For more than 38 years, Linda Hanson has worked behind the scenes to make Grandma’s Marathon Weekend – and 21 other events throughout the year – happen. As the Finance & Operations Director, she does whatever is needed on any given day, working toward the “greater good of the events.” As a lifetime Duluthian, she’s been proud to represent the community across the country while promoting Grandma’s Marathon. She has truly enjoyed her job, but now, she’s getting ready to hang up her hat and soak in her last Grandma’s Weekend as a member of the team. Next up? Retirement, so she can enjoy even more of all there is to love about Duluth.
What’s your Duluth story?
I am a West Duluth – Raleigh Street kid and proud Denfeld Hunter alumni. I was involved heavily in sports growing up, and my first job was at Sammy’s Pizza in West Duluth – which now seems like an eternity ago. I have been married for nearly 35 years to my best friend and am a very proud Mom of two young men. I’m also a happy Grandma to two little boys, who I cannot wait to spend a whole lot more time with.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Everything I do at Grandma’s Marathon is fun. When I walk through the door each day, I can’t wait to get into my office and get going. They say, “If you love your job – you will never work a day in your life,” and they’re right! I have been extremely fortunate to have one of the absolute best jobs on the planet! It has truly been an honor and a privilege to be part of this organization, as well as an ambassador to this community. The opportunity as staff that we are given when we travel to other races around the country to promote Duluth and the surrounding communities each year is extremely rewarding. I have been all over the United States and have loved every minute of it!
What has been one of the biggest changes to Grandma’s Marathon since you first started?
I would say the move to Bayfront Park was a fantastic decision. What a great venue – lots of room for everyone to enjoy themselves. If you want to be front and center near the stage, you can be. If you want to sit back and find your spot on the grass, you can do that too. Or if you want to sit at a table under a tent comfortably, we have that option, as well. We work extremely hard to provide the very best experience for all who come and join in on the celebration, and we always strive to improve.
What is your favorite part of Grandma’s Marathon weekend?
My favorite parts of Race Weekend are working at the Michelina’s All You Can Eat Spaghetti Dinner at the DECC on Friday, and managing the entertainment over at Bayfront. You will find me behind the bar alongside many volunteers, who so generously give their time. It is awesome to congratulate everybody who crossed the finish line and help them celebrate their achievement.
What would people be surprised to know about Grandma’s Marathon?
The year-round staff at Grandma’s Marathon is extremely committed. You could probably drive by well after 5 p.m. on most nights, and the lights will be on as we prepare for an upcoming event. Every year, we host 21 events beyond Race Weekend, and that takes a lot of work.
Where is your favorite spot to spectate?
As staff, we are unable to participate in any of the races because we are all working. I’m typically managing the entertainment at Bayfront, so my favorite spectating spot is the JumboTron there.
For non-runners, what are some fun ways to get involved with Grandma’s Marathon Weekend?
Grandma’s Marathon is great way to give back to the community, whether people want to volunteer or cheer along the route. Many of the folks who come here are absolutely amazed by how friendly, helpful and encouraging everyone is. This is something very special found here in Duluth. Many races across the country cannot duplicate what comes so naturally here, and this is truly because of this community and the people who call it home.
You’re getting ready for a well-deserved retirement – congratulations! What are you looking forward to?
As much as I love my job – and I do – I truly love being off more. My husband and I are fortunate enough to retire at the same time. We had a plan on paper that was implemented five years ago, and according to our financial planners, we are good to go! We are excited to do what we want, when we want and cannot wait to get started!
What do you love about Duluth?
The natural beauty that we have right outside our door. In retirement we will finally have time to really enjoy and explore all it has to offer. There is so much that I enjoy and look forward to doing more of as I head into retirement. Life is good and about to get better.