North Shore group set pace for what Grandma's is todayGrandma’s Marathon owes its life to the North Shore Striders, a group of citizen runners that formed in 1968 and ruled the roads in Northeastern Minnesota in the 1970s and ’80s.
By: Forum Newspapers, Lake County News Chronicle
Grandma’s Marathon owes its life to the North Shore Striders, a group of citizen runners that formed in 1968 and ruled the roads in Northeastern Minnesota in the 1970s and ’80s.
They organized races, including the debut of Grandma’s Marathon in 1977, and competed locally and nationally, before fading from the scene by 1988.
Scott Keenan of Duluth believes it’s time for a revival, and went to the Grandma’s Marathon board of directors for seed money in January. The race executive director, and an original club member, received funding — $30,000 over three years — and the new edition of the North Shore Striders is expected to meet for the first time in July.
“We had one of the largest running clubs in the area, and we were proud members,” said Keenan, who has led the marathon since its first day. “Without it, there’s been a void. Nothing has replaced it, and I hoped that the occasion of the 35th Grandma’s would be a great time to create some new interest.”
While members of the previous version of the club gather this week, in advance of Saturday’s Grandma’s Marathon, the new club has new legs.
The North Shore Striders, a nonprofit corporation, is back on its feet with an 11-member board of directors and is an entity separate from Grandma’s Marathon. Club goals include organizing races in the area, elite runner development and being a resource for citizen runners. A website is expected to be in operation by the end of June.
“We took a successful organization for granted and then it was gone,” said Kevin Peterson, 53, of Superior, a member of the original club and chairman of the Grandma’s Marathon board of directors. “One thing motivating the revival was to inspire people to be physically active. If you’re a walker or a runner, and no matter what your age, there’s a place for you. We want to put on races and give runners a chance to try road racing, cross country and track events.”
Keenan didn’t make his proposal on a lark. He got input from a number of interested parties, including one of the most famous North Shore Striders, Garry Bjorklund of Twig, a 1976 U.S. Olympian on the track, who ran his first marathon in the first Grandma’s Marathon; Duluth Olympian Kara Goucher; and state Senator Roger Reinert of Duluth, an avid runner.
“I cherish my association with the North Shore Striders because the Duluth running community has pioneered so many events and activities,” said Bjorklund, 60, who lives in Fort Collins, Colo. “Reinstating the name would be a fitting tribute to so many dedicated runners and citizens of the community who made Duluth a running Mecca of the Upper Midwest.”
Clint Agar, co-owner of the Duluth Running Company equipment store, has organized races in the area, including the Gobble Gallop 5K on Thanksgiving, and was approached by Keenan to be president of the revived club. Agar agreed, saying he shared Keenan’s vision.
“What makes Duluth such a great town is how friendly everyone is, and the North Shore Striders will give runners a chance to meet people. You’ll be connected to a great resource for running,” said Agar, 28, a Duluth East and Minnesota Duluth graduate, and triathlete.
North Shore Striders organizers hope to be putting on races in the area by August or September and expect to have 500 members within three years, Agar said. The boundaries of the club will extend beyond Duluth-Superior, to Northwestern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Keenan said. Annual membership fees will be $20 for an individual and $30 for families.
Running clubs in the area sponsored by the Duluth Running Club and Austin-Jarrow Sports are expected to continue fielding racing teams, said Agar, while the North Shore Striders also will have an elite team. The funding for the club will be provided in increments of $10,000 per year over three years from Grandma’s Marathon and the Young Athletes Foundation.
Because of their organizing efforts, the original North Shore Striders were inducted into the Grandma’s Marathon Hall of Fame as a group in 2006. The new North Shore Striders hope to follow in their footsteps.