Overall Rating
Overall Rating (26 Reviews)
4.3
(26 Ratings)(26 Reviews)
DIFFICULTY
2.4
SCENERY
4.1
PRODUCTION
4.4
SWAG
4
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 … MORE
Local Weather (Jun 22)
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H (°F) 78 76 64 69 50
L (°F) 50 51 53 55 46
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Recent reviews

    + Backroad access for spectators to meet runners along the course Point to point race Cool weather Great finish through downtown (allows spectators too see you twice in that last … MORE

    +
    Backroad access for spectators to meet runners along the course
    Point to point race
    Cool weather
    Great finish through downtown (allows spectators too see you twice in that last mile)

    Tips
    Book lodging early (I booked 2 weeks prior and paid >$250/night with a 2night minimum for aBest Western)

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    3
    SWAG
    5

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    GoRunGolf FIRST-TIMER '18

    The Garry Bjorklund Half was my first race in Minnesota. My husband flew me into Duluth, into the cleanest and smallest airport. We went directly to the race expo and … MORE

    The Garry Bjorklund Half was my first race in Minnesota. My husband flew me into Duluth, into the cleanest and smallest airport. We went directly to the race expo and I was pleasantly surprised! There were several vendors and booths set up, along with a humongous pasta party. My family and I ate there, and it was really good! I went to the expo on Friday, and sadly the majority of all race branded Lululemon gear was sold out. When I return in 2019 to run, we are going to get to the expo on opening day. Side note: we are going to use the race camping area and take our Winnebago, which should be exciting! The race itself was wayyyyy better than I could have imagined. The race temps dropped so low, I could see my breath during the last several miles. Perfect for a June race! There was so much crowd support!! I have such fond memories of running into the downtown once over and through the Lemon Drop Hill (which If you train hills, you won’t notice this speed bump😉). I loved the huge yellow balloons for the mile markers, there were so lovely hanging there in the sky, beckoning you to begin a new journey on this new and fresh mile you are entering. The finishers shirt was nice, a pretty bright sky blue with gender specific cuts. The medal was very high quality and actually featured the beautiful trees of Duluth. My medal had the paint chipping off of it- but when I reached out to the race after the fact, without hesitation they replaced it with a fresh medal with an intact logo and paint. It was extremely foggy and there was severe flooding the weekend I was there, so I can’t comment much on the view of the lake (as I did not ever get to fully see it!!). I will be back in 2019 to try this race again!

    DIFFICULTY
    2
    PRODUCTION
    3
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    4
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    lchristensen44 FIRST-TIMER '18

    Traveled by air and car to get to Duluth. The expo is great and the people are friendly but I don’t really see what the hype is about this race. … MORE

    Traveled by air and car to get to Duluth. The expo is great and the people are friendly but I don’t really see what the hype is about this race. Perhaps it’s because in 2018 the weather was foggy and cold.

    If you’re running the half get to the busses early. We arrived within the requested time but the line was really long and by the time we boarded, were dropped off, threw our gear bags on the ground (because the bins were full), used a potty and walked to the start; we were 15 minutes after the gun went off. We weren’t necessarily slow and when I looked back I saw dozens (if not more) runners behind us (since I know we we were not the last bunch of busses). The gear check when I finished (near 2 hours) was like pandemonium on a cold day. Being short I knew I couldn’t fight my way to the front so I found a line for soup and beer tickets. I’m not sure why I received less tickets than two women next to me. Maybe they were given two by mistake whereas I only had one, who knows. I’ve run in races with stadium finishes so the finish line was not that spectacular to me. I’m sure there are runners who love the straight shot, down hill course for PRs but it was not a race I’d travel
    that distance to run a second time.

