A loosening of the state’s public health guidelines, announced last week by Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, has paved the way for the return of two traditional and popular pieces of Grandma’s Marathon weekend.
Based on the Governor’s expected timeline of eliminating capacity limits and distancing requirements, organizers say they will now be able to welcome spectators on race weekend and host a post-race celebration.
“Those things were crossed off pretty early in our planning process based on the previous guidelines, and the result was going to be a very different feeling come race weekend” Executive Director Shane Bauer said. “Bringing those pieces back will not only amplify the experience of our participants, but it’s great for our community members who wait all year to be part of Grandma’s Marathon weekend.”
Spectators were originally discouraged from attending this year’s Grandma’s Marathon, but the updated guidance will now allow those who wish to watch the races to do so.
“It’s great to be adding that community aspect back into our plans for June,” Race Director Greg Haapala said. “That said, we will be keeping some of the mitigation tactics in place to help keep some of those large groups from forming, and we ask that everyone who does attend is mindful and respectful of others.”
The post-race celebration will be in a new location this year, moving from near the finish line in Canal Park to Bayfront Festival Park. Live musical acts will be featured throughout race day, and admission will be free for all ages in celebration of the 45th anniversary of Grandma’s Marathon.
“The move to Bayfront is an exciting change for this year’s Grandma’s Marathon,” Finance & Operations Director Linda Hanson said. “It’s a great Duluth venue built for the very thing we want to do – come together and celebrate with our participants, our many partners, and our community that supports us year round. To be given the opportunity to bring this event back into our planning means so much because it’s not only a tradition, it’s how we say thank you to everyone for a job well done.”
Amid the excitement of what the new guidelines allow, organizers want to remind anyone planning on participating, volunteering, or attending Grandma’s Marathon that personal responsibility will still play a major role in the weekend’s overall success.
“This is still a large event that involves people from all over the country, from all different walks of life, and potentially with many different comfort levels,” Marketing & Public Relations Director Zach Schneider said. “We want everyone involved to feel as comfortable and as safe as possible, so we encourage everyone to take proper precautions in terms of masks and distancing even in areas it’s not technically required by the guidance.”
It’s expected that Grandma’s Marathon will be one of the country’s first major running events to return following the COVID-19 pandemic, so plenty of eyes will be on Duluth this June.
“This is our chance to do a really big thing and do it well,” Schneider said. “We want people to enjoy themselves, to feel safe, and to say good things about our race and our community when they leave here. Grandma’s was built on the idea of community coming together, and we need that in a different but critically important way this year.”
Masks or face coverings, according to the expected guidelines, will be required in all race-controlled areas with more than 500 people in attendance. Organizers expect that to include the start and finish areas, Bayfront Festival Park, the Michelina’s All-You-Can-Eat Spaghetti Dinner, and the Essentia Health Fitness Expo.
As in the originally released plan, participants will not be required to wear a mask or face covering while actively participating in their race.