Created: June 18, 2021 08:09 PM
Grandma's Marathon is an early wake up call for everyone involved, but for one St. Paul native he's up even earlier than most.
That's because he starts at the finish line, runs up the North Shore to the start of the full marathon in Two Harbors, then joins the rest of the runners to run the actual Grandma's Marathon course. He's dubbed it the Grandma's Double and he'll be running it for his tenth time this year.
At 2:30 AM is Eric Strand reaches the finish line of Grandma's Marathon in Canal Park to embark on his first leg of the Grandma's Marathon Double.
"You get down to Canal Park and of course it's pretty much deserted," said Strand. "Then, a few hardy partiers that are out from Friday night and still out on Saturday morning early.
He says he loves to see the race course wake up. Over the years, he's seen some stellar sunrises, always makes sure to say thank you to the volunteers and often times is told 'you're going the wrong way.'
Strand ran his first Grandma's Marathon in 2000. It was supposed to be a one and done deal, but that didn't happen.
Growing up in the Twin Cities he camped and canoed along the North Shore and even proposed to his wife near the Lift Bridge back in 1982.
It was during the 2012 Grandma's Marathon weekend, when he realized he needed to fit in a training run for an ultramarathon in Colorado that was coming up. The 26.2 miles simply wasn't long enough for Strand, so that's when he decided to get up early and run the course backwards.
"In 2012, I decided to sign up for the Leadville 100, which is 100-mile race to the mountains. It starts in Leadville, Colorado at 10,200 feet. It's the highest incorporated town in the United States, which is part of what makes it a real challenge," he said.
The idea behind Strand's training is to get an 8 to 10 hour run in to prepare for a 20 to 30 hour ultramarathon.
He said he takes it easy the first leg, but when he reaches mile 40 that's when the big challenge begins. When putting one foot in front of the other becomes harder, it's the faces that line the streets throughout Duluth that get him across the finish line twice.
"It puts a little wind in your sails as you cross the Lester River. You're seven miles from the finish line, the crowds start to pick up, there's more bands there's more fans and just when you need a little help, there's a lot of people there to help you," explained Strand. "For an average runner like me, it's one weekend each year where you feel like rock star."
After finishing Grandma's Marathon. Strand is planning on running the Leadville 100 again this year. He's also running in the Chicago Marathon in October, then hopping on a plane and running the Boston Marathon the very next day.
Strand says if he can run Grandma's Marathon twice in one morning, he can run these two marathons back-to-back days.
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