FTC member Kelly McCoy Griffin grabbed a spot in the Olympic Marathon Trials on June 22 during a picture-perfect day at Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota. Kelly will join her coach and fellow FTC member Enoch Nadler at the trials in Atlanta on February 29, 2020.
With temperatures in the low 50s and the predicted rain nowhere in sight, runners took off shortly before 8 am on the edge of Lake Superior. A military jet flyover marked the start, as more than 6,000 runners chased the course south from Two Harbors, Minnesota to downtown Duluth.
Griffin finished in style, with a negative split and a total time of 2:43:34. The blistering 6:15 per mile pace means that she’ll line up in Atlanta with other qualifiers such as Des Linden, Molly Huddle, Shalane Flanagan, and Allie Kieffer.
Several other members of FTC traveled to the Northland to check out the Grandma’s experience. Among them was FTC vice president Gretchen Loyd, who remarked upon the beauty of the course. “I remember coming around a bend and having a view of the lake through the trees with Duluth off in the distance, it was really just stunning. I took a deep breath and soaked up the view,” said Loyd.
Christine Stinson enjoyed the unique transportation to the start. “They had a train for the first 1,000 passengers which took us from the finish line to the starting line. It was fun to be on the train, watch the scenery, and chat with other runners before the race,” Stinson said. She was able to enjoy the race knowing that she had already qualified for Boston at the Charlottesville (VA) marathon earlier in the year.
Matt Taddeo raced the accompanying half-marathon, the Gary Bjorkland Half. He described it as “the opportunity to run alongside athletes from around the country and work together towards a common goal is one of my favorite aspects of racing at such a large event. Grandma's offers a supportive and energetic race environment that is beneficial for runners of all levels.” Victoria Pagan also ran the half, and was one of the top fundraisers for the Circle of Life, a charity partner of the race that provides support to cancer patients.
Angela de Simone, who earned her cherished Boston qualifying time, loved everything about the race. “The community support grew and as we got closer people were lined up from the top looking down and all along the sides. The hydration stations were so well marked and both sides.” All the FTC members agreed that the race was extremely well-organized. Also, “Minnesota Nice” isn’t just a slogan—the people truly are extremely and helpful. As Susan Merolillo noted, “The support was wonderful, and I think it must have been the most exciting thing happening in Duluth all year because the entire town seemed to be out. I felt like I should have dressed up or danced or ridden a float or something because they were so excited to watch people run past.”
One other thing members of our Florida contingent agreed upon is the need to plan early. Duluth has a small regional airport, and direct flights can be pricey. Minneapolis is a little more than two hours south. Lodging sells out very quickly, and prices are very high. Good options include local boarding schools and colleges, which rent out apartment-style dorm rooms to runners.