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Grandma's Marathon: Lindwurm brings another Grandma’s Marathon title home

Minnesota runner, faster than ever, enjoys ‘best day ever.’

Athletes running and celebrating at the finish line area of Grandma's Marathon
Dakotah Lindwurm celebrates while approaching the finish line of Grandma’s Marathon on Saturday, June, 18, 2022, in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — Defending Grandma’s Marathon women’s champion Dakotah Lindwurm went out to warm up Saturday morning along the North Shore Scenic Drive and came back and said to Carolyn Mather, “That is a huge tailwind.”

Mather, who works as an elite marathoning liaison for Grandma’s Marathon and knows this race about as well as anyone, said, “You’re going to get the record.”

No, Lindwurm didn’t get the record, but oh, she was close.

Lindwurm, who last year became the first Minnesotan to win the event since 1987, defended her title in style, covering the 26.2 miles from Two Harbors to Canal Park in 2 hours, 25 minutes, 1 second. That blows the personal-record 2:29:04 she set at last year’s Grandma’s Marathon right out of the Lake Superior water.

“I can’t believe it,” said Lindwurm, of Eagan, Minnesota. “It’s a four-minute PR and it’s a huge step in my career. I’m so happy. I feel like race after race I try to put together a great start to finish, and today finally it all just came together.”

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Lindwurm, 27, literally runs with a smile on her face, a ray of sunshine beaming down the course, and Saturday, she had plenty to smile about as she was all by herself for the about the last 10 miles, victory seemingly in hand.

But afterward, it was all tears, tears of joy as she crossed the line and gave grandfather Sev Wanous of Andover, Minnesota, the biggest bear hug a petite 5-foot-1 marathoner could give.

Athletes running and celebrating at the finish line area of Grandma's Marathon
After winning the marathon, Dakotah Lindwurm hugs her grandfather Sev Wanous of Andover at the finish line of Grandma’s Marathon on Saturday, June, 18, 2022, in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

“It’s the first time he’s ever got to watch me race, and winning was amazing, but crossing that finish line and going straight into his arms, I can’t even stop tearing up over it,” Lindwurm said. “It was the best day ever.”

Indeed. With incentives, Lindwurm netted $20,000 for the victory, some of which she said was going to student loans from her days running at Northern State. That is four times more than the $5,000 she received for the COVID-crimped 2021 race.

Officially, Lindwurm will now hold the Grandma’s Marathon original course record as the race returned to Superior Street for the first time since 2017 due to construction. Kellyn Taylor’s blazing 2:24:28, set in 2018 when the course went along Michigan Street due to downtown construction, will retain the event record, considered the bigger prize as the difference between those two courses is a matter of splitting hairs.

“At 18 miles I was five seconds under the record, but I was going through a rough patch right there and my initial thought was, ‘I can’t do it. There’s no way I’m hanging onto it,’” Lindwurm said. “But by 18 miles you see that Lift Bridge, it’s so big, it’s so beautiful. I actually have a coffee cup that has that Lift Bridge on it and I drink from it every single morning. I changed my mind and said, ‘I’m not going to tell myself I can’t. I’m going to keep running hard.’”

Lindwurm did just that but as soon as she made the turn off Superior Street and headed back to Canal Park any chance of breaking the record was gone with the headwind.

“I nearly slipped away in that last mile,” Lindwurm said. “I’ve never experienced anything like that, where every step I might fall. My legs were in the garbage. They were just trash at that time, but I just had to hold it together to give myself a shot.”

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It was easy to forget this was a race, but with Lindwurm slowing a bit, the steady-as-she-goes Sarah Sellers of Ogden, Utah, made this closer than most people realized, finishing 42 seconds back in 2:25:43, taking a little more than six minutes off her personal record.

At the start of Grandma's Marathon.
Elite women racers begin Grandma’s Marathon on Saturday, June 18, 2022.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Sellers backed off the lead pack of Lindwurm, Esther Wanjiru and Molly Bookmyer only three miles in and ran her own race. While she reeled in the latter two and gained ground on Lindwurm, Sellers never did catch sight of the leader.

“It’s a big benefit running with someone in a marathon, but you kind of have to make that gamble of letting them go and thinking, ‘Either I’m going to catch them later or they deserved to beat me,” Sellers said, laughing. “I knew Dakotah was really strong, and if she was going to run in the 2:24ish-range, then she deserved it. I thought my best-case scenario would be around a 2:26, and I was under that today, so I was really happy with it.”

Sellers has finished second at Boston before so she’s legit, but she also has a 17-month-old daughter, Emery, who she hugged as soon as she crossed the line.

“I think I’m back,” Sellers said. “I feel stronger than I ever have.”

And so does Lindwurm.

Lindwurm was a little disappointed with her 14th-place finish at Boston this year. Adding insult to injury, she got COVID when she was there.

Leave it to Grandma’s to pick up her spirits. That’s the only booster she needs.

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“I didn’t grow up in Duluth but I feel like a hometown hero here,” she said. “It’s always emotional. This has been the place where I feel I’m at home. Three years ago in 2019 I got to run in my mother’s arms. In 2020 I lost her, so in 2021 I ran into my dad’s arms, and then this year I ran into my grandpa’s arms … I don’t know how I’m going to keep topping this.

“I don’t even know if (grandpa) said anything. He’s a stone cold, hard man but he was bawling his eyes out, and I couldn’t help but cry, too. We may have exchanged some words, I don’t know, but I could feel how proud he was.”

46TH ANNUAL GRANDMA'S MARATHON
More coverage from the 2022 Grandma's Marathon weekend in Duluth:
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.
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.
Fans with costumes and signs cheer on runners along Duluth's London Road.
In his first completed marathon since a 2019 injury, the Grandma’s marathon course record holder returned for a win and the second-best race time in the event’s history.
Aaron Pike and Susannah Scaroni broke their own course records, with Pike fighting off a challenger at the finish line.
While the men's winner took a commanding lead early, the women's winner had to fight her way back up to the front.
Saturday morning's live coverage of the marathon in Duluth. For full stories, see duluthnewstribune.com/grandmas.

Related Topics: GRANDMA'S MARATHON
Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.

After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.

Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.

Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.

Nowacki can be reached at jnowacki@duluthnews.com or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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