Northern Wilds Magazine
Along the Shore

Training for Grandma’s

DuluthThud, thud, thud. I hear my feet hit the pavement in a monotonous pattern. It is mile seven of nine, I can no longer pretend that I am not bored of the run. The music in my ears has blended into a meaningless fuzz, so I try to focus my attention on the beauty of the trees around me instead of the growing discomfort in my legs. Thud, thud, thud. It’s not working.

Author Bailey Wolding is training to run the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon. | BAILEY WOLDING

“Why did I ever sign up for this half marathon?” I think to myself, as I complete mile eight.

I arrived at my front door, all 9 miles completed, with a faster pace than I had been expecting. Despite the pain in my legs, I felt good. I had just run nine miles for the first time in my life, and was now only four miles away from the half marathon distance of 13.1. That downtown Duluth finish line of the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon actually felt within reach.

It didn’t always feel that way though. I was persuaded to sign up for the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon by a friend. At the time, I could hardly run two miles. He, on the other hand, could fly out the door and run seven miles with no problem. He signed up for the full Grandma’s Marathon; all 26.2 miles of it. Due to my lack of running experience, I decided I should start training early. So I ran regularly in December and set January as my official start date for training. In January, my first long run was three miles. I was so proud when I completed those three miles. Now, my short runs are usually four to six miles, and I do those short runs three times a week. When I am feeling overwhelmed by the training, I think about that, how three miles used to be so hard, and feel more encouraged. My training has been working.

As I write this, Grandma’s Marathon weekend is only a month and a half away; the half marathon and full marathon take place on Saturday, June 17. I feel more ready now than I ever have. I’ve learned that podcasts distract me better than music, especially podcasts that tell a story, such as Serial or The Bright Sessions. I’ve learned that once I have hit a certain pace, I can maintain that pace without losing my breath too quickly or causing too much pain in my legs. I’ve pushed myself mentally to overcome the moments when my body is telling me to stop, but I know I can keep going. And I’ve felt so grateful to live in an area full of wonderful places to run like the Superior Hiking Trail and the Gitchi-Gami Bike Trail.

I know that race day will fill me with adrenaline and encouragement from 7,000 other runners (7,000 more in the full marathon, for a total of over 14,000 participants) and spectators. The whole weekend will be full of excitement, from the 21st annual Essentia Health Fitness Expo on Thursday, to the final celebration, Rock The Big Top, on Saturday night. Guest speakers on long-distance running, the traditional Michelina’s All-You-Can-Eat Spaghetti Dinner, and the 23rd annual William A. Irvin 5K will also take place on Friday. All events, beside the runs, are open to the public. If you are interested in watching the race, remember that travel near Duluth on June 17 will be limited. Scenic 61 will be shut down, as the majority of the race route is along it. It is recommended that spectators head to London Road, Lemon Drop Hill or Superior Street to see the racers. You can also track them on your smart phone, using the Live Runner Tracking Map, available at Find more information about events, packet-pickup and long-distance running online.

Training for Grandma’s Half Marathon has been difficult, but incredibly rewarding. It has taught me how to push myself, mentally and physically, and shown me how capable my body is. I may not ever run another long race, but I will carry habits of healthy eating and regular exercise with me as I go forward, thanks to the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon.

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