Fans Cheer Grandma’s Marathon Runners to the Finish Line

Thousands of Spectators Come Every Year to Root for Their Favorite Marathoners

DULUTH, Minn. – As runners raced through Grandma’s Marathon, a sideline chorus cheered them to the finish line.

“We expect Eric to come in soon and then we’ll be cheering for Jill. Yay Jill!” cheered Rhende Hagemeister, who made signs to cheer on runners.

The fans gave words, and other sounds, of encouragement.

“We just wanted to push people,” said Bianca, who watched the marathon.

“We wanted to push people really hard and have them run and believing in themselves that they can do it,” said Amelia, who cheered as well.

They helped inspire their favorite runners to reach their goal.

“I hope she’s towards the front of it, maybe number one would be nice, but can’t have everything,” laughed Virginia Stam, who traveled from Texas to watch her granddaughter run the marathon.

For a lot of marathoners, cheers from fans make a big difference.

“It’s like a little power shot,” said Kristin Pladson, who was cheering for her husband in the half marathon. “It keeps you going knowing that they’re seeing you and cheering you on and that you’re not just out here in a vacuum doing it on your own.”

On race day, motivation comes from competitors too.

“I’m seeing these runners turning and smiling at each other and encouraging each other on to the finish line,” said Pladson. “They’ve never seen each other before. They’ll probably never see each other again and yet, for these few miles, it’s a big family.”

But the die-hard fans come back year after year because they feel a calling to help turn a runners struggle into a triumph.

“The pain on their faces on some of them is terrible,” said Stam. “I feel sorry for them.”

“When they hear your bell and they see your smiles, they get new energy and they’re ready to go, whether it’s in the eleventh mile, or the twentieth mile, or right at the end,” said Hagemeister.

And now, they’ve become part an essential part of the marathon atmosphere.

“I think that as we’re cheering them on, they’d run faster,” said Amelia.