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Grandma's Marathon: The runners and their stories

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Thousands will be pounding the pavement from Two Harbors, down the coast of Lake Superior and into Duluth's Canal Park Saturday morning, for the 38th running of the Grandma's Marathon.

The Duluth News Tribune reports temps are expected to be in the 50s for the race, with a smidgen of rain. Winds will blow in from the northeast, behind the runners, the paper says. Those are considered good conditions for runners to compete in.

The pre-race weather is getting in the way for a handful of hopefuls however. Storms from this past week made it difficult for some runners to get up north, and there were reports of canceled and delayed flights.

You can find the course map here. C Tolle Run put together a first-person view of the route.

Here's a look at some of the runners participating this year.

The defending champ

One of last year's champions will be back to defend a title.

Sarak Kiptoo ran straight into the record books last year with a finishing time of 2:26.31 – besting the previous record by 33 seconds. The then-23-year-old from Kenya led nearly the entire way in 2013, and after the race told the Pioneer Press she was alone for most of the race.

"I was alone the whole way, only the (lead) bike," Kiptoo said. "I just said I have to go, because I have to run. I didn't care who was behind me."

You can track Kiptoo's progress Saturday by clicking here.

For the men it was Baza Worku, who eked out a victory in 2:11.14, but he won't be competing this year. The men's record is 2:09.37, set in 1981 by Excelsior native Dick Beardsley.

Media profiles

A number of media outlets produced spotlight pieces about some runners.

The Star Tribune's Amelia Rayno featured two runners.

First there's Alana Hadley, a 17-year-old from North Carolina who broke half marathon age records each of the past two years, and ran a 5k with her mother at age 5. She shifted up to full marathons last year, and now balances more than a hundred miles of runing each week with the regular classwork rigor of a high schooler, the paper reports.

Not only does she have her sights set on the Grandma's Marathon leader board, she tells the Star Tribune, but also the 2016 Olympics. Maybe even beyond.

Meanwhile Richard Schletty, the paper reports, is trying to pick up where his late brother left off. Joe Schletty ran in 187 marathons over the course of four decades, with a goal of reaching 200. But just a few years ago, he died from lung cancer at the age of 64, 13 marathons short. That prompted Richard Schletty to get back on the 26.2-mile course for the first time in years at the Grandma's Marathon, the paper reports.

In 2013, he and a group of friends finished the Twin Cities marathon, pushing the Schlettys' marathon tally up to 188. Richard, 61, hopes to make it 189 today.

Northland's News Center spoke with members of 'Team Hope,' a group made up of 214 members from across the region who hope to raise awareness of – and money for – the battle against pancreatic cancer. Leah Hagen, a member of the team, saw her mother and grandmother die from the disease, and tells the station the support of running with a team is motivating.

The Duluth News Tribune ran a couple profiles.

One of the expected top finishers, Hermantown's own Donny Sazama, couldn't have seen himself running marathons nine years ago. He tells the paper he was using drugs, living with his parents, and "exhausted ... wasting away." Now 36 years old, Sazama has transformed from a young substance abuser, starting as early as 12 years old, to one of Grandma's top competitors.

Superior's Alyssa Meller meanwhile, is running her first half marathon – despite getting diagnosed with multiple sclerosis two years ago. She tells the News Tribune she could barely move around, but working toward running gave her a goal and made her strong.

Forum News Service looked at a potential favorite – Nick Arciniaga, a 30-year-old from California who could never seem to win a marathon, despite getting close. That's until 2013 at least, when he took the 2013 Twin Cities Marathon. He's now looking to add a Grandma's victory to his list of achievements.

The race starts at 7:45 a.m. Saturday.

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