Grandma's Marathon: Lindwurm highlights list of five elite women's runners to watch

The defending champion from Minnesota is looking to join an elite group of repeat winners at Grandma's Marathon.

Leah Hulst, portraying 'Grandma' Rosa Brochi, greets Dakotah Lindwurm of Eagan, Minnesota, at the finish line of Grandma's Marathon on Saturday, June 19, 2021, in Duluth. Lindwurm was the women's winner with a time of 2:29:04.
Clint Austin / File / Duluth News Tribune
We are part of The Trust Project.

DULUTH — Only three women have ever won consecutive titles at Grandma’s Marathon since the race began in 1977, with Mary Akor being the most recent when she three-peated in 2009.

Dakotah Lindwurm of Eagan, Minnesota, is in a position to become the fourth to ever do so as the favorite when the 46th Grandma’s Marathon gets underway at 7:45 a.m. on Sunday in Two Harbors. The winner is estimated to arrive at the finish line at Canal Park in Duluth around 10:10 a.m.

Akor, of the U.S., went back-to-back-to-back in 2007, 2008 and 2009, with her last victory in 2009 coming by a mere six seconds over Alina Ivanova in the second-closest finish ever for the women’s title.

Lorraine Moller of New Zealand was the first woman to go back-to-back and three-peat from 1979-1981. Fira Sultanova-Zhdanova of Russia won back-to-back at Grandma’s in 2003 and 2004.

Of the approximately 80 elite entrants signed up for this year’s race, here’s a look at the top contenders that are vying for the $10,000 first-place prize:


Five elite women to watch at 2022 Grandma’s Marathon

The Defending Champ

Dakotah Lindwurm, 27, United States

Personal record: 2:29:04 (2021 Grandma’s Marathon)

A former hockey goaltender from Section 7AA for Northern Tier (St. Francis/Cambridge-Isanti/North Branch), Lindwurm became the first Minnesotan to win Grandma’s Marathon since Janis Klecker in 1987. Her time of 2:29:04 last year was the fastest ever for a Minnesotan at Grandma’s, third fastest for an American and the sixth fastest time ever in the race. Lindwurm returns to Duluth coming off two top-15 finishes in the Boston Marathon with a 2:29:55 time this spring to finish 14th.

Dakotah Lindwurm, warm, friendly and vivacious, in 2021 was the first woman from Minnesota to win Grandma’s Marathon since 1987.

The Contender

Jane Bareikis, 27, United States

PR: 2:33:54 (2021 Grandma’s Marathon)

Bareikis made her Grandma’s Marathon debut a year ago and finished fifth in 2:33:54, which almost mirrors Lindwurm’s first experience at Grandma’s Marathon in 2019 when she finished fourth in 2:34:02. Bareikis has already tasted victory this year, winning the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in Nashville, one of three half marathons she’s run in 2022.

Jane Bareikis (left) and Artus Bareikis, both of Crestwood, Illinois, celebrate at the finish line of Grandma's Marathon on Saturday, June 19, 2021, in Duluth.
Clint Austin / File / Duluth News Tribune


The Newcomer

Esther Wanjiru, 34, Kenya

PR: 2:29:17 (2021 Cape Town Marathon)

Since she began running marathons in 2011, Wanjiru has never finished outside of the top six of any race she’s run. Making her debut in Duluth at Grandma’s, she has eight marathon victories on her resume and is coming off a sixth-place finish in the 2021 Cape Town Marathon, where she set a personal record.

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.

The Young Gun

Sophie Seward, 25, United States

PR: 2:33:23 (2019 Grandma’s Marathon)

One of the younger runners in the elite field this year, Seward has already posted two top-10 finishes in her career at Grandma’s Marathon, including third in 2019. Seward ran in the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2020, but finished a disappointing 71st with a time of 2:42:26. It’s one of the few marathons she’s run since Grandma’s in 2019.

Images of the top finishers from the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon, Wheelchair marathon and Grandma's Marathon.


The Olympic Hopeful

Sarah Sellers, 30, United States

PR: 2:31:48 (2020 U.S. Olympic Trials)

Sellers’ first appearance at Grandma’s Marathon will be a comeback of sorts after giving birth to a daughter in January 2021. Sellers was within 3 minutes of making the last U.S. Olympic team after finishing 11th at the 2020 Olympic Trials. She finished second at the 2018 Boston Marathon and posted a pair of top-20 finishes in Boston and Chicago in 2019. Sellers has run a pair of half marathons in 2022, finishing third in both.

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.
What to read next
The Huskies know they'll be playing at least a best-of-three division championship series in the league's postseason in August.
Let's take a look back at the school year of 2021-22.
Duluth needs a win on Monday or an Eau Claire loss to clinch a playoff berth.
Cody Carlson survived a Midwest Modified feature with five cautions in 25 laps.