Whenever I head back to Duluth, MN I get very excited. I know that I’m going to have a great time, be surrounded by loved ones, and be surrounded by one of the most beautiful cities in the world. But when I get to head back to Duluth on Grandma’s Marathon weekend, I get really nostalgic. It brings me back to my childhood, watching family members and friends run, handing out water, cheering, and the entire city supporting marathon weekend.
As a child I never thought I’d run there. Those people were crazy! It was so far! I loved the excitement of the event, and in high school my friends and I would get right by the finish line to cheer. I was impressed by the runners, but I was not personally interested in running it myself.
Of course that all changed in 2008 when I became a marathoner. Grandma’s marathon weekend is right before the national track championships, so getting there to run or watch was nearly impossible. Until 2012, when the Gary Bjorklund half-marathon was also the US Championships. My coach at the time, Jerry Schumacher, gave me a choice. I was already qualified in the marathon for the London Olympics, and that was the event I was going to run there. Did I want to run the Olympic Track Trials and try to make the 10,000 meter team to work on speed (but not actually race it the Olympics), OR would I like to go to my hometown, race the half as a tuneup for the Olympics, and try to win a national title. For me there was no question what I was going to do.
Kara with Colt celebrating her win in 2012 - PC: Duluth News Tribune
2012 was so special because it was the first time that I actually participated in Grandma’s Marathon weekend as a runner. Sure, I had watched it my entire childhood, but it was the first time I pinned on a number and got out on the course. It was an incredible experience for me, to come home where my career began and run along the north shore on my way to the Olympics. I dug deep the last two miles to try to get the course record. I normally don’t care about records, but I wanted my name atop the list. Of all the women who have come to run the half-marathon from around the world, I wanted the fastest to be the girl who grew up right here, in this city. In the end, I was able to close and run 69:46 and claim the record as mine.
I didn’t make it back to Duluth for marathon weekend again until last year. I was injured and wasn’t really prepared. But that single race was the highlight of my year. Running along the shore, pushing hard once we got downtown, it felt amazing. I was so happy and had such a good time. It reminded me of what I love about running and how much I loved this race.
Kara finishing the half at Grandma's in 2017 - PC: Duluth News Tribune
I am looking forward to toeing the line again this year in just a couple of weeks! Although some stress in my personal life has affected my training, I am healthy and I am happy. I won’t be there to set any personal bests, but I’ll be there to surround myself with my people, my community, Duluth. This race means so much to me and to so many other people. So if you are going to be there, see you soon! I hope you can soak up some of the magic, I know I will!