3 of the Best Spring Marathons in Minnesota

Berit Thorkelson
| February 1, 2024 | 4 Minute Read
An older marathon runner holds his partner’s hand and smiles as he runs. Grandma’s Marathon

Invigorate your spring with a marathon—or join the crowds to cheer the runners on.

Grandma’s Marathon, June 20–22, Duluth

This race down Lake Superior’s North Shore is Minnesota’s oldest marathon. First held in 1977 with 150 runners competing, it takes its name from a local restaurant that was the only sponsor for the first race. Today, it’s a world-renowned run (above) that caps participants at 20,000. Friday’s William A. Irvin 5K and the Garry Bjorkland Half Marathon fill up quickly, but there are lots of great spots to cheer runners on, including a spectator train on the North Shore Scenic Railroad that moves with the leaders down the course. And the Rock the Bayfront Festival near the race finish in Canal Park is free and open to all.

A lake surrounded by trees at sunset. iStock

Run for the Lakes, May 3 & 4, Nisswa

There’s a reason “marathon” isn’t in the name of this annual Brainerd Jaycee’s-organized event showcasing Northern Minnesota’s woods and lakes (above). Running a full 26.2 miles is only one of a variety of race options for runners and non-runners alike. Besides the marathon, there’s a relay marathon, a half marathon, a 10K, a 5K Color Run, a Kids 1K and even a ZerOK, which requires—you guessed it—zero running whatsoever. Challenges named Uffda, You Betcha and Oh Fer Sure combine Friday’s 5K with one of Saturday’s races, netting finishers bonus swag. Many races even have virtual options.

Two marathon runners smile as they run next to each other. A concrete path is behind them. Tom Woo

Med City Marathon, May 18 & 19, Rochester

Health and community are at the heart of this two-day event. On Saturday, the Med City Expo at the Mayo Civic Center is an afternoon party, punctuated by a kids’ run and 5K run/walk, where corporate or community teams are encouraged to participate. On Sunday, the marathon (above) starts at the airport, winding through farmland, down a trail by the Zumbro River and eventually to the city proper. There’s a marathon relay, half-marathon and a 20-miler on Sunday, too. There’s also a live music-filled Finish Line Festival for racers and non-racing revelers alike.

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