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Grandma's Marathon: Pike, Scaroni capture fourth career titles in record-setting wheelchair races

Aaron Pike and Susannah Scaroni broke their own course records, with Pike fighting off a challenger at the finish line.

Two marathon wheelchair racers, one in front and one behind, approach a finish line
Aaron Pike crosses the finish line to win the Grandma's Marathon men's wheelchair race on Saturday.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — After a brief hiatus from the wheelchair race event at Grandma’s Marathon, Aaron Pike of Champaign, Illinois, returned Saturday to capture his fourth career men's title while breaking his own course record in the process.

Pike bested his own mark of 1 hour, 20 minutes, 59 seconds set in 2019 by crossing in 1:20:02 on Saturday, while maintaining a pace of 3:04 per mile. The blazing-fast time narrowly edged defending champion Johnboy Smith, whose finish of 1:20:05 now ranks second all-time.

46TH ANNUAL GRANDMA'S MARATHON
More coverage from the 2022 Grandma's Marathon weekend in Duluth:
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A look back at Grandma's Marathon on Saturday from the viewpoint of an "official unofficial" spectator.
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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.
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.

A native of Park Rapids, Minnesota, Pike underscored the importance of the optimal conditions which were highlighted by tailwinds and cool temperatures. That created the conditions that helped him set career bests.

“We just had this drop in weather for the marathon,” Pike said. “It was like somebody came and just blessed us with perfect weather today.”

Pike, who was paralyzed at the age of 13 as a result of a hunting accident outside of Virginia, was forced to miss last year’s Grandma’s Marathon as he competed in the U.S. Paralympic Trials in track and field, which were rescheduled in Minneapolis to the same weekend as Grandma's in 2021. Pike later earned a spot on Team USA and took part in his sixth career Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Japan in the 800-meter, 1,500-meter, 5,000-meter and marathon wheelchair race events.

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The return to Duluth for Saturday’s race was a unique experience compared to other events Pike competes in, as members of his family were able to cheer him on at the finish line.

“It’s always fun to win it here just because this one is more special for me because my parents and both my grandparents came out,” Pike said. “They’re only like three hours away, so they all get to come out and watch, and my girlfriend’s here as well…And it’s a really, really fast, beautiful course. So I always have fun here.”

Susannah Scaroni claims fourth women’s title, sets course record

Urbana, Illinois native Susannah Scaroni etched her name in the record books again Saturday after completing the Grandma’s Marathon course in 1:27:31 to set a women’s record at the event, along with claiming her fourth title in the women’s division.

Like Pike, Scaroni missed last year’s event in preparation for the Paralympic Games in Tokyo where she won a gold medal in the 5,000 meters as a member of Team USA. Scaroni previously won the Grandma’s wheelchair race in 2014, 2018 and 2019 before Ivonne Reyes of Mexico earned the top finish last year as the lone female entrant.

Scaroni said her time today was not only her best at Grandma’s — her winning time of 1:30:42 now ranks second all-time — but the best of her career, which includes an estimated 80 marathons. She credited the conditions of the course and the weather as vital to her record-setting performance.

A woman in a wheelchair crosses a marathon finish line with a clock in the background reading 1:26:31
Susannah Scaroni is the winner of the Grandma's Marathon women's wheelchair race Saturday.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

“This morning, when I saw the wind direction I did wonder if it would happen,” Scaroni said of the ideal conditions on the morning of race day. “I could not have scripted it any better. It was perfect conditions and I got a good night’s sleep, so (it was) very good.

The four-time champion maintained a pace of 3:21 per mile en route to completing the course over 6 minutes faster than runner-up Jenna Fesemyer of Champaign, Illinois. Fesemyer finished with a time of 1:33:50 with a pace of 3:35 per mile.

Related Topics: GRANDMA'S MARATHON
Jake Przytarski is a reporter for the Cloquet Pine Journal covering a mix of news and sports.
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