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Grandma's Marathon: YAF surpasses $1 million in contributions

Lest you were of the opinion that Grandma's Marathon puts on three races the third weekend in June then takes the rest of the year off, here's something to refute that notion.

Its charity arm, the Young Athletes Foundation, has surpassed $1 million in community contributions.

The YAF, which focuses on promoting the "growth of young athletes in the region," according to a Grandma's news release, started in 1990 with the goal of providing grants to nonprofits in Lake, Cook, Carlton, Douglas and St. Louis counties that administer recreational activities to children. That endeavor has resulted in more than $700,000 given to local youth organizations.

Additionally, the YAF offers certificates for free running shoes to high school cross-country and track and field athletes. Since the program began in 1991, more than 3,500 pairs of shoes have been donated, at a cost of more than $250,000.

There's also a $1,200 scholarship presented annually to both a men's and women's UMD cross-country runner.

Funds for these efforts come from benefit races held throughout the year, including the Saint Fennessy 4K, Fitger's 5K and Park Point 5-Miler, and other special events.

They're back

The trio of runners who have started and completed all previous 41 Grandma's Marathons will make their return Saturday.

Joe Johnson of Menominee, Mich., Jim Nowak of Cornell, Wis., and John Naslund of Bloomington, Minn., are signed up to run the 26.2 miles along the North Shore for a 42nd consecutive year.

Defending champs return

A year ago, Elisha Barno became the first man to three-peat at Grandma's. Saturday, he will try to add to his record. The 32-year-old Kenyan finished the 2017 race in 2 hours, 12 minutes and 6 seconds.

In the women's race, Hellen Jepkurgat, a 37-year-old from Kenya, also will try to defend her title. Jepkurgat won in 2:32:09.

Goucher comes home — again

Kara Goucher, the two-time Olympian from Duluth, will run Saturday's Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon for the second consecutive year. The 39-year-old was fifth last June, coming through in 1:15:12.

Goucher will be a guest at former Duluth mayor Don Ness' show Wednesday night at the NorShor Theatre. So it'll be the NorShor for Goucher on Wednesday, then the North Shore on Saturday morning.

Awards season

Grandma's Marathon is handing out several awards again this season.

The winner of the 19th annual Marsh Nelson Media Award is longtime journalist John Gilbert, a Duluth native and a former News Tribune sportswriter in the 1960s who later spent 30 years at the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Gilbert will be honored at a luncheon Friday at the DECC.

• The winners of the 2018 Rudy Perpich Public Service Award are retired Duluth police officer William "Skip" Stovern and David Montgomery, Chief Administrative Officer for Duluth. They will be honored at a breakfast Thursday at the Radisson Hotel.

• Patricia Goodwin, founder and president of Team USA Minnesota, is this year's Ron Daws Ambassador Award winner. Goodwin provides support during Grandma's Marathon weekend for Team USA Minnesota elite distance runners. Grandma's Marathon began the Ron Daws Ambassador Award in 1993 to honor the Minnesota native and 1968 Olympian who was instrumental in the development of road racing in Minnesota until he died in 1992.

• Peter Kolar and David Solon from Kolar Toyota, along with Jim Kari from Kari Toyota, are this year's recipients of the Award of Excellence, which is given annually to an individual or group in recognition of dedication, commitment and service to Grandma's Marathon.

• This year's recipients of the Don Fennessy Volunteer of the Year Award are Doug and Peggy Simensen, who have been volunteering at Grandma's Marathon for about 38 years.

• The Scott A. Keenan Founder's Award will be presented to Mike Krois, president and co-owner of Voyageur Bus Company, which has provided bus transportation to the starting line for approximately 15,000 runners on race morning the last few decades.

• The 2018 Grandma's Marathon Hall of Fame inductees include Lizette Mitchell, Deanna Nordeen and Jeff Frey.

• James Kirkham will become the fifth runner to receive the Thousand Miler Award.