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Grandma's Marathon spectator tips

Loudly cheering family and friends are what make the marathon and half marathon exciting for runners. If you know someone running either race, there are a number of places to stop and watch your athlete. Keep in mind that the Scenic Highway and London Road will be closed for the duration of the race. The Expressway and Superior Street to North 10th Avenue East will remain open, but traffic is typically heavy. Access by car to Canal Park is impossible after 7:15 a.m.

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Want to watch the start?

The Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon begins at 6:15 a.m. on Scenic Highway 61, between Ryan and McQuade Roads near the Clearwater Grille (formerly Lakeview Castle). Parking is available at the McQuade Safe Harbor as well as along the Ryan and McQuade Roads.

Grandma’s Marathon begins at 7:45 a.m. just south of Two Harbors on Scenic Highway 61. The start line is near Sonju Motors in Two Harbors. There is no parking available at the start line.

Watching along the Scenic Highway

If you park to watch the race along the Scenic Highway, keep in mind that travel to the finish line will be nearly impossible due to traffic delays.

The following roads are accessible from the Expressway:

• Knife River: Located near the 5-mile mark.

• Homestead Road: Located near the 9-mile mark.

• Ryan Road: Located at the 12-mile mark.

• McQuade Road: Located near the 13.5-mile mark.

• Lakewood Road: Located at the 16-mile mark.

Some parking is available along the access roads.

Watching along London Road

Many spectators find London Road an ideal place to view the race because they don’t have to fight the expressway traffic. Parking on London Road is not allowed; however, there are many places to park on the streets above.

The following are great spots on London Road to offer runners a little extra encouragement:

Lester River area: At mile 19 runners will get a change of scenery as they leave Scenic Highway 61 and head into the beautiful Lakeside neighborhood.

Lemon Drop Hill: Located at the 22-mile mark, Lemon Drop Hill is one of the more exciting spectator points along the race route.

Superior Street runs through the heart of Downtown Duluth and is so close to the finish line that spectators and runners can feel the excitement. Once again, parking on Superior Street is not allowed, but finding a spot on the streets above is permissible. Please remember to observe parking regulations to avoid receiving a citation.

Getting to the finish line

Head to Canal Park early if you want to claim a spot. The elite half-marathon racers start coming in around 7:15 a.m. and the elite marathoners storm the finish at around 10 a.m., but if you’re planning to park near the finish, be in Canal Park before 7 a.m. Parking in the DECC ramp is $5, but it closes at 7:15 a.m.

Many spectators choose on-street parking, or public parking lots in Downtown Duluth. They then walk the short distance to the finish line.

Meeting your racer at the finish line

With thousands of people in the Canal Park area during and after the race, it is easy for groups to become separated and hard to locate an athlete who has just crossed the finish line. To alleviate stress, a meeting area has been set up in the grassy area near the Marine Museum to help reunite spectators and runners. The person you are meeting will need to stand under the sign which has the first letter of either his or her first or last name. The signs will be labeled as follows: AB, CD, EF, GH, IJ, KL, MN, OP, QRS, TUV, WXYZ.

Extra tips

• You can track your runner via text message or email thanks to a service provided by Verizon Wireless this year (you don’t have to be a Verizon customer to use the service). Find more information or sign up at

• The William A. Irvin 5K race takes place on Friday night, so Canal Park and Downtown Duluth will be congested then, too.

LaReesa Sandretsky
LaReesa Sandretsky is a Two Harbors High School graduate and Duluth native who began working at the News-Chronicle in 2012 as a reporter. She took over as editor in 2014. She covers County Board, including the Lake County broadband project.
(218) 834-2141