Perhaps you aren’t ready or have no desire to run a marathon or half-marathon. But you still want to be part of the Duluth tradition that is Grandma’s Marathon.
Luckily, the 45th annual marathon on June 19 from Two Harbors to Duluth’s Canal Park has many spots along the route to watch and cheer on the thousands of runners.
Greg Haapala, race director, said the early portion of the race along North Shore Scenic Drive is best for runners as they enjoy a quiet opportunity to run along Lake Superior, but once runners cross the Lester River bridge from there to Canal Park there are many great locations to cheer from.
“As beautiful as the shore is, it's not great for spectating,” Haapala said. “It's hard to get your vehicle up there, watch runners in a safe way and then get back to meet them at the finish line. So we really recommend London Road where you can park a few blocks off the race course and walk down to support.”
Zach Schneider, marketing and public relations director and lifelong Duluthian, agreed, adding that Lemon Drop Hill, near the intersection of London Road and 26th Avenue East, is another great and iconic spot to view the race.
“This isn’t a race that you should sit in one place the entire 4-5 hours you are out there,” Schneider said. “Walk up and down the race course. Even if you go a mile or two in one direction, you are going to find different things that make Grandma’s Marathon what it is. Cheer on the participants for sure, but make sure you experience the race for yourself, too.”
Other spots Schneider recommended were near the Fitger's Complex and Sir Benedict’s Tavern on the Lake, which are on Superior Street, and of course, the finish line.
“You can see the winners come in around mid-morning and then there is a steady stream of runners through the afternoon,” Schneider said. “Just to see the emotions of people as they cross the finish line, you never know what people are going through. So it’s always fun trying to guess what the emotions and the faces mean as they cross the finish line.”
While this year will be more restricted due to the pandemic, Haapala noted that there will still be bleachers at the finish line as well as behind the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center on Harbor Drive. Spectators can watch their families and friends cross the finish line, but they will be asked to reunite with them at Bayfront Festival Park afterward.
“There’s plenty of room along the race course for 26 miles to spread out and to see your loved ones and family and friends who you want to support,” said Haapala, reminding spectators to still follow COVID-19 guidelines when watching the race.