Grandma's half-marathon death was Hermantown man

It was a 64-year-old Her-mantown man who died after running in Saturday's Garry Bjorklund Half-Marathon in Duluth, the News Tribune confirmed Sunday.

Norman Ruth

It was a 64-year-old Her­mantown man who died after running in Saturday's Garry Bjorklund Half-Marathon in Duluth, the News Tribune confirmed Sunday.

Norman Ruth died after finishing the half-marathon in just under 2 hours, 29 minutes.

His wife, Betty Jeanne, said funeral services will be 11 a.m. Wednesday at First United Methodist Church in Duluth. She said she and other family members did not feel up to talking about the death Sunday evening.

"It was his heart ... but we just can't talk about it today. Maybe tomorrow," she said.

Ruth had finished the race and was treated in the medical tent at the finish line and then taken to a hospital, although race officials have refused to discuss the situation, only to say that they were later notified that a runner had died.


It was the first fatality in the 34-year history of Grandma's Marathon. About 5,631 people completed the marathon, and 5,854 finished the half-marathon on Saturday.

Norm Ruth was an avid bowler at Skyline Lanes and was inducted into the Duluth area bowling hall of fame in 1995. He was a member of Grace Lutheran Church in Hermantown.

Dave Kolquist of Hermantown, owner of Skyline Lanes, was a longtime friend of Ruth through the bowling business and volunteering at the annual Island Lake Walleye Fishing Contest for ALS disease. Ruth had been a manager of Skyline Lanes in the late 1970s, Kolquist said

"I'm proud to have been his friend. I don't know anyone who I would rate as a better person than Norm," said Kolquist, who took over Skyline Lanes in 1985. "He was a quality guy who loved his work, he enjoyed helping others; he helped mentor me in the business.''

Kolquist said Ruth had retired a year ago as a foreman for Northland Construc­tors Inc., and had previously been a part-owner in Ridge­view Lanes. Kolquist was unsure whether Ruth was participating in his first distance running race.

"I know he was excited about running the half-marathon,'' Kolquist said. "He trained hard for it, and I would see him running past our place on training runs."

Ruth finished the race about a minute ahead of daughter-in-law, Andrea Ruth.

A full obituary is expected in Tuesday's News Tri­bune. Dougherty Funeral Home is handling arrangements.


Ben Nelson, Grandma's Marathon medical director, said 230 runners were treated at the medical tent this year, primarily for dehydration, muscle cramps and fatigue. Seven runners were sent to Duluth hospitals, four from the medical tent and three from the race course, none with serious problems, he said.

Nelson said Sunday that race officials were bound by federal patient confidentiality laws and wouldn't release information on the death.

"Any information would have to come from the family from this point on,'' he said.

Runners have died in marathons in Detroit, Los Angeles, Baltimore and Boston in recent years, all of whom were identified by race officials and/or medical personnel, who also discussed the cause of death of each.

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