Overall Rating
Overall Rating (85 Reviews)
4.5
(85 Ratings)  (85 Reviews)
DIFFICULTY
2.4
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
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Recent reviews

    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
    My Media

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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
    My Media

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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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    cfconwayiii FIRST-TIMER '23

    Pre race communication was awesome, weekly emails start 6 weeks out Expo and packet pickup was top notch, convention center was packed with vendors Pre race Spaghetti supper was super … MORE

    Pre race communication was awesome, weekly emails start 6 weeks out
    Expo and packet pickup was top notch, convention center was packed with vendors
    Pre race Spaghetti supper was super with spaghetti and meatballs, bread, salad, cookies, ice cream, coffee, and chocolate milk
    Morning of race parking was a challenge and hectic, we parked in a lot that took a while to get out with all the roads closing. Take the bus if possible
    They bus you out to the start, bathrooms at start had very long lines, which is understandable with 7500 runners
    Course was along Lake Superior and was easy, mostly flat. Course support was phenomenal!
    Aid stations was plentiful and well staffed and well placed.
    Staff and volunteers were great
    Swag was a nice dri-fit tshirt and cool finishers medal
    I definitely recommend this race

    DIFFICULTY
    2
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    3

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    markmosi FIRST-TIMER '22

    This is a great race - spectators line the course from start to finish. Great views the entire way and plenty of refreshments along the way too. One thing I … MORE

    This is a great race – spectators line the course from start to finish. Great views the entire way and plenty of refreshments along the way too. One thing I love about this race is the sun is at your back the whole way – you never have to stare into the sun and for this I skip the sunglasses and can concentrate on running rather than losing a pare of specs! The course is mostly flat – with a couple of hills towards the end (both up and down).

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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    aubreynetzel FIRST-TIMER '22

    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.

    DIFFICULTY
    2
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    4

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    cedoyle FIRST-TIMER '22

    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.

    DIFFICULTY
    2
    PRODUCTION
    4
    SCENERY
    3
    SWAG
    4

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    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!!

    DIFFICULTY
    2
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    4
    My Media

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    donknox FIRST-TIMER '22

    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.

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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    pleegenes FIRST-TIMER '22

    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.

    DIFFICULTY
    2
    PRODUCTION
    4
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    4

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    enigma20 FIRST-TIMER '22

    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.

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    4
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    4
    My Media

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