June 21, 2024


Every year, Duluth, Minnesota, transforms into a buzzing hub of energy, enthusiasm, and community spirit during Grandma’s Marathon weekend. It’s a time when athletes and spectators from all walks of life gather to celebrate not just physical endurance but also the enduring human spirit. As a devoted participant and a lover of all things Duluth AND a 2012 and 2013 Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon participant, I find myself eagerly anticipating each aspect of this iconic event–even if I am not hitting the road (’tis the wedding season). Here’s a look back at my favorite parts of the Grandma’s Marathon weekend, moments filled with joy, challenge, and camaraderie.

The Expo

The excitement begins at the prerequisite Essentia Health Fitness Expo at the DECC, where the air is thick with anticipation and the latest in running technology and gear are on display (alongside an assortment of bananas…IYKYK). This is more than just a place to pick up your race packet—it’s a runner’s paradise. The energy here is infectious, with everyone from first-timers to seasoned marathoners sharing tips, stories, and laughter. The Expo sets the tone for the weekend, a prelude to the incredible experience that awaits.

The Pasta Feed

Carb-loading at the Michelina’s All-You-Can-Eat Spaghetti Dinner is a ritual, and for a good reason. There’s something deeply comforting and communal about sharing a meal with fellow runners who are just as eager (and perhaps as nervous) as you are about the race tomorrow. The pasta is plentiful (and very delicious, considering the mass amounts produced), and the stories exchanged over dinner inspire and motivate. It’s a reminder that we’re all in this together, sharing the same journey of 13.1 or 26.2 miles the next morning (or even the William A. Irving 5K Friday night).

The Lovely Fans that Line London and Superior

The fans along the marathon route are nothing short of extraordinary. Their cheers fuel our strides, but it’s the quirky traditions that truly define the experience—like those handing out beer! These moments of unexpected joy not only lighten the mood but also remind us of the shared fun and humanity in the marathon experience. Their support is a crucial part of what makes Grandma’s Marathon so special.

The Snacks at the End

Crossing the finish line is an indescribable feeling, especially if you are familiar with the area. To turn off Superior Street, descend into Canal Park, hear your name over the loud speaker as you snake around and come across the finish in front of Little Angie’s–places I visit on a regular basis–takes on a whole new vibe. This vibe is further amplified by the array of snacks waiting to greet every tired runner. From fruit to protein bars, each bite helps to replenish and revive. This part of the race is about more than just nourishment; it’s about the organizers and volunteers who care deeply about the runners’ well-being, celebrating every finish as a triumph. Unfortunately, I am MIA at the snacks until I have had a plate of fruit, but once there are strawberries in my tummy and sugar in my blood again, it is on.

The Camaraderie of the Running Community

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Grandma’s Marathon is the camaraderie among participants. Throughout the weekend, bonds are formed and strengthened. Whether it’s sharing a laugh over a cup of pasta, a word of encouragement during a tough mile, or a hug at the finish line, the sense of community is overwhelming. It doesn’t matter if you have ran a foot or a full; the love is there for anyone who tries their best. It’s a powerful reminder of why I so want to return year after year—this feeling of being part of something larger than myself, connected by the simple act of running.

Grandma’s Marathon weekend is not just a race; it’s a celebration of resilience, community, and personal milestones. This event embodies the spirit of not only the running community but that of the Zenith City—a spirit of endurance, support, and shared joy by the greatest lake. Here’s to many more miles and memories at Grandma’s Marathon!

Kayla Lee is a Minnesota-based wedding and elopement photographer (and handcrafter on the side). She provides services to elegant, authentic, sentimental couples who not only choose their own adventures, but also live them to the fullestSee more about the KLP Wedding Experience!

Fridays are for high fives! Every Friday, stop by to see five of my favorite somethings! Click here to see past Friday High Fives!

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At home on the road. Forever-focused on authenticity and the thrilling art of creation; always found in the moments that leave me breathless and in awe. 

After fourteen years as a high school educator, I stepped back through a door I thought was closed. Journalism came back into my life. Armed with a Masters of Arts in Communication, I was again challenged and prepared to tell the stories that would become history, but with a twist: It is now your legacy of love that I document. The tension I seek is that from every tear, smile, laugh, and moment of love on your wedding day. 


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