. My favorite thing is you get a finisher shirt … MORE

    This race was flawless! The course is absolutely gorgeous. The aide stations were stocked and smooth moving. The logistics were flawless. My favorite thing is you get a finisher shirt and no participant shirt, it’s that extra special feel to be able to sport your finisher shirt! One hundred percent recommend and I will be back again!

    DIFFICULTY
    2
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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    mikeyseymour FIRST-TIMER '23

    Grandma's Marathon is my state #23. I am confident when I am all done, it will be a top 5. Here's what makes it so amazing: -The views of Lake … MORE

    Grandma’s Marathon is my state #23. I am confident when I am all done, it will be a top 5. Here’s what makes it so amazing:
    -The views of Lake Superior through most of the course are amazing!
    -Hyper organized. Everything from packet-pickup, to getting to the start line, to the actual race, to the post-race runs like a well-oiled machine.
    -Great personal touches: you can have a video your family makes and it plays for you a few miles before the finish, the finisher stats are robust, the app for friends and family following you are great.

    Some tips I learned from running the race:
    -Buy the spaghetti dinner when you sign up for the race! it’s delicious and convenient since it’s the same building as packet pickup. It saves you a ton of time because those that buy the dinner that day wait in a huge line that pre-purchasers can skip.
    -Lodging is tricky. You can try the hotel route, just call REALLY early. I checked 8 months ahead of the race and was way too late. There are 3 colleges that open their dorms. I stayed there. It was cheap, close to the race, and the bed was clean. I signed up for a room the day it became available (March 1 I believe). Check the Grandma’s website for more details.
    -The first fuel stop is mile 17. There is plenty of fuel the final 9 miles (syrup, bananas, oranges, strawberries, watermelon etc). 17 miles is a bit far for me to go with no fuel so I needed to bring one piece of food to get me to 17.
    -Take the train to the start line. It’s much cooler than riding a school bus. I arrived at the train at 5:20am and walked right on with plenty of seating. It departs as soon as the train is full, probably 5:40am for the 2023 race. If you are parking at the convention center that morning, allow extra time to park because there is lots of traffic, even at 5am.

    This race is big city perks, small town charm. The entire race experience gets an A+ from me!

    DIFFICULTY
    1
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    4

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    Boylan18 FIRST-TIMER '23

    I can not say enough great things about this race. Great organization, great communication, great volunteers, great crowd support and amazing scenery!. Some minor hiccups with the portalets at the … MORE

    I can not say enough great things about this race. Great organization, great communication, great volunteers, great crowd support and amazing scenery!. Some minor hiccups with the portalets at the race start, a crowded finisher area, and a post race party thats almost a mile from the finish line. This is a race I would run again. If you are looking for a Minnesota race, do yourself a favor and sign up for this one.

    DIFFICULTY
    2
    PRODUCTION
    4
    My Report
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    2
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    juliehirota FIRST-TIMER '23

    This is a well produced race where the whole community takes part in making it amazing! Expo-GREAT Course-Path along water and through town with fans cheering every step of the … MORE

    This is a well produced race where the whole community takes part in making it amazing!

    Expo-GREAT
    Course-Path along water and through town with fans cheering every step of the way.
    Support- bathrooms and aid every other mile beginning at mile 3. Medical at every even mile.
    Finish line- GREAT
    Swag- technical tee, standard sized medal
    Weather – SUPERB
    Transportation- no cars or drop off at the start line. Bus transportation offered from 4 parts of town lots. Bus ride was approximately 30 minutes to start. Bus ride at finish back to lots.
    Accomodations- get your reservation early..it’s pricey no matter when you book it.
    Register EARLY, race sells out!

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    3
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    pablopelos FIRST-TIMER '23

    Very good production, great turnout, I got to see a 90 year old run across the finish line, was quite the moment. Nice evening race and cooling off a little. MORE

    Very good production, great turnout, I got to see a 90 year old run across the finish line, was quite the moment. Nice evening race and cooling off a little.

    DIFFICULTY
    2
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    3
    SWAG
    4

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  1. Races
  2. Grandma's Marathon & Garry Bjorklund Half