Grandma’s Marathon 2013 Double: Embrace the Suck

Eric Strand embarks on his second annual 52.4-mile journey from the finish line to the starting line to the finish line of Grandma’s Marathon.



about 11 years ago

There used to be a guy they called the "hippie runner." He would do some shots at midnight at the Anchor, I think. He would then run to Two Harbors, sleep in someone's yard, get up and run the marathon back to Duluth. Rumor has it friends along the course would have a little weed for him at selected spots. Did I dream this or did he really exist?

Paul Lundgren

about 11 years ago

You are referring to Dusty Olson. I put together the synopsis below as a pitch to write a story on Dusty for Minnesota Monthly back in 2006, but the magazine didn't bite on it, so I never conducted any interviews or checked into the veracity of any of the local legends.

The Blatnik Interstate Bridge is not meant for pedestrians. It crosses over the shipping canal between Duluth and Superior, Wis., connecting the Twin Ports with four lanes of shoulderless highway. A person would have to be drunk to attempt crossing it on foot. And that drunk person would be Dusty Olson, a competitive distance runner with a penchant for chemical indulgences. For such a man, a seven-mile jaunt from the Anchor Bar to his Duluth Hillside home is nothing out of the ordinary. Olson has come out at the front of numerous marathons, including winning the Minnesota Voyageur 50-Mile-Trail Ultramarathon in 1993 (at age 19) and the Pepsi Challenge 48K Nordic ski race at Giants Ridge. He also has second-place finishes in the 2002 and 2005 Edmund Fitzgerald Ultramarathon, a 100-kilometer (62-mile) race from Finland to Duluth. But it's his drunken antics that have made him a legend in his home town. Perhaps the most famous incident was the time Olson drank until the Anchor closed and he feared he might oversleep and miss the bus to the start of that morning's Grandma's Marathon. Being intoxicated, he did the only logical thing. He ran across the bridge, then headed north to Two Harbors, running the marathon course in reverse to the starting line. He then took a nap on someone's lawn until the gun went off, after which he ran the race in the direction it was intended, finishing it in just over three hours. Despite his reputation as a party lover, Olson is nonetheless the pacer for America's undisputed ultramarathon champion, a strict vegan who prefers soy protein drinks to tap beer. Proctor native Scott Jurek has won 20 ultramarathons and holds two course records, finishing the Western States Endurance Run in 15:36:27 in 2004 and the Badwater Ultramarathon — a 135-mile race from Death Valley to the slopes of Mt. Whitney — in 24:36:08 in 2005. Jurek credits Olson with introducing him to ultramarathons. But Olson's attitude has also been known to clash with other athletes. Fitness guru and Swiss Gigathlon winner Rod Raymond kicked Olson out of two bars he owns in Duluth, putting up signs that read: "Dusty Olson is banned from the premises." Olson thought the phrase was funny, and had it printed on bumper stickers, which began showing up all over town. Olson is also believed to be the perpetrator of Duluth's most perplexing graffiti stunt. Several years ago, the words "beat this" were spray-painted underneath the Chester Creek Bridge at its very center, directly above the creek, where no man could reach without rigging up some serious ropes and pulleys. A city crew has since been called to the scene to spray gray paint over it, thus accepting Olson's challenge. Olson's appreciation for marijuana is no secret. Chad Salmela, head cross-country ski coach at the College of St. Scholastica and also a musician who performs simply as Chad, alluded to Olson on his debut 2002 album with these lyrics: Well, you can't keep Dusty on the ground, Cause you know that Dust is gonna fly. If it's the Rocky Mountain way, Or his homegrown hay, Well, you know that Dusty's gettin' high. Olson's next race is the Mountain Masochist Trail Run on November 4. The 50-mile race courses through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia State. The running surfaces consist of dirt roads, trails and some pavement.
Dusty has been in the news recently for battling back from Lyme Disease to finish 35th in the Speedgoat 50K in Snowbird, Utah. Duluth News Tribune: Duluth man rejuvenated, ready to run again after battling Lyme disease I walked under the Chester Creek Bridge about a week ago and something was spray painted there that was similar to "Beat this," but not the exact phrase. I think a city crew painted over the original and either Dusty returned or someone else is responsible for what's there now. I think the item below is a re-creation of the original, but I never saw the original, so I'm not sure. [img][/img]


about 11 years ago

The underbridge says "Beat it" ala Michael Jackson. There's another clumsier set of letters near it that looks like it may have been sprayed on with some sort of super-graffiti-soaker. Thanks for the history tour.

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