The 43rd edition of Grandma’s Marathon had it all, from a citizen entrant living in Duluth the past two months shaking off multiple injuries to win the men’s race to a marathon novice claiming the women’s title in one of the fastest times in event history.
Speaking of fast times, the wheelchair winners each smashed course records that had stood seven years — women’s winner Susannah Scaroni even dabbled with a world record.
The Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon was plenty fast, too, with Minnesota resident Katy Jermann winning the women’s race while her husband chased repeat men’s winner Panuel Mkungo.
And it all took place on a sun-splashed day with moderate temperatures and a nice tailwind blowing off Lake Superior.
The past four men’s titles had been won by Elisha Barno, but this time another Kenyan, Boniface Kongin, took over the mantle and brought home a cool $10,000 by winning in 2 hours, 11 minutes and 56 seconds.
The craziest storyline is that Kongin, who overcame hamstring and Achilles injuries, has been living in West Duluth the past two months with a family he met at the Twin Cities Marathon last fall.
He threatened Dominic Ondoro’s course record until the last several miles.
Women’s winner Nell Rojas of Boulder, Colo., might one day break the mark Kellyn Taylor set a year ago. She finished just her second marathon in 2:28:06, beating the runner-up by more than five minutes and collecting $20,000 for winning and breaking 2:29:0.
The wheelers were a full hour better than that. Aaron Pike won his third straight men’s title in a blistering 1:20:59, breaking the previous record by 1:56.
Scaroni trimmed a full six minutes off Amanda McGlory’s course mark and her 1:30:42 mark was being billed as a Paralympic world record. That record, however, is in dispute as a faster time was raced at Boston in 2017 and the Two Harbors-to-Duluth course is not recognized for records.