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The Highs and Lows of Lemon Drop Hill

Updated: 06/18/2014 10:49 PM
Created: 06/18/2014 10:45 PM WDIO.com
By: Alec Ausmus

Duluth, Minn - In a car, it is just a hill. On foot, that is a different story and on one day out of the year, it makes a huge difference.

"More so, it is the point in the race that it happens," says Bob Gustafson, Public Relations Director for Grandma's Marathon.

This weekend marks an iconic event of the year for Duluth, with the running of the 38th Annual Grandma's Marathon.

The 26.2 mile race starts in Two Harbors and ends in Canal Park, but it's the 22-mile maker that many remember the most.

"I think one of the optical allusions is that you can actually see the runners going up the hill from a mile or two back on London Road," says Gustafson.

It is known as "Lemon Drop Hill." Over the years, runners have used the hill to make their move to the front and others have 'dropped' out of contention completely. Now living in Arizona, Eyewitness Sports spoke with former Duluth News Tribune writer Kevin Pates over the phone. Pates co-coined the phrase.

"Newspaper writers are always looking for something catchy. In the early 1980's, I decided and a colleague of mine, Mark Stodghill, who was also with the sports staff - we came up with the idea of Lemon Drop Hill. Lemon Drop Restaurant was there at the time we named it. I think the restaurant was out of there because of the freeway extension by 1990," said Pates.

"At about 1,700 feet in total length and a rise of 60 feet, it is not that bad of an incline really. It is because of the area in the race that it falls," says Gustafson.

Grandma's Marathon started in 1977, with roughly 150 runners. Today, the race has expanded to multiple events with over 18,000 runners. With all of the change, there is one thing that has stood the test of time and that is Dick Beardsley's all-time course record set in 1981 of 2:09:37.

"At 22 miles, I don't care who you are, if you are the elite runners upfront or a first timer, you are going to feel that hill," said Beardsley, during a phone interview with Eyewitness Sports.

Whether you are running or watching, remember in this race - a hill isn't just a hill.

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