Grandma’s 1/2 Marathon Race Recap (Gary Bjorklund 1/2)

State #44
Half Marathon #54

I was originally going on this trip alone, too, with the intention of staying with my old neighbors and “second parents” who live in Minnesota.  After Boston, my friend Amanda decided to join me and race the full (she wanted to see if she could snag a BQ again since she barely missed it in April). It was a super long week for me, I had work meetings in NYC and flew straight to MN on Thursday night and Cindy (old neighbor/second mom) picked me up.


Amanda and I drove to Duluth on Friday morning (about 2 hours from Cindy’s house). We made it in time for lunch, hit the expo, and listened to Kara Goucher speak. We grabbed dinner at Grandma’s Saloon and Grill and made it a super early night since I had to be at the buses at 4:45.IMG_0192 IMG_0194I woke up and was as quiet as I could be (the marathon started later and the buses didn’t leave at the same time) so I didn’t disturb Amanda. I was thankful that the hotel had breakfast early and I was able to take my bagel downstairs and toast it before the walk to the buses. Our hotel location was PERFECT. It was maybe a quarter of a mile walk and I was glad I left when I did because the line was already long at 4:45. It was a bit disorganized and I was a little surprised by this but I finally made it on a bus.

The bus ride went by quick and I made sure to ignore the porty-o-potties until it was closer to the race start line (this is key- too many people waiting in line too early when there are a TON of toilets further up). I had plenty of time to stretch, do a warmup and grab a couple of sunrise pics. I knew the course was going to be a fast one with a lot of fast people based on the pace options to corral yourself. I snuck between the 1:35 and 1:40 group. I had no intentions of setting a PR- my body wasn’t ready- I hadn’t done the work, I had a LONG week in NYC for work, it was hotter than normal, and it was that time of the month. Yep, none of this was ideal.IMG_0201 IMG_0204 IMG_0198Miles 1-8

I had read recaps that said the start was really congested, but I felt that it spread out quickly (maybe because of the corral I was in). The course was along a road that was really quiet with pockets of spectators. It was peaceful and uneventful. The only thing that I noticed early on was that I could see the finish area, and it looked so far away.

I took my Glukos chews around mile 5 and enjoyed the music and the view. I wasn’t feeling great and couldn’t ever get into another gear, but I didn’t really care.

Miles 9-13.1

The houses along this part of the course were really pretty and the crowds had picked up, which was nice. There were a few hills on the backend which took me by surprise- they weren’t terrible- but when I hear flat course, I assume that means pancake flat. I actually like a change in muscle use, but since I was tired and not really feeling the race I was annoyed.692105_258593068_XLargeThe last mile or so ran through the downtown area. It’s hard to explain but you pass what would be a convenient way to the finish line and make a few more turns and loops before actually heading to the straight away. The crowds were thick and I gave it what I had at the end (which wasn’t much). 692106_258704147_XLarge

Race ResultsIMG_0228When you are in Kara Gouchers division and she holds the #1 spot, you aren’t surprised. Finished 12th out of 805 in the 35-39 group. Not too bad for such a stacked race.692104_258691591_XLarge

Garmin ResultsIMG_1119 IMG_1118 IMG_1117Post Race

I grabbed a little food and snapped a pic and headed back to the hotel to shower off. I got ready, grabbed breakfast tacos on the street and went to the bleachers to watch the marathon.IMG_0210 Bleacher passes came with my free entry that I won on Facebook and they came in handy for the race! I watched the pro’s and super speedy runners (sub 3:00) which is insanely inspiring, did a little shopping and then watched Amanda finish.IMG_0220 IMG_0221She killed her goal! She got her BQ with time to spare. After getting ready and grabbing lunch downtown, we drove back to Minneapolis to have a night with Cindy and the fam, which was so nice and relaxing.



  • Entire town embraces race (note the drawings from local schools- they were all over the town)
  • course support includes sponges, fruit, ice (and water and powerade) and there were a lot of stationsIMG_0215 IMG_0216

Not so Much

  • The start time. (6:15 time and 4:45 shuttle for the 1/2, 5:45 shuttle and 7:45 start for the marathon)
  • Point to point (this is a personal thing- when you can see the bridge from the start and know how far to go)
  • Didn’t love the actual course- Amanda said the same thing about the marathon

Travel Tips

  • The hotels book QUICKLY. I had slim pickings when I booked ours and it was one of the last ones left. They also raise the cost significantly.
  • Fly into Minnepolis/St.Paul and rent a car for the 2 hour drive to save money
  • Stay downtown (Suites hotel was great- included a goodie bag). We walked to the shuttles and to and from the finish line and all of the restaurants.
  • Eat at Northern Waters Smokehaus. We loved it so much we ate there both days for lunch (also close to finish so easy to get to post race)


I like the bling. I’m still so confused why the marathon and half marathon have different names, medals and shirts but the race is on the same day.IMG_0317 IMG_0318Final Thoughts

I enjoyed my short trip to Duluth, MN and I liked the race. I really did. I would recommend it, but I’m honestly surprised it gets the rave reviews that it does and that it’s hard to get in (to the half marathon at least). I still plan to do the the Twin Cities Marathon some day but this does make a good option for those that are racing the states.

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  • A couple of the 2:30ish guys in my group ran the race this year, but both thought it was more humid than they expected. Of course, that played to their advantage being from New Orleans, and they both placed well. As did you! Well-done in your age group!

  • what are the odds that 3 of you all ran a 1:38:16???
    I think it gets rave reviews because there aren’t a lot of options for summer races that you aren’t suffocating from humidity / heat. My MN race was in August and it was miserable…. ( i also am kind of anti women based half marathons because i can’t stand all the pink /boas/ etc which added to my annoyance haha)

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