For a grand Grandma's, Duluth can take a bow
Victor Zimm joined the ranks of marathon-mad Duluthians in the 1970s when his daughter and son-in-law entered the race for the first time. He put paint to placard and created a sign that he held up at the edge of London Road, along the Grandma's ...
Victor Zimm joined the ranks of marathon-mad Duluthians in the 1970s when his daughter and son-in-law entered the race for the first time. He put paint to placard and created a sign that he held up at the edge of London Road, along the Grandma's Marathon race course. "You are doing great," it read, and, "We love your smile. It's super."
Every year since then, Zimm -- who lives on Peabody Street, not far from the race route -- returned to the same spot, sign in hand. One of his favorite hand-painted creations nowadays reads, "After all those miles, we love to see your smile."
"The runners just seemed to like it," the retired sheet metal worker told the News Tribune editorial page staff yesterday on the eve of the 31st running of Grandma's. "So I kept going with it."
Much the same way all of Duluth has kept embracing the 26.2-mile foot race from the outskirts of Two Harbors to the heart of Canal Park. With thousands of folks like Zimm involved, the city -- and the entire region, really -- has become a grand host to a race that's more: Grandma's Marathon is a date-circling, can't-wait-'til-it-gets-here community event. And for that we all can be proud.
"I had representatives of a marathon in Portland, Ore., come in just today to say they can't believe the community support they've seen in Duluth compared to where they're from," said Sarah Culver, the head of Grandma's hospitality team. "Everyone is geared up. They always are."
Culver's team has eight members -- each with a staff of volunteers. Among other tasks, they cater to elite runners and special guests and operate hospitality rooms where they dish out beverages, fruits, baked goods and answers to just about any question.
Host families -- there are 23 of them -- take time off work to dote on and open their homes to some of the world's top runners. Not that you have to be a top runner to feel welcome in Duluth. Not this weekend. Not with more than 1,000 school kids busting out their Crayons to create "Welcome to Duluth" and "Welcome to Grandma's Marathon" posters. The colorful creations are hanging all over town -- in hotels, in the Skywalk and elsewhere.
Some 4,500 volunteers help to put a smile on Grandma's and to keep the runners and fans returning year after year.
Next year they'll have to do without one longtime sign-holding, high five-offering contributor. Zimm, 87, won't be back, he said. "I'm getting too old," he explained.
That's OK. Knowing Duluth, another 100 eager-to-help hosts will step up to take his place.