    DIFFICULTY
    2
    PRODUCTION
    2
    SCENERY
    3
    SWAG
    3

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    TroyMiller FIRST-TIMER '18

    All of my running friends that had run Grandma's told me "You'll love it!" "You'll likely PR" "It's a beautiful course". All of these were true! It was a beautiful … MORE

    All of my running friends that had run Grandma’s told me “You’ll love it!” “You’ll likely PR” “It’s a beautiful course”. All of these were true! It was a beautiful course, although the fog was heavy and rolling in and out the entire race. At some points it was like something out of a movie scene with the runners ahead of me disappearing into the fog! All of that aside, it was a great course, perfect weather, great aid stations and wonderful crowd support!
    I set my mind on hitting a BQ pace which would be a PR for me. This was the most consistent marathon I have run. I hit my BQ PR even with two, count them, two porta potty stops!! My wife was there, on our anniversary, mind you, cheering me on and telling me to keep it up as I was on pace to hit my BQ! She ran (and she is NOT a runner) from somewhere around mile 24 or 25, across the course to see me finish. She said I almost beat her to the finish!
    I highly recommend this one whether you are a first timer or have many under your belt, you too will not be disappointed!

    DIFFICULTY
    1
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    5
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    4
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    5
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    chashbarger FIRST-TIMER '17

    Point-to-point race starting at Two Harbors, MN and runs along Scenic Hwy 61. It's a beautiful journey along Lake Superior with trees along the highway the whole way. There are … MORE

    Point-to-point race starting at Two Harbors, MN and runs along Scenic Hwy 61. It’s a beautiful journey along Lake Superior with trees along the highway the whole way. There are few fans along the road the first 20+ miles because there’s no real way to access the route, so if having a lot of crowd support is important, this perhaps isn’t your race. Coming from flat-as-a-pancake eastern ND, the rolling hills were a bit of adjustment, and I wish I’d done more hill training to prepare. Also, while the lake breeze helps keep the temperature moderate, it does take place in mid-June, and it can (and did) get into the mid-to-upper 70s, so proper hydration is key. The support and food at the finish line was great, also. I would run this one again in a heartbeat. A couple other notes: Good support from the aid stations, every couple of miles at first, then every mile. The expo was the best I have ever seen, and worth visiting. A slight down-side, lodging has to be reserved months in advance and is generally expensive, with all local hotels jacking up their rates for the weekend. I loved the community support! If carbo-loading with pasta is your thing, I think just about every block within a two-mile radius of the finish line has some sort of pasta feed the day before the race. Also, it’s awesome the way random people in town notice and congratulate anyone wearing their finisher shirt or medal.

    DIFFICULTY
    3
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    5
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    5
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    5

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    kaylabilladeau FIRST-TIMER '17

    This is one of my favorite races. The people are awesome, its easy to get to the start line via bus. The crowd was great. The scenery was wonderful! MORE

    This is one of my favorite races. The people are awesome, its easy to get to the start line via bus. The crowd was great. The scenery was wonderful!

    DIFFICULTY
    2
    PRODUCTION
    4
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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    hthoele24 REPEAT RUNNER '18

    I ran the full marathon at Grandma's last year, but decided to run the half this year. Like last year, I loved every minute of it. This race is superbly … MORE

    I ran the full marathon at Grandma’s last year, but decided to run the half this year. Like last year, I loved every minute of it. This race is superbly organized, spectators are awesome, other runners are friendly. The whole weekend is a party!

    This year, the weather was absolutely perfect for running (60’s, overcast, slight breeze), so there were a lot of PRs. I was able to PR my half marathon time by 11 minutes!

    If you want a race that isn’t just about the miles, but the experience, Grandma’s is for you!!

    DIFFICULTY
    3
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    5
    SCENERY
    5
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    4

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    mikelemaire FIRST-TIMER '18

    The production of the rave was supported throughout the Duluth area, the expo was top notch, the entertainment was great at the pre and post race party's. The swag was … MORE

    The production of the rave was supported throughout the Duluth area, the expo was top notch, the entertainment was great at the pre and post race party’s. The swag was great and the course was difficult enough to make it fun. There were plenty of aid stations and the only drawback was that even though there were a lot of porta potys at the start of the full and half and finish there was not enough throughout the course so there was always a line of runners to wait behind.
    The only thing about the rave that could not be controlled was the weather, the marathon was run in fog and that was perfect unless you wanted to see the great views, parts of the course was rained on and the end of the race the weather stayed cool enough that you had to get the foil blanket to ward off the chill. BUT the 5K on the night before the race was hot and humid and had a great view. I’ll go without the view if I had my choice.
    I would rate this a must run marathon if only to see how it is when an entire community gets behind and supports a race and the runners.

