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Grandma's Marathon: What's changed and what's new in 2022?

Grandma's Marathon is returning to its traditional Superior Street course route, while there will be a lot more for kids to do on Friday when the festivities get underway at Bayfront Festival Park.

Runners on Superior Street during 2017 Grandma's Marathon
Runners, including Greta Stults of Arlington, Virginia, reach for sponges and water from volunteers stationed near Superior Street and Fourth Avenue West during Grandma's Marathon in June 2017.
Bob King / File / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — For the first time since 2017, Grandma’s Marathon will return to its traditional route along Superior Street in downtown Duluth.

Due to construction along Superior Street the previous four summers — it was originally supposed to only take three summers — the route for Grandma’s Marathon and the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon had to be altered by a block. Since 2018, runners have been taking a left just past Fourth Avenue East onto Michigan Street. They would then turn left again once hitting Fifth Avenue West to make their way toward the DECC and Amsoil Arena.

Once again, runners will continue straight down Superior Street right through the heart of downtown Duluth until they hit Fifth Avenue East, just as the race did from 1977-2017. No word on whether the bands and belly dancers will be returning downtown as well.

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Duluth community belly dancers perform for Grandma's Marathon runners on Superior Street in downtown Duluth in June of 2017.
Bob King / File / Duluth News Tribune

While the Michigan Street course was certified by USA Track & Field for official record-keeping and prize money, it was not ideal for spectators. A section between Fourth Avenue East and Lake Avenue had to be blocked off for the safety of runners due to how narrow the street gets.

The fastest men’s time on the Michigan Street course was 2 hours, 10 minutes, 6 seconds by Elisha Barno in 2018 when he won his fourth-straight Grandma’s Marathon after picking up the first three on the Superior Street course. The event record of 2:09:06, set on the Superior Street course in 2014, belongs to Dominic Ondoro.

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Kellyn Taylor owns the women’s Michigan Street course record and women’s Grandma’s Marathon event record of 2:24:28, set in 2018. The fastest time on the Superior Street course is the 2:26:32 that Sarah Kiptoo posted in 2013.

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Tracey Gibbens, director of the Proctor Community Band, dips low during a quiet passage of "Charter Oak." The band performed on downtown Superior Street near the Holiday Mall during the 2017 Grandma's Marathon.
Bob King / File / Duluth News Tribune

More fun for the kids

Grandma’s Marathon weekend will include expanded activities for kids on Friday with the first Young Athletes Foundation Festival for Kids at Bayfront Festival Park from noon-4 p.m. The festival will include the annual Whipper Snapper Races for Kids — registration and check-in starts at noon, racing at 1 p.m.

In addition to the Whipper Snapper Races, the Festival for Kids will include the Minnesota Vikings mascot, Victor, and Vikings cheerleaders; live animals from the Lake Superior Zoo and Great Lakes Aquarium; a climbing wall; a “Turtle Trot” at 1:45 p.m. and ventriloquist comedian at 2 p.m., among other things.

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A group of 5 and 6 year old girls almost reach the finish line of their 1/8 mile race at the 2019 Whipper Snapper Races for Kids at Bayfront Festival Park in Duluth.
Ellen Schmidt / File / Duluth News Tribune

Food and beverages will be available throughout courtesy of the Black Woods Group and King Of Creams.

The Festival for Kids, which is free and open to the public, leads into Day 1 of Rock the Bayfront at 5 p.m. (also free and open to the public), followed by the 29th William A. Irvin 5K at 6 p.m. at Bayfront.

46TH ANNUAL GRANDMA'S MARATHON
More coverage of the upcoming Grandma's Marathon weekend:
From the column: "I started crying. Instead of seeing these racers as strangers, I felt the way I would feel watching my own children starting the race."
What is it about Grandma’s that we find so inspiring?
A look back at Grandma's Marathon on Saturday from the viewpoint of an "official unofficial" spectator.
Minnesota runner, faster than ever, enjoys ‘best day ever.’
News Tribune photographers capture scenes from various areas of the race course.
A reduced field in 2021 due to COVID-19 led to fewer spectators along the course. Sold out races in 2022 brought people back to cheer on the runners and racers.

What else is new in 2022?

The Essentia Health Fitness Expo at the DECC (free and open to the public) will feature a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Roundtable at 2 p.m. in Paulucci Hall. It precedes the Grandma’s Marathon Pre-Race Talk Show, scheduled for 4 p.m.

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The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Roundtable is new to Grandma’s Marathon weekend this year. Panelists scheduled to appear include Ed Walton of Black Men Run, Katia Lopez-Petrovich of Latinas on the Move, Alicia Kozlowski of the Indigenous women’s running community KwePack, and Jake Fedorowski of the LGBTQIA+ running and walking club Seattle Frontrunners.

Other changes and additions for Grandma’s Marathon weekend to note:

  • In addition to Grandma’s Marathon and the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon, the course for the William A. Irvin 5K has also been altered. The start line has been moved from Bayfront Festival Park to behind the DECC on Harbor Drive. The race will still finish at Bayfront.
  • For the first time, there will be separate gun starts for the men’s and women’s elite marathon runners this year. The elite men will start at 7:40 a.m., followed by the elite women at 7:45 a.m. Citizen runners will then begin the race behind the women’s elite runners, which is bad news for anyone hoping to pull a “Boniface Kongin” and win the men’s marathon with a numbered bib, as the 2019 champion did.
  • The water station of Mile 9 of Grandma’s Marathon will feature reusable cups, provided by the service Hiccup. Runners are to not take the cups with them. Just toss the cup to the side of the road when done. Grandma’s Marathon hopes to prevent 26,000 cups from winding up in a landfill.
  • Some aid stations along the Grandma’s Marathon route on Saturday will feature fresh fruit. Then there’s the station near Mile 17. That one will feature packets of Pure Fuel, which is 100% pure maple syrup. You can down it there, or save it to go with any other breakfast food you encounter along the course.
    062021.S.DNT.GmMidPtC6.jpg
    Matt Spanier makes mini pancakes for racers near the halfway point of Grandma’s Marathon on Saturday, June 19, 2021, as Chelsey Jonason (partly hidden), Jenny Blessing, and Jordan Blessing clap for the racers. Watching is Hudson Blessing, 4.
    Steve Kuchera / File / News Tribune
  • Not new for 2022, but new for anyone who hasn’t run the half or full marathon since before the pandemic is there is no access for drop-offs or any parking near the start lines. Runners must take a bus from one of six locations (DECC, Miller Hill Mall, Kirby Drive at the University of Minnesota Duluth, Sport & Event Center in Proctor, Yellowjacket Union at University of Wisconsin-Superior, and Super One Foods in Two Harbors). Marathon runners can also take the North Shore Scenic Railroad train from downtown Duluth to the start.
  • Half marathon runners must drop off their gear bag at the bus loading location prior to boarding. Gear bags will not be allowed on buses or accepted at the starting area.

Related Topics: GRANDMA'S MARATHON
Co-host of the Bulldog Insider Podcast and college hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and The Rink Live covering the Minnesota Duluth men's and women's hockey programs.
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