To everything there is a season.

– Solomon, Biblical Author and Ultrarunner

How do you mark time?  Semesters, mortgage payments, elections, heartbeats, movement of the stars?  For compulsive runners, it’s the annual marathon . . . the one you were going to do just that one time.  One and done.  Right.

I’m at Midway in Chicago waiting to catch a flight to Minneapolis.  From there we trek north to Duluth and the start of my 15th straight Grandma’s Marathon tomorrow morning.  Once again I have displayed a complete inability to ignore the siren song of this annual gathering of a particular breed of runner who says things like “aboot”, “uff da” and “hotdish”.  This is my homeland. These are my people.

Grandma’s Marathon, Minnesota and Duluth are all very special.  I proposed to my wife near the lighthouse overlooking Lake Superior.  I ran my very first marathon (about 45 marathons ago) in Duluth.  My son, Zach, joined me for his very first marathon last year.  Like the smelt making an early summer run from Lake Superior up the stream to their ancestral home, we  return to visit with family and friends.  And each year I pin the bib, spread the BODYGLIDE and try to recapture the magic of that very first run.  It’s never quite the same. But it’s always, always good.

“Grandma’s Marathon” is named after the original sponsor of the race, “Grandma’s Saloon”, which was named after “Grandma” who ran a very successful house of ill repute.  According to legend, the lumberjacks up in Two Harbors (conveniently 26.2 miles up the lake in Twin Harbors) were paid once a year.  They would grab their earnings, lace up their Hokas and race to Duluth with the winner having his pick of Grandma’s, um, services.

These days, most of those toeing the start line in Two Harbors head south to Duluth for far nobler purposes: a medal, t-shirt, pride and post-race Miller Lite.  I, on the other hand, have something a little different in mind.  I don’t need a medal.  I don’t need another t-shirt.  What I do need is a 52.4 mile training run to help prepare for the Leadville 100 in August.  That and a Miller Lite.

At 2:45 AM tomorrow, Tami will be dropping me off at the Grandma’s Marathon finish line for the start of the 3rd annual 52.4-mile Grandma’s Marathon Double.  I have won the race the past two years.  Some may quibble that I was the only one running the race and suggest that I actually came in last place.  Haters gonna hate.

Will I have any company this year?  It doesn’t appear there are any takers so far, but that’s OK.  The drunks will be letting out of the bars.  The moon will light up the early part of the journey.  The rising sun will paint the horizon of Lake Superior.  The loons will call.  And I will answer.   Ahh-ooooooooooooo.  Probably a good thing no one is around.

And people will tell me I’m going the wrong way.  Here’s the video from last year’s wrong-way run:

Tomorrow is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere.  For the Scandanavians, it’s Midsummer’s Day, a time to celebrate renewal. Rebirth. Life.  On Sunday we start the inexorable journey back to winter.  But today, we celebrate.

How do you measure the passing of the seasons?

However you choose, I’d suggest mark your time in a way that your time spent leaves a mark on you.


p.s. Good luck to Zach Strand and David Maas who are starting their own annual pilgrimage to Duluth with an attempt at their 2nd Grandma’s Marathon in two years!