DULUTH – Grandma's Marathon gained recognition almost from its start in 1977, yet when Lorraine Moller and Dick Beardsley ran particularly fast along the North Shore in 1981, the world noticed.

They were among the first ambassadors for the Duluth race. Moller, a Minneapolis summer resident from New Zealand, recorded the seventh-fastest time in women's history, 2 hours, 29 minutes, 36 seconds, at age 26. Beardsley, then a 25-year-old living in Excelsior, was first overall, tying the world's ninth-fastest time in 2:09:37.

Others have run well from Two Harbors to Duluth the past 46 years and praised Grandma's Marathon for its course and organization, and cooling Lake Superior-influenced weather.

Minnesotan Dakotah Lindwurm has been here three times, winning two women's titles, and loves the state's oldest marathon. She was first a year ago in 2:25:01, the second-fastest women's time in event history, and will head the field for Saturday's 47th running of Grandma's Marathon.

"This race has given me some of the best moments of my life. Priceless moments," she said from her home in Hopkins. "I've traveled throughout the country, but I know when I come to Duluth there is no stress, there is no anxiety. This is like being home."

This ambassador is among the state's best distance runners along with Emma Bates, 30, of Elk River and ultramarathon phenom Courtney Dauwalter, 38, of Hopkins. While Lindwurm, 28, who grew up in St. Francis, is featured Saturday, there's no denying her focus is the 2024 U.S. Olympic marathon trials, Feb. 3 in Orlando.

The 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris isn't an impossible dream. Janis Klecker, who grew up in Bloomington, won Grandma's Marathon in 1987 and competed in the 1992 Barcelona Games. Moller won three straight years in Duluth and then ran in four Olympic marathons, earning a bronze medal in Barcelona.

"Last year, before Grandma's, Dakotah and I talked about a time of 2:26. And even though she had run in Boston just two months before, and then had COVID, we didn't want to adjust to a slower pace," said Minnesota Distance Elite team coach Chris Lundstrom. "In fact, I said 'Maybe you can look at 2:24.' And she must've thought I was joking, but I was serious. And then she knocked it out of the park in Duluth.

"It's difficult to compare runners from different eras, but Dakotah knows [two-time Grandma's winner] Jan Ettle and Janis Klecker and [two-time Olympian] Kara Goucher. She knows Minnesota's history and wants to be part of it. She's entering her golden years and I'm not surprised at what she does from one week to the next."

The 5-1 and 105-pound former Northern State (S.D.) athlete hasn't overdone it in five years of road racing, entering just 10 marathons. Her debut at 26.2 miles was the 2019 Grandma's Marathon, placing fourth. Lindwurm, an only child, embraced her mother, Connie Bullen, after crossing the Canal Park finish line. Less than a year later, on May 7, 2020, Bullen was diagnosed with lung cancer. She died three weeks later at age 49.

"She was my biggest fan. She was the reason I started running [after years as a high school hockey goalie]. She was the reason I've wanted to be an Olympic runner," said Lindwurm, 36th in the 2020 U.S. Olympic marathon trials. "I'm not the best runner, but I think Minnesotans work hard and are mentally strong."

Her finish-line tradition has continued. When Lindwurm won the 2021 Grandma's Marathon, she embraced her dad, Shawn Bullen, and after the 2022 victory, she hugged her grandfather, Sev Wanous of Andover. Last year's time, on an ideal, 50-degree day, was a personal best by four minutes and the 12th-best in American women's marathon history.

Lindwurm placed 27th in a rainy, cold Boston Marathon only two months ago in 2:33:53, and recovered to finish fourth in the USA 25-kilometer championships, May 13 in Grand Rapids, Mich., in a personal-best 1:25:58. The Puma-sponsored runner, who has done paralegal work for a patent company and coaches as many as 30 athletes online, says her job right now is road racing. And always running with a smile.

"I literally love to run and race," she told Runner's World in 2022. "To me, I feel better when I'm smiling. When I look around and I see the lead pack of women, and everybody is just so serious and kind of grumpy-looking, I'm like, 'Come on, don't you guys enjoy this? Aren't you having as much fun as I am?'"

Race notes

— A cool morning a year ago meant good results. Five of the top 10 men's and women's times in Grandma's history were recorded. And wheelchair course records were set for men and women.

— Defending men's champion (and course recordholder) Dominic Ondoro, 34, of Kenya returns along with four-time champion Elisha Barno of Kenya, a member of the 2023 Grandma's Marathon Hall of Fame induction class, and 2021 champion Milton Rotich of Kenya. In the women's field is 2014 champion Pasca Jerno, a Kenyan native.

— The marathon has sold out for a second straight year, with 9,125 entries, the most since 2016. The 33rd Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon has 9,275 entries. Last year there were 5,957 marathon finishers and 7,006 half marathon finishers.

— Duluth's weather forecast for Saturday shows an overnight low of 50 and a daytime high near 72 with sunny skies, and east winds of 5-10 mph. The air quality is likely to be reduced due to Canadian wildfires, although the air was much clearer Thursday than it was Wednesday.


7:40 a.m. Saturday, 26.2 miles, starting at Two Harbors. Finishing at Duluth's Canal Park Drive. Wheelchair race starts at 7:35 a.m.

Field: 9,125 registered runners compete for $107,450 in prize money ($10,000 each to men's and women's overall winners).

Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon

6 a.m. Saturday, 13.1 miles, starting from the Talmadge River on North Shore Drive to Duluth's Canal Park Drive. Adaptive division starts at 5:50 a.m.

Field: 9,275 registered runners compete for $26,425 in prize money ($3,000 each to men's and women's overall winners).