Rochester man runs Grandma’s Marathon twice in one day

(ABC 6 News) – The annual running of Grandma’s Marathon was held last Saturday in Duluth and one Rochester man ran all 26.2 miles not only once, but twice.

Mike Schmitt woke up before the sun on Grandma’s Marathon morning to run the course from finish to start before he ran back to Duluth from Two Harbors to pace a group of runners with a goal of running the marathon in 3 hours and 50 minutes.

“So, a little bit of something for myself, a little bit something for the runners just made out to be a perfect day in the end,” Schmitt said. “I’ve had people ask me ‘Why run so much?’ Or do I think I put too much time into running? And my response back to them is always ‘Do you tell someone that they paint a lot? That they shouldn’t paint that much? Do you tell someone that when they play an instrument that they probably shouldn’t play that so much? Or when someone says I just finished a book in two days do you say that’s weird, why do you read so much?’ I find great joy in running.”

The 45-year-old said he knew he had the ability to run 52.4 miles in a day. But he wasn’t doing this for himself. Other runners were relying on him to get them to the finish line to meet their goals.

Schmitt said one Tuesday night in 2002, he was bored so he decided to run a couple of miles. Although it was difficult, he found joy in it. That was just the beginning. It’s been 20 years and he has run everything from 5K to an ultra marathon, including running between 50 and 60 marathons.

But June 18 was a different story.

“This was a whole new challenge,” he said.

The 26.2 miles from the finish to the start was not an official race by any means. It was put together by other pace groups. So, Schmitt was not running in the dark alone at 2:30 a.m. on Saturday.

Schmitt said what he got out of running the marathon for the second time that day was a charge to keep moving forward and inspiration from other runners along the way by helping one runner in particular who was struggling.

“She was breathing hard and I turned to her and I said ‘Don’t worry about this wind. As soon as we get on the other side of the ship, it’ll be at our back and then you can finish this race,'” he said.

There was a half mile left of the marathon and this woman was having a tough time because of the headwind.

“And as we came around the ship I said ‘Now you should run!’ And she took off and she blasted past me and she ran to the finish line. When I came across the finish line she turned to me as she was being helped by a volunteer and she said ‘You just helped me Boston qualify at this race.” And she gave me a big, sweaty hug and it was just the most enduring thing,” he said. “That’s why I pace. That’s what is so great about our community of runners is that you don’t have to know the person you’re next to.”

For a lot of marathon runners, it’s a big goal to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

“Doing that (pacing), I get to help other people achieve their goals as well,” Schmitt said.

His advice for those who want to start running or to get back into the sport again is “To be a runner you don’t have to run marathons. To be a runner you can do whatever distance you want to as long as it’s something that brings you joy. Whatever it is they want to accomplish, someone is going to be there to help them.”

Schmitt encourages the Rochester community to embrace the running groups we have in the Med City for a sense of community and great friendships.