The Pack Report

A Brief History of Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota

An iconic event held each June in our neighborhood of Duluth, Minnesota is the Grandma’s Marathon. The road race marathon stretches over the scenic Northshore of Scenic Route 61, hugging the curves of Lake Superior, from Two Harbors, Minnesota, and the finish line in Canal Park – conveniently right in front of the Duluth Pack flagship store. 

The marathon was first run in the year 1977, so this year, the marathon is celebrating its 46th consecutive year. Grandma’s Marathon first drew in only 150 participants back in its originating year and was won by a Minnesotan and 1967 Olympic Runner, Garry Bjorklund. 

Curious how the marathon got its unique name? The namesake of the marathon is simply due to the newly opened restaurant at the time, Grandma’s Restaurant in Duluth, Minnesota and was simply the only company willing to sponsor the event. In 1977, it is stated that the restaurant only paid $600 for the sponsorship – talk about a great long-term investment and branding strategy! 

Fast forward to modern day, the marathon is in demand and brings a flood of over 10,000 runners annually (tickets selling out each year), and now nearly incorporating a $2 million-dollar operating budget – including thousands of volunteers each season. 

What was first born as a single race has now blossomed into a full fledge weekend of outdoor activities and festivities. The weekend kicks off the Thursday prior to the race with an expo at the DECC (Duluth Entertainment Convention Center) in Canal Park, events on Friday evenings for the kiddos to run at Bayfront Festival Park, and completed with the William A Irvin 5K, which began in 1994. On Saturday evening, post-race, there are Beer Tents all along the Canal Park neighborhood for those to celebrate a successful run. 

Now with the expansion of many activities, Grandma’s Marathon now offers a half marathon, the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon, which is named after the organization’s first winner, as previously stated. 

Grandma’s Marathon is so well recognized and acclaimed, it is a Boston Marathon qualification race and draws many Olympic runners and people around the globe. Looking to get inspired? Check out our recent interview with Olympic runner, Kara Goucher

We are grateful to have our store located at the finish line of Grandma’s Marathon, where we can connect with locals and tourists alike. If you’re seeking a Marathon Training playlist, we have your back. Check out our free Spotify Training Playlist here and join in on the fun!

Happy Adventures, friends!

Happy Adventures - Duluth Pack