Grandma's Marathon details modified pre-race events, half capacity race and viewing modifications

Updated: April 20, 2021 10:59 PM
Created: April 20, 2021 08:20 PM

With about less than two months until Grandma's Marathon, organizers continue rolling out plans on what 2021 race day will look like come June. Some of the changes include 50% in-person capacity for runners, a rolling start, modified pre-race events and viewing modifications.

“We’re announcing this now not because we’ve been given the green light, but because we’re a little more than two months out and we believe our current registrants and the community deserve to know where we stand on some of the bigger planning items,” Marketing & Public Relations Director Zach Schneider said via a release. “We’re working with the appropriate state and city agencies, and even as we know conditions can always change at any time, we’re confident that this version of Grandma’s Marathon can happen successfully and as safely as possible in June.”

The 45th annual marathon, the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon and the William A. Irvin 5K races are limited to 50% capacity in compliance with Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 protocols.

Organizers plan to use a modified transportation schedule and rolling start process this year to help create adequate space for social distancing between participants on the racecourse. In addition, masks or face coverings will be required throughout the weekend event, except while actively participating in a race.

“The runner experience from start to finish is going to be a bit different this year,” Race Director Greg Haapala said. “Participants might board the bus at a different location or time, and there won’t be the usual mass start, but our crowd science models show those are the things that will reduce density throughout the day and promotes social distancing. So much of this depends on personal responsibility, and we’re confident everyone involved can and will act appropriately.”

The Essentia Health Fitness Expo and Michelina’s All-You-Can-Eat Spaghetti Dinner will take place, but in a modified fashion. Under current MDH guidelines, the max capacity for the entire DECC campus is 1,500 people.

Traffic flow throughout the DECC campus has been modified to mostly one way and includes just one entrance and exit point. Masks or face coverings will be required at all times.

“We had to rethink the entire layout of those events, using more and different space on the DECC campus so we can accommodate everything,” Registration & Expo Director Laura Bergen said. “From reduced capacities to one-way traffic patterns, every change we’ve made is in the interest of continuing to provide a great experience while keeping our participants and the community as safe as possible.”

Spectators are discouraged from any large gatherings at this year’s Grandma’s Marathon. Most traditional viewing spots in downtown Duluth and Canal Park will be unavailable this year, and anyone who does choose to be involved with the race is asked to follow the existing mask and social distancing guidelines.

Due to the limitations on spectators, the traditional “Rock the Big Top” post-race celebration in Canal Park is canceled.

“Those things hurt because the people are such a big piece of the atmosphere that makes Grandma’s Marathon special,” Schneider said. “To ask supporters to stay home is not what we want, but it is what’s necessary so we can have the race and be good stewards of our community at the same time.”

The 45th annual Grandma’s Marathon weekend is scheduled for June 17-19, 2021. Race organizers continue discussions with state and local authorities, but say final approval for the event still has not been given.

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