33rd Annual Fitgers 5K Brings Out Eager Runners Despite Gloomy Weather

DULUTH, Minn. — Less than ideal conditions for a race on Saturday morning, but it’s Duluth — it’s what people do. More than 800 people came out for the 33rd annual Fitgers 5k.

The running community in Duluth is always active rain or shine, and it shows in the hundreds who run multiple grandma’s marathon races throughout the year. The Fitger’s 5k usually marks as a kickoff to Grandma’s summer, but you sure couldn’t tell with Saturday’s weather.

“It can make for a good story, it can make for a fun experience, and everybody who’s out here today wants to be out here despite the rain, and the cold, and the wind,” Zach Schneider, the Marketing And PR Director of Grandma’s Marathon said.

Staying optimistic is the only choice when prepping yourself for a 5k on a 25-degree morning, and the racers did their best against the conditions.

“I mean the wind was pretty strong from the east and just really cold,” First place winner on the men’s side, Scott Behling said.

The simple layout of the course helped, starting on Superior Street and continuing down London road.

“It’s an out and back course so I mean the good news is that you’re going into the wind as you go out, but you get the wind back with you as you come back to the finish line,” Schneider said.

That push from behind is what women’s first-place finisher needed, after strategizing her approach against the wind during the first mile.

“It’s a typical Duluth day, I just tried to tuck behind some of the men on the way out cause the headwind was really strong,” Chelsey Youngberg, the First Place Women’s Winner said.

And for Behling, winning his 4th Fitgers 5K, this is a good way to train for the 26.2 miles in June.

“Yeah I’ll be running the full marathon, this will be my first time running it so a lot of big miles earlier this spring which has been tough due to the weather but overall I’m pretty excited,” Behling said.

His fellow winner is also in the thick of marathon training.

“I’m from Duluth so this is my first Fitgers 5k, I’m training for grandmas marathon so, I just did an 18-mile run yesterday morning and didn’t expect to do well,” Youngberg said.

For Grandma’s staff, this event puts their planning skills to the test as well, as Grandma’s weekend consists of 3 different races, the William A. Irvin 5K, the Gary Bjorklund half marathon, and of course the full.

“Fitgers 5k is always kind of a testing ground for us it’s not on the same scale as Grandma’s marathon but it is a chance to get a couple thousand runners out here. We’re excited for it but after today, yeah, all eyes are pointed towards June and Grandmas Marathon,” Schneider added.

Grandma’s Marathon weekend kicks off with pre-marathon fun starting on June 16th ahead of the marathon on the 18th.

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