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    4
    SCENERY
    3
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    4

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    dsbland FIRST-TIMER '18

    Grandma's Marathon was my 14th full marathon and absolutely ranks as one of my favorite races of any distance. This is a really fun race and is completely worth the … MORE

    Grandma’s Marathon was my 14th full marathon and absolutely ranks as one of my favorite races of any distance. This is a really fun race and is completely worth the trip to Duluth.
    That trip was the only part of the race that was difficult in any way. I flew into Minneapolis and drove a rental car 2.5 hours to get to Duluth. There are flights from Minneapolis or Detroit to Duluth, but you need a car in Duluth anyway so the drive was better than the extra expense of flying directly into Duluth. The drive wasn’t that bad, and the view coming into Duluth was spectacular.
    I stayed at the Radisson and paid about 3 times the normal rate as all the hotels in the area jack up their rates for this weekend. Since that is out of the control of the race directors, I don’t consider that a negative against the race. The Radisson location is fantastic and is walking distance to the expo and the finish line where you can take the train or bus to the start line.
    The expo was good, appropriately sized for the race with plenty of race merchandise for sale. I got there early on Friday morning so I didn’t have any issues with huge crowds of people. Packet pickup was easy and they had a station to double check your time chip on your bib which was a nice thing to be able to do before leaving.
    The weather forecast leading up to the race was calling for thunderstorms for race morning. The afternoon before the race a large storm did blow in and knocked out power briefly and rained several inches in just a short period of time. Everyone was afraid that this was a preview of what was to come the next morning.
    I got up early on race morning to be able to take the train to the start line, which I highly recommend over the buses. The first thing I checked when I got up at 3:30am was the forecast and was amazed to see the storms had been moved rom early morning to late afternoon and the chance of rain during the race was dropped to about 30%. The forecast temperature of 59 turned into an actual temperature of 50, pretty close to perfect conditions.
    Taking the train to the start line was an option for the first 1000 runners wanting to ride. The train departs about 5:45 so the sun is up and the views heading out along Lake Superior are fabulous. The train is also plenty warm and roomy and there are lots of toilets available. The only downside is the trip takes every bit of an hour so if you want to get to the start line super early don’t take the train.
    The race start is well organized with most runners lining up in accordance with their expected finish times. With the half marathon starting an hour earlier and starting from the marathon half way point, I never saw anyone with a half marathon bib and couldn’t even tell you what color their bibs were.
    The first 19 miles of the course are along Lake Superior which is unfortunately very often blocked by all of the trees. We did deal with a pretty heavy fog and off and on light rain for most of the race, but the wind was at out our back and I never felt like the scenery became monotonous. Crown support during this part of the race was limited to certain spots along the road but was very enthusiastic in those spots and provided much needed boosts. The aid stations had clearly labeled water and power aid and was always water first. The volunteers did a spectacular job, you could tell this race has been run for over 40 years, these were some well trained and experienced volunteers.
    Just past mile 19 the course heads into Duluth and the pine trees and lake views change to a city run with spectators everywhere. The final 6 miles were full of rowdy spectators providing a ton of distractions, even a long line of troll dolls along the curb around mile 22 which qualifies as one of the strangest things I’ve come across during a race.
    The finish was great, there were a lot of twists and turns in the last half mile or so, but it didn’t bother me as much as I feared from previous reviews. The finish line area was plenty busy, but I had no problem getting my medal and finisher’s shirt and there was plenty of food and beer available. I actually like the fact that you get your finisher shirt when you finish the race, that’s the definition of finisher shirt. The medals were big and heavy, certainly appropriate for the accomplishment.
    I love events where it seems like the whole town shuts down for the race and they really appreciate the runners who came to be a part of it. The way Duluth embraces the race and the runners is extremely impressive and rivaled the support I’ve experienced at much larger events like Chicago. If you can get to northern Minnesota in June you won’t find a better event than Grandma’s Marathon.

