(DULUTH, MINN.) — Six individuals, ranging from past champions to longtime volunteers, will be honored this Grandma’s Marathon weekend for their longstanding and meaningful contributions to the success of the event.

The awards will be presented at several different events throughout the 2022 race weekend, and media is invited to cover each of those events.


Two-time Grandma’s Marathon champion Garry Bjorklund will be the recipient of this year’s Scott A. Keenan Founder’s Award, marking his lifetime of contributions that have embodied the history, vision, and spirit of the race.

Bjorklund was fresh off a 1976 Olympic appearance when he won the first-ever Grandma’s Marathon in 1977, and he won the race again in 1980. It was his involvement in the early days, says founding executive director Scott Keenan, that made people view Grandma’s Marathon as legitimate right from the start.

So great were Bjorklund’s contributions to the early success of Grandma’s Marathon, the Twig, Minn. native became the namesake of a new race when the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon began in 1991.

Bjorklund will officially receive his award during a post-race reception on Saturday, June 18.


Longtime Old Home Foods executive Al Haeg will be the recipient of this year’s Award of Excellence, recognizing his many years of dedication, commitment, and service to the continued development and growth of Grandma’s Marathon.

A sponsor since the marathon’s second year, Old Home Foods has provided post-race refreshments to runners for more than four decades. Haeg himself, since 2002, has helped each year to coordinate the delivery and distribution of Greek yogurt and all-natural peanut butter to the finish line for race participants.

Haeg will officially receive his award during a post-race reception on Saturday, June 18.


Still the women’s event record holder in the William A. Irvin 5K, Katie McGee will be the recipient of this year’s Ron Daws Ambassador Award, recognizing her as a leader in the development and growth of long-distance running in northeastern Minnesota.

A three-time qualifier for the U.S. Olympic Trials, the Duluth, Minn. native fell in love with running along the shores of Lake Superior, estimating thousands of training miles came along the Grandma’s Marathon racecourse on Old Scenic Highway 61.

This year, McGee plans to run in and finish what would be her 13th Grandma’s Marathon, and she’s also helped many young athletes achieve similar dreams through an online marathon training course she taught at Lake Superior College.

McGee will officially receive her award during a post-race reception on Saturday, June 18.


Longtime law enforcement officers Bob Shene and Carey Johnson will be the recipients of this year’s Rudy Perpich Public Service Award, recognizing their immense dedication and service to Grandma’s Marathon.

Shene, who retired in July 2020, worked closely with Grandma’s Marathon as part of the Duluth Police Department’s Tactical Response Team to provide finish line security and event threat protocols.

Johnson, meanwhile, has served as the Lake County Sheriff since 2007 and for more than a decade has helped provide security and crowd management at the start