Grandma's Marathon: Wheelchair racers, half marathon runners to watch in 2022
COVID-19 kept wheelchair racers away from Grandma's Marathon in 2021, and there was no elite field for the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon in 2021, either. Both races are back to full strength in 2022, with some top contenders in each.
DULUTH — A year after featuring reduced fields due to COVID-19 restrictions — along with visa issues for international racers — the Grandma’s Marathon wheelchair race and Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon are back to full strength in 2022.
The wheelchair division of Grandma’s Marathon is especially loaded with the men’s and women’s event record holders back again. Aaron Pike and Susannah Scaroni are both seeking their fourth Grandma’s Marathon title.
There are 32 men’s wheelchair racers and nine women’s wheelchair racers registered for this year’s marathon after only 15 — including just one woman, Mexico’s Ivonne Reyes — finished a year ago. In addition to visa problems, the U.S. Paralympic Trials in track and field in Minneapolis were rescheduled to the same weekend as Grandma's.
Wheelchair racers take off from the start line at 7:35 a.m. on Saturday.
The Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon, which did not feature an elite field a year ago, has 62 elite male runners signed up and 50 elite women. The half marathon gets underway at 6 a.m.
Here are the this year’s top contenders for the wheelchair marathon and half marathon.
Top men’s wheelchair marathon racers
Aaron Pike, 35, United States
Personal best: 1:20:59 (2019 Grandma’s Marathon)
Pike is not only a three-time champion (2017-2019), but he’s also the event record holder thanks to a personal-best time of 1:20:59 in 2019 on the Michigan Street course. He beat the previous record, set by Josh George on the Superior Street course in 2012, by almost two minutes. Pike was second in the 2022 Boston Marathon (1:32:49) after posting three top-five finishes in 2021 at the London, Chicago and Boston marathons. At the 2021 Paralympics in Tokyo, he finished sixth in 1:29:45.
The Defending Champ
Johnboy Smith, 32, Great Britain
PR: 1:25:45 (2021 Grandma’s Marathon)
Smith made his debut a year ago at Grandma’s and not only won the race, but posted a personal best of 1:25:45. He finished third in the 2022 Boston Marathon this spring with a time of 1:32:55 and was 10th at the 2021 Paralympics in 1:32:25. Tokyo was one of seven top-10 finishes he recorded in 2021 racing in New York, Boston, Berlin, Chicago and London.
Patrick Monahan, 35, Ireland
PR: 1:22:23 (2019 Grandma’s Marathon)
Monahan was one of the international racers who couldn’t make it to Duluth a year ago because of visa issues. He owns the second-fastest time ever laid down by a wheelchair racer at Grandma’s, posting a personal best of 1:22:23 in 2019 when Pike set the current record. He had to settle for second. Monahan is a two-time Paralympian who finished 12th in Tokyo in 2021 in 1:32:54.
Top women’s wheelchair marathon racers
The Record Holder
Susannah Scaroni, 30, United States
PR: 1:30:42 (2019 Grandma’s Marathon)
Scaroni won her first Grandma’s Marathon in 2014 and then went back-to-back in 2018 and 2019, with her 2019 time being a new Grandma’s event record. Scaroni finished second in the Boston Marathon this spring in 1:46:20. She was sixth at the 2021 Paralympics in Tokyo in 1:41:04. In seven appearances at Grandma’s, Scaroni has six top-two appearances. She missed out on a title in 2017 by less than a second.
Jenna Fesemyer, 25, United States
PR: 1:37:02 (2019 Grandma’s Marathon)
Fesemyer made her Grandma’s Marathon debut three years ago and finished fourth in 1:37:02. Since then she’s posted third-place finishes in London and Chicago, was fourth in New York in 2021 and fifth in Boston in 2022 with a time of 1:55:59.
Top men’s half marathon racers
Luis Orta, 33, United States
PR: 1:03:09 (2018 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships)
Orta has run the Garry Bjorklund just once, finishing 13th in 2015. He went on to compete in the 2016 Olympics in the full marathon. He’s finished in the top four of the last three half marathons he’s run, posting a time of 1:07:07 in 2022 in New York City.
Joe Moore, 38, United States
PR: 1:03:22 (2019 Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon)
Moore, of Minneapolis, has raced the Bjorklund four times before, with a third-place showing in 2019 being his best finish yet in Duluth. He’s also run Grandma’s Marathon twice — in addition to the Park Point 5-Miler and Fitger's 5K — giving him plenty of familiarity with the course.
The Hot Hand
Daniel Kemboi, 35, Kenya
PR: 1:02:27 (2018 Berkane Half Marathon)
The 2022 calendar year has been good to Kemboi, who has already won two half marathons this year in Austin and Fort Worth, Texas. His best time this year came in Houston, where he finished 21st but posted a time of 1:03:47. Kemboi is making his debut in Duluth.
Top women’s half marathon racers
Kelsey Bruce, 29, United States
PR: 1:12:16 (2020 Houston Half Marathon)
Many of the top female runners in the Bjorklund are making their debut this year. Bruce is not one of those runners. She finished fifth in 2019 in 1:13:31. Recent results for Bruce include a victory in Dallas in 2021 (1:14:35) and 23rd in Houston in 2022 (1:13:58).
Rachel Baptista, 29, Venezuela
PR: 1:12:39 (2018 Waco Half Marathon)
Baptista isn’t just new to the Bjorklund, she’s new to half marathons. The Bjorklund will be Baptista’s fourth career half marathon. She’s finished in the top three of her first three, winning in Dallas in 2018. Her most recent is the 2022 Woodlands Half Marathon, where she took third in 1:17:10.
On the rise
Rosie Edwards, 33, United Kingdom
PR: 1:12:24 (2021 Las Vegas Half Marathon)
Edwards, another first-timer in Duluth, set her PR a year ago when she finished fourth in the 2021 Las Vegas Marathon. She won the Indianapolis Half Marathon in 1:13:28 in 2020 and was second in the Mesa Half Marathon in 1:14:13 in 2019.
Kelsey Bruce is the only of these five to run here before, finishing 5th in 2019. Will it be a new face winning this year's race?! #gmas22— Grandma's Marathon (@GrandmasMara) June 10, 2022
Check out the full 2022 Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon women's elite field 👉 https://t.co/0qT9ONdtwu pic.twitter.com/tOlVrVuA04