Devin Elmore, an Uber and Lyft driver in the Twin Ports, is looking forward to the hordes descending on Duluth for Saturday’s Grandma’s Marathon.
It’s good for business, he said.
“It’s by far the busiest weekend of the year,” Elmore said. “It’s crazy, but it’s awesome.”
Elmore, of Duluth, started driving for the rideshare services in 2017 shortly after the companies launched locally. He is an administrator of a Facebook group for Twin Ports Uber and Lyft drivers.
He said many area drivers are planning to work a full 12-hour shift Saturday, the maximum allowed by Uber.
And there’s demand at almost all hours of the day, not just after Saturday night’s Big Top Tent events in Canal Park or bar close. Last year, Elmore drove for a few hours before the race, ferrying runners that missed the shuttle buses from Duluth to the start line in Two Harbors.
As long as a driver is working this weekend, Elmore said, then the ride requests will keep coming.
“That’s basically what it boils down to: the sheer amount of calls. It’s one after the other, after the other,” Elmore said.
In total, 50,000 people are expected to visit Duluth this weekend, 20,000 of which are runners participating in races, according to Maarja Anderson Hewitt, spokesperson for Visit Duluth.
As for places visitors to stay, there’s about 3,300 hotel rooms in Duluth proper, she said.
According to Priceline, several hotels are still available at a rate of $250 to $350 per night for Friday to Sunday, but most require a two-night stay.
Hotel openings tracked by Visit Duluth suggest very limited availability this weekend.
To make up the difference, runners have long stayed in college dorms, campgrounds or on the couches of friends and family.
But as the popularity of vacation rental services like Airbnb and VRBO increases — websites that allow homeowners to lease out rooms, houses and cabins for short periods of time to renters — there are more options for runners and visitors in town for the marathon and other large events throughout the summer.
A review of rental postings across Airbnb, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace show rooms for rent throughout the Twin Ports and North Shore areas marketed directly to people in town for Grandma’s Marathon. Spare bedrooms are offered for as low as $50 per night this weekend on Craigslist while an entire three-bedroom house near the starting line in Two Harbors is going for $850 per night on Airbnb.
As for Sean Dorow of Duluth, he’s trying to rent out his family’s 13-foot Scamp trailer to a runner or spectator in need of last-minute sleeping arrangements.
“This is actually my parent’s camper,” Dorow said. “But they’ve been up here for when I ran the marathon, gotten the $500 hotel room and this would have been a better option for them.”
Dorow listed the trailer on a website called Outdoorsy, which he described as “pretty much Airbnb but with a camper,” for $165 per night this weekend and $95 the rest of the year.
As of Tuesday morning, Dower didn’t have any takers for this weekend, but people were already expressing interest for later in the year for events like the Duluth Airshow or Festival of Sails.
“We’re going to bring it up for the bigger events for sure,” Dorow said.
While his family can use the camper whenever they want, they can also make some extra cash by renting it out when they’re not using it.
“We were thinking it was something to invest in,” Dower said.
Elmore, who was able to drive Uber and Lyft full time before he took a job as a tow truck driver, said that flexibility is exactly what makes Uber and Lyft driving so attractive.
“And that’s the great thing about it,” Elmore said. “Although a lot of us have made it a full-time job, it’s designed to be able to turn on when you want.”