    DIFFICULTY
    1
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5
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    lassieandmax FIRST-TIMER '18

    So I can say I've run both distances at Grandma's marathon weekend, and I have to give the half marathon a slight edge, only because this course picks up at … MORE

    So I can say I’ve run both distances at Grandma’s marathon weekend, and I have to give the half marathon a slight edge, only because this course picks up at the halfway mark for the full and the last 13.1 of the full (or the GB Half Marathon) is the most interesting with changes in scenery, going from tree lined county highway along the shore to the outskirts of town into downtown Duluth and finishing at Canal Park. In my view, it just wasn’t as boring as the full marathon (see my previous review), which starts with 13.1 miles of shoreline.

    I still find the last 3/4 mile or so very frustrating with the winding through the streets making several turns hoping to see the finish line only to be disappointed. And then when you finally see the finish line, its a solid 1/4 mile ahead of you. For me its just mentally frustrating.

    The finisher area is very crowded with shoulder to shoulder people trying to get their gear bags and food. It can be very confusing and lines are extremely long.

    The bling has significantly improved over the last couple of years and I’m thrilled with my medal and t-shirt design. If you are in it for the bling, be sure to check out the designs (Grandma’s marathon posts their designs online, but the half marathon design is a secret). It also has a nifty flat spot on the bottom so you can stand it up to display it on a shelf instead of using the ribbon.

    Also, the half is extremely popular and sells out almost immediately. If you want to go, you need to be hot on the button the moment registration opens. But don’t despair, the RD allows bib transfers until 1 May, so if you don’t get a bib, keep perusing your local run club or Craiglist.

    Also notable – Grandma is concerned for your safety. There are medical tents everywhere on the course, and in a place where weather can be volatile, I think this is smart. Water tables are plentiful and stocked with great volunteers.

    With that in mind, if you go to Duluth for Grandma’s Marathon, stay a couple of days and explore all the parks, lighthouses and the city of Duluth. The iron range is really special.

    DIFFICULTY
    3
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    4
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    My Media

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    lassieandmax FIRST-TIMER '15

    Around the great lakes, Grandma's marathon is a must-do, so of course I signed up. Perhaps I need to give it another chance, but in my view it was a … MORE

    Around the great lakes, Grandma’s marathon is a must-do, so of course I signed up. Perhaps I need to give it another chance, but in my view it was a let down.

    Pros: Water tables are well stocked and plentiful, as you’d expect with a large race, they are approximately every two miles. The race is well organized, there is the option to transfer bibs to another runner if you can’t run and the communication with the race organizing team is very good. Take the train to the start line instead of the busses. You have to get up 30 mins earlier to get a seat, but you get to ride in climate controlled car and it drops you off right at the start 30 mins before the gun goes off. Once you entered the city of Duluth, the fans were eager and excited.

    Cons: Expensive race entry. Hotels in Duluth jack up the prices that weekend and require a 2 night stay. The wait for the start is ridiculously long – like hours as you are bussed to the start and have to sit and wait in the elements for the gun to go off. The Michelina pasta dinner at the expo was not anything special. I felt like I was at a fair with the mass of tables, over cooked pasta, loud atmosphere and checked table cloths. Restaurants at or near Canal Park will not accept reservations. The weather on the North Shore can be miserable and the pendulum swings wide. The several years its been brutally hot or torrential rain storms. They don’t ever seem to have nice calm, cool weather on race day. Prepare and expect the worst. Maybe you’ll be surprised.

    I didn’t find the course to be all that great. It was pretty to look at the lake for the first few miles, but then after that the view never changed and it was boring. Looking ahead on the course all I could see were rolling hills. Mile 24 is where it started to get interesting at least, because you entered the main drag in Duluth but I found the last 3/4 mile or so was really frustrating as there were several turns. You’re tired as all get out after running almost 26 miles, make turn and hope to see the finish only to see more running and no finish. Repeat several times. Finally you see the finish line and its 100 yards ahead – UGH! In my view it was mentally debilitating.

    In recent years the swag has improved and the medal now is pretty unique with a flat part that will let you stand it up, which is neat. Personally, I don’t find this event to be worth the expense or the trouble.

