Save for a modest chance of thunderstorms earlier this week, the forecast for Saturday morning couldn’t have looked much better.
“I think this could be one of the best years conditions-wise for the runners, if that pattern holds,” Grandma’s Marathon executive director Shane Bauer said Tuesday afternoon.
Heck, if anything, the outlook has improved.
Here’s what Bryan Howell of the National Weather Service in Duluth had to say:
“It looks like right around race start, we’re going to be in the mid-to-upper 40s. Then, by 9, 10 o’clock, we’ll be in the 50s. Sixties might hold off until late morning, but you’re going to have that lake influence down there, as well. Winds are going to be off the lake, so that’ll help keep areas real close to it a little bit cooler.”
Howell expects the chance for rain to nudge 50 percent by noon. Temperatures along the course aren’t likely to reach 70. Factor in an abundance of cloud cover, and the approximately 18,000 runners that will be trudging next to Lake Superior toward Canal Park will be singing Mother Nature’s praises.
Blanket-toting spectators? Not so much. They’ll want to dress in layers.
This is all a very pleasant change for Bauer and his staff. So often in recent years, race-day forecasts have been treacherous, either calling for incessant heat or heavy rain. In 2018, the chance of precipitation three days out remained stubbornly at 90 percent. Nerves became even more frayed when a monsoon fell from a charcoal-colored sky and pummeled the Twin Ports that Friday afternoon.
But when the gun went off the next morning, it was dry, overcast and 55 degrees, with a gentle tailwind, to boot.
From 2006-10, uncharacteristic heat and humidity threatened to derail this event’s reputation as a cool-weather haven. Since then, with the exception of a muggy 2016, conditions have been mostly ideal. It should come as no surprise, then, that five of the top 10 marathon times — for both men and women — have come over that time span.
The Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon begins at 6:15 a.m. Saturday, while the full marathon gets going at 7:45.
It’s coming fast, and Bauer says he’s as relaxed as he’s felt since returning to Grandma’s in 2015. He’s certainly not going to fret over the weather.
“There’s nothing you can do about it, so there’s no sense in worrying about it,” he said.
While Saturday is shaping up to be outstanding for runners, that usually means the exact opposite for fans and, later in the day, tent-goers. The postrace party under the Big Top Tent, with its live music, can be a hopping place. Less so, however, if it’s cold.
Bauer realizes you can’t have it both ways.
“That’s a lot to ask of this region, to have a cool morning and then warm up in the afternoon,” he said. “I think the runners will love it if it just stays dry.
“People are going to party anyways.”