DULUTH — Grandma's Marathon is the city's biggest event of the year, when thousands of runners and spectators descend upon Duluth to run and party.

The 48th annual race starts Saturday morning near Two Harbors. Runners wind along the North Shore to the finish line in Canal Park. The half-marathon starts along Scenic Hwy. 61 and follows the same route. Between the two, about 17,000 runners are registered — both at max capacity.

And lo, is it a feast for the senses, whether it's the wafts of bacon on London Road, the colorful collection of troll dolls lined along a curb on the outskirts of town, or the rhino's weight in spaghetti sauce that racers and friends will consume prior to the main event.

We collected a sampling of the wildest things that runners and aficionados might see while running, watching, or carb loading. Here are our findings:

Double marathoner: Get to the marathon extra early, alongside the street sweepers, and you might see Eric Strand (and friends) making his way up the North Shore to the starting line. By foot. For years, the St. Paul native has started his run from the finish line in Canal Park around 2 a.m., helped along by the whoops from the bar crowd. Then he turns around at the starting line and goes back with the rest of the runners for a 52.4-mile day. He uses it as training for the Leadville Trail 100 in Colorado — and makes a new colorful video every year.

Fancy footwear: Steph Smith will run the double-marathon alongside Strand for a third time — while wearing Crocs. The Twin Cities runner has been sold on the unlikely shoe for more than two years, born of a simple experiment. "They were so comfortable to walk around in, that I was curious how they would feel on a run," she said via email. "I instantly loved them for their wide toe box and lightweight ride. As I've increased distance and miles in Crocs over the years, I've found that they are the only running shoe I've never had a blister in, which keeps my feet in good shape for marathons and ultras." On social media, Smith describes herself as being in her yellow Croc era.

Tutus for miles: Not everyone opts for conventional runner's attire: shorts, tank top, favorite brand of shoe and a sheen of Body Glide. There are colorful tutus aplenty, not to mention far more elaborate outfits that seem like they would add a level of difficulty. Capes, tall hats, headbands with springy ears, Scooby-Doo onesies, smelt, a duo dressed as a centipede, hot dogs. One of reader Kathleen Wolleat's favorite moments: "Seeing a runner fully dressed like a chicken and thinking that I missed my husband because he would be faster than that ... nope!" she wrote.

Speaking of costumes: Of course Grandma's Marathon has a mascot. Leah Hulst will again don the Victorian-era flouncy blouse, long skirt and fitted coat to greet or assist runners, if needed, at the finish line. All weekend long, she's in the role of Grandma Rosa — the oft-photographed feisty madam with a boarding house, according to the namesake restaurant's lore.

Beer and bacon: The race course has a handful of official stops with bananas, strawberries, oranges, sports drinks and water. But once runners hit the Lakeside neighborhood, the unofficial options turn hardcore. Not long after passing the Lester River, there is a waft of bacon. Then there are bystanders offering cupcakes, mini cups of beer or tugs from a beer bong — a quick carb load for the last few miles.

Bathrooms galore: The world is a runner's bathroom. Grandma's Marathon officials post plenty of porta-potty stops at the starting line and along the route. But can there ever be enough? People can get bold about their bathroom breaks during races — so much so that some along the North Shore post anti-pee signs on their property.

That's entertainment: A fan favorite along the course is the costumed John Herbertz, who has for years set up his trampoline, cranked his music and posted a sign with a running pun at mile 18. According to Grandma's Marathon's list of sideline entertainment, he will be back this year — along with the Knife River String Band and Sir Ben's String Band, a bunch of ukulele players, UMD's Dance and Ballroom Dance teams, a horde of people in kilts and a man singing a load of Kelly Clarkson songs.

Bachelor on the run: Zac Clark, who won season 16 of "The Bachelorette," and ended up engaged but never married to Tayshia Adams, is scheduled to run this year's marathon, according to race officials. The goss: In recent months, he has been tied to "Bachelorette" star Kaitlyn Bristowe. Clark, who is sober, is known for the advocacy work he does around addiction recovery. He will be a guest on the "Dick [Beardsley] & Carrie [Tollefson] Pre-Race Talk Show" at 4 p.m. Friday at Paulucci Hall at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. Other guests on the show include fan-favorite runner Dakotah Lindwurm (two-time winner who is headed to the 2024 Olympics) and Alan Noel of Black Men Run.

Grandma's spaghetti: This event is known for its loads and loads of pre-race food. It starts with more than a ton of spaghetti, 5,000 pounds of sauce and 12,000 pounds of meatballs — the meatballs the equivalent to the weight of an elephant. The chefs will go through 25 pounds of basil and 360 pounds of lettuce.

Staff writer Jana Hollingsworth contributed to this story.