Early in the morning of Grandma’s Marathon on June 22, I stood outside Fitgers (where I had dinner 12 hours earlier and would end up returning after the race for another famous veggie burger and microbrew.) As I nervously anticipated the shuttle bus that would take me and fellow marathoners out to the starting point in Two Harbors, I sipped on my McDonald’s coffee, hoping for some liquid inspiration. This was my third marathon but my first Grandma’s experience (Milwaukee Lakefront in 2006 and Twin Cities in 2011) and so far the gloomy weather was anything but inspriational.
It was a long bus ride out to Two Harbors at 5:30 in the morning. By the time the school bus I was in made it out to the start, herds of runners had already filed into the outside waiting area, where we’d stand in lines for porta potties and eventually squeeze in like sardines in the starting corral. It was over two hours total of waiting. I thought to myself that if I was going to run Grandma’s again, I’d do it with someone. It was lonely at the starting line despite the crowds of runners.
One thing that worried me was that the rain would stop spectators from spectating. That wasn’t the case. Someone who had run Grandma’s before agreed with me that the crowd was just as lively as past years. The crowd is absolutely one of the reasons why I like to run marathons. The homemade signs and cheers from strangers (and non-strangers) make that 26.2 miles special.
Grandma’s course is flat and scenic, but because of the dense fog, the lake was barely visible. By the time I arrived in downtown Duluth (just a few miles from the finish), I couldn’t see a quarter mile in front of me. While the high and low temperatures were ideal for running, the saturation of the air and eventual rain made the conditions not-so ideal (the white flags along the course indicated a risk of hypothermia). Personally, this was a very difficult race. I didn’t break the four hours I was hoping to do, even though I was on par the first 16 miles. I kept running though, and when I finished the rain had started to come down consistently. I let someone swaddle me in a foil blanket, found my boyfriend and friends who trekked up north to watch me, and redeemed my free beer ticket even though I was shivering. The race was borderline miserable, but I know in the back of my mind I will run another one. Marathons are addicting.
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