Marathoners nearing milestones at Grandma's

Don't make a fuss about Mark Johnsrud's 100th marathon. He's not. Sure, he planned the milestone run for Grandma's Marathon on Saturday, but he wants to blend in with the other 7,387 entrants and anonymously enjoy the 26.2 miles from Two Harbors ...

Don't make a fuss about Mark Johnsrud's 100th marathon. He's not.

Sure, he planned the milestone run for Grandma's Marathon on Saturday, but he wants to blend in with the other 7,387 entrants and anonymously enjoy the 26.2 miles from Two Harbors to Duluth.

Johnsrud, 51, has been a marathoner since 1985, starting with Grandma's. He has run in 23 states, and been in three Ironman Triathlons. This week is just another step, or two, along the road.

"At no point was running

100 marathons ever a goal of mine or a dream. I was just enjoying each race and never kept track of it all, and then all of a sudden I'm here," said Johnsrud, who lives in Richland Center, Wis., 60 miles west of Madison. "I can't explain it, but after that first one, I was hooked; it's my fix. It's going to be an honor to do this in Duluth."


His unique century day will be shared with at least one other runner -- Bill Wenmark of Deephaven, Minn., who also hopes to finish No. 100. Wenmark, 62, is well-known on the state's road racing scene as founder of the ALARC marathon training group in Minneapolis-St. Paul and race director of the discontinued Edmund Fitzgerald 100-Kilometer Ultramarathon, which also was held along the North Shore.

And outdoing both in marathon totals is Carolyn Mather of Morganton, Ga., one of the more enduring figures in Grandma's Marathon history. She completed her 100th marathon in Duluth in 2008, when she was honored with the Ron Daws Memorial Award as a race ambassador. She'll run

No. 106 Saturday.

Mark Johnsrud

Treating all marathons the same is a Johnsrud credo. His 98th marathon was inside -- that's right, inside -- at the Icebreaker Indoor Marathon on Jan. 23 at the Pettit National Ice Center in Milwaukee. That meant going around a 443-meter track 95 times. His 99th race was simply the world's best-known run, the 114th Boston Marathon on April 19, joining 22,540 finishers.

"The friendships and relationships I've made through all my years of running is what matters most," said Johnsrud, a Wisconsin Department of Corrections field operation sergeant. "I do like to run the best I can each time and I've trained hard leading up to Grandma's. I'm just going to enjoy it tall from start to finish."

Johnsrud has a marathon best of 2 hours and 55 minutes, run in the Twin Cities Marathon, and a Grandma's best of 3:00:34. He'll wear No. 2010 Saturday and has his sights set on a 3:20 finish, although a hamstring pull suffered during a workout Saturday has him a bit concerned.

Bill Wenmark


Preaching fitness is what Wenmark does best, as evidenced by talking his 73-year-old mother into trying Grandma's Marathon in 1988. Edith Wenmark, who prepared by training with the ALARC group, ran in Grandma's Marathon 10 times through age 84.

Bill Wenmark, a Navy corpsman in Vietnam who has worked in the health-care field, figures he's run in Grandma's Marathon 28 times, including a best of 2:49:39 in 1984. When Grandma's Marathon briefly offered lifetime entries in 1987, he bought one from race director Scott Keenan. That earned him bib No. 20, which he'll wear Saturday.

"I've run in New York and Boston and other races that I love, but Grandma's is my home course, my favorite race," said Bill Wenmark, inducted into the race's Hall of Fame in 2009. "I always think I can help make a difference by showing how important an active lifestyle is. We can change the perspective on aging by exercising and staying strong."

Wenmark, 6-foot-2 and 170 pounds, ran his 99th race in the 2010 Boston Marathon and says he's dedicating the 2010 Grandma's Marathon to his mom, who passed away April 4 at age 95.

Carolyn Mather

Having nine grandchildren makes Mather a logical candidate to promote Grandma's Marathon. She became a fan in her first run in Duluth in 1994, when the U.S. Women's Championships were held in conjunction with the race, and has been back often.

Mather has become so enamored of the race that she's spent the past three years on the Grandma's Marathon hospitality committee during race week.

"Grandma's has all the good elements of the big-city marathons, but it's in a small town. Everyone who runs is treated like a star. Duluth is a very unique place on this earth," said Mather, a retired registered nurse and health care manager, and a contributor to Running Journal magazine.


Mather, 61, has been running for 32 years and has completed as many as 10 marathons in a year and as few as two, while remaining consistently strong. Since turning 60, she's set five Georgia age-group records for women 60-64 for five kilometers, four miles, half-marathon, 10 miles and 50 kilometers. She has a marathon best of 2:51:40, set in 1983.

Grandma's Marathon is her favorite 26.2-mile run.

"The course, with its gently rolling hills, is one of the most-fair courses I've run, and I love the scenery. My husband, Steve, and I like the area so much we've looked at property on the North Shore," said Mather, who will wear No. 7061.

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