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    hthoele24 FIRST-TIMER '17

    This race is so much fun! The logistics are well thought-out, volunteers are awesome, crowd support is amazing. The entire city gets into the action. The course is beautiful, with … MORE

    This race is so much fun! The logistics are well thought-out, volunteers are awesome, crowd support is amazing. The entire city gets into the action. The course is beautiful, with the largest hill being “Lemon drop hill,” which is a freeway overpass. The rest of the course is gently rolling, with views of Lake Superior. I’m so glad I chose this as my first marathon!!

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    My Report
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    M_Sohaskey Apr 26, 2018 at 1:03am

    Congrats Heather, sounds like you chose wisely for your first! There's no experience as challenging or as rewarding as your first marathon, and it sounds like Grandma's helped you make the most of it. I'm a 50 Stater who has yet to run in Minnesota, so I appreciate your helpful review too for that reason. Plus, your reason for running is among the best I've read — thanks for giving back to the sport and helping others enjoy it as much as you do!

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    hthoele24 Apr 26, 2018 at 6:45am

    Thank you for the kind words. I highly recommend Grandma's for the northern Minnesota experience. If you're looking for something in the Twin Cities, the Twin Cities Marathon is a favorite around here.

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    pkroon FIRST-TIMER '16

    Since the race happens in June, the college dorms are made available for economic housing options for runners. There were even busses that picked up the athletes from right outside … MORE

    Since the race happens in June, the college dorms are made available for economic housing options for runners. There were even busses that picked up the athletes from right outside the dorm I stayed in…talk about convenient. If you stay close to town, you could ride a train to the start. Even though it’s Minnesota, it can get hot. After running alongside the Lake Superior shore most of the way from Two Harbors to Duluth, a dip in the water never felt so refreshing after finishing the race.

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    3
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    4
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    5

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    Donnald69 FIRST-TIMER '17

    I had been looking forward to this marathon for almost a year after i had read a few reviews on race raves. My year had not been geared toward fast … MORE

    I had been looking forward to this marathon for almost a year after i had read a few reviews on race raves. My year had not been geared toward fast running, more toward fund raising and pacing others, so i had really set my sights on training hard and a great run. Well, lets just start with the good things. The packet pick up was held just across the river of downtown Duluth. It is a very short walk from downtown, and although you must cross a freeway, there is an overpass to assist your walk. The expo was quite large. Lots of vendors giving out samples, selling wares, etc… It was definitely one of the better, less stressful expos i have been to. Large stadium and crowds were not too bad. The tech t-shirt was of good quality. The weather looked like it was going to be great. They had a 5K the evening before the marathon, so i jumped in to see how i felt and after the race, definitely knew that this was going to be a great marathon. The race starts 26 miles away, so your option is to take the train or the bus to the start. The train sounded unique, and although you were expected to arrive to guarantee a spot on the train an hour earlier than the bus, that is the mode of transportation i chose. It was nice, very comfortable and quite full. I talked to several others around me (everyone on the train were headed to the marathon), so the time to get to the start flew by. Everything was starting out great, except, the toilets overflowed. Toward the end of the train ride, the smell was almost unbearable. But finally, we arrived. The course itself was mostly flat, but some up and down hills, but a very straight course back to Duluth. Not my favorite type of course, and it definitely showed. Although my training had been spot on, i got bored with the straight course and ran a rather slow time. Nonetheless, if you do not mind this type of course, it did have a lot of nice scenery. The post race party included some snacks, drinks but nothing exceptional.

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    kschiro.3 FIRST-TIMER '16

    I was very excited to run in the 40th anniversary race. It had potential to be really great and for the most part it was awesome! It's a really flat … MORE

    I was very excited to run in the 40th anniversary race. It had potential to be really great and for the most part it was awesome! It’s a really flat race and is well supported. The community that comes out to support the half and full is really great, they had sprinklers for runners to run through and cool off.

    The only thing that worked against me was the heat. I guess it can be hit and miss with the weather at that time of the year but the heat definitely effected me and slowed me down.

    Because of the time of year I’m hesitant to do it again but I would have no problem with the half!

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    RunnerMeg FIRST-TIMER '14

    Running a marathon in June can be risky if you're like I am, and don't like hot weather. I couldn't believe the weather when we landed (and I checked before … MORE

    Running a marathon in June can be risky if you’re like I am, and don’t like hot weather. I couldn’t believe the weather when we landed (and I checked before I left). 45 degrees and overcast. In my opinion, that’s ideal running weather!

    Getting to Duluth is kind of a pain. Coming from central VA, I flew to Minneapolis, then had to take a three hour van ride to Duluth. Easy to schedule, cheaper than another flight, but kind of a pain. I also took that van ride back after the marathon.

    Hotels in Duluth = jerks. Okay that’s not entirely fair…they want to make money, and so they up-charge you on marathon weekend. One of the most expensive hotels I’ve booked for a marathon, and it was just an old Radisson. Glad I ran it, but ouch. Good thing about that hotel is the location. I walked to and from the expo and the finish line. Good restaurant too, although there are lots of options in Duluth.

    Expo was good. It’s a decent size race, so lots to buy if you’re looking. I ended up getting a fleece because I was freezing. Packet pick up was easy.

    Race morning was pretty straightforward. I walked outside the hotel and took the race bus to 26 miles away to the start. There were plenty of portajohns and also water at the start area. Luckily it never actually rained, it was just misty and foggy, so it wasn’t bad waiting around for a half hour.

    The start went off without a hitch. The course was point to point and ran alongside Lake Superior. It was pretty much flat and had nice scenery. Not a ton of spectators, but pretty good turnout the closer you get to the finish. UMD college kids and frat boys came out in full force (with drinks in hand, they were pretty rowdy) which was fun. The finish area was crowded. I ran with the American flag, so they made a big fuss about that when I came down the homestretch. The medal was decent. Shirt was decent. Nothing crazy but good.

    Overall, it’s not a cheap marathon to run but I really enjoyed it. It’s well organized and executed, the route is scenic, and the aid stations are plentiful. I definitely recommend it.

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    JimChicago FIRST-TIMER '17

    How does it feel? Pretty good. This is a flat-ish, point-to-point run along the North Country woods and the beautiful shoreline of Lake Superior. It seems all of little Duluth … MORE

    How does it feel? Pretty good.
    This is a flat-ish, point-to-point run along the North Country woods and the beautiful shoreline of Lake Superior. It seems all of little Duluth is out to cheer and support perhaps the biggest event that happens there all year. The production is spot on perfect and friendly. (Hotels, shockingly expensive, so buddy-up).
    It may be the perfect course for a PR (but watch out for a dozen little turns in the last 1/2 mile) This quirky lil run somehow feels epic and deserves it’s place as a bucket-list for so many.

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    jenniferruns FIRST-TIMER '16

    It was so HOT and my first marathon ever! With that said, it was well organized and an easy, scenic coarse. I was grateful for all of the volunteers passing … MORE

    It was so HOT and my first marathon ever! With that said, it was well organized and an easy, scenic coarse. I was grateful for all of the volunteers passing out water and ice. Volunteers ROCK!

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    5

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    lynnrd FIRST-TIMER '16

    Not as flat at the race promotes, but definitely no large hills. Enthusiastic spectators and volunteers with awesome race support. The expo and pasta dinner were a lot of fun. … MORE

    Not as flat at the race promotes, but definitely no large hills. Enthusiastic spectators and volunteers with awesome race support. The expo and pasta dinner were a lot of fun. Stay in a hotel served by the race busses to make getting to and from the race easy.

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    3
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    3
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    5

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    ReneeClasen REPEAT RUNNER '16

    Race packet pickup was ridiculous- I had to walk through the entire expo and spaghetti feed to pick up my race packet (like a maze), Shuttle bus up to starting … MORE

    Race packet pickup was ridiculous- I had to walk through the entire expo and spaghetti feed to pick up my race packet (like a maze), Shuttle bus up to starting line was nice, bathroom situation at starting line was awful (waiting line was so painfully long), beautiful scenery along course, aid and water stations a plenty, after the finish line was my big concern. There is very little signage as to where to go once I finished, collected my metal and tee. Another complete maze. I felt trapped and claustraphobic as I couldn’t find food or a way to get out of the maze. Finding a directions to get to the shuttle pickup was another fail. For a marathon in its’ 40th year, organization and flow is not what it should be.

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    2
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    3

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