June 22, 2013
I hated Grandma’s Marathon.
I feel the need to duck and hide as I state that about Minnesota’s most beloved race.
But…I hated it.
I just don’t know if I feel that way because it was that bad, or because I expected to hate it, or because I wanted to hate it.
But it was the one run that I felt obligated to do. And running 26.2 miles is a lot less enjoyable if you really don’t want to be there.
I guess my hostility started after I completed the Twin Cities Marathon. Whenever someone heard that I ran marathons, the question came up “Did you run Grandma’s???”. No one ever asked me about the Twin Cities Marathon. This is odd to me. TC is the hometown race. It’s a bigger race (300,000 spectators) with more runners. Grandma’s is on the other side of the state. It became clear that I would not be a “real” runner in MN without having completed Grandma’s.
Once I signed up, I went looking for a hotel room. Not easy. Duluth is a small town with minimal infrastructure. The hotels were few and they all jacked up their rates. Flea bottom motels were charging $400/night with a 2 night minimum stay.
I ended up with a hotel room about an hour and a half away.
The expo was very crowded. It took an hour in gridlock traffic to get there. The expo was crammed into a small venue and I could barely move at times. It was the only expo I was happy to leave.
Weather was cold, damp and I have never seen fog this thick. I was sitting at an intersection and could not see any of the signal lights (except the ones over my head). That’s some scary driving.
I came back the next morning, parked the car at the ramp and hopped on the train to get to the start. Slowest train ever. But, pretty cool old train. I am not a train guy, but it was an interesting way to travel. Also got a chance to chat a little…
Get to the start. Mid-fifties. 15 mph winds (but would be tailwinds for the first 25.5 miles). The course is pancake flat with the first hill at mile 22 (it’s an overpass).
The first 18 miles was an old 2 lane highway following Lake Superior. If it wasn’t for the fog, it would have been scenic. But I saw the lake 3 times. Instead, with the never ending road, lined with fog and firs, I felt like I was running a marathon in a Stephen King novel. It was just plain creepy.
I was sporting a garbage bag at the start. Took it off at mile 6, and tossed it at mile 11. At mile 15, I noticed the first white flag on the course (hypothermia risk). Then I saw a thermostat in the high 40’s. Then the rain started.
I was in shorts and a t-shirt.
And I was getting cold.
And there was someone at every aid station trying to hand out ice. Seriously.
Change of scene when we hit the outskirts of Duluth. Buildings and people.
But I was cramping up badly. Despite this, I knew I had a chance at a PR. Flat course, cool weather and tailwind made it possible.
Just kept trying to push…
Last mile has a bunch of turns as we do a little tour of downtown Duluth. My Garmin was pacing me a little fast so, again, I did a bunch of mental math.
In the end, I had no idea how far I had to go or if a PR was possible. I would just keep running as hard as I could. Suddenly saw the finish. One last push. And I look at my time.
It was close, but I thought I had my PR.
Turns out, I did…by 54 seconds.
Finish Time: 4:26:15
I got real cold, real fast. The cramps hit hard too. I had to go a couple blocks to get to the car. And the rain just kept coming down.
The PR holds to this day. Odd to hate your PR run, but it is my least favorite marathon to date. It would likely be a much nicer races if the weather cooperated.
But, for now, “Yes, I have run Grandma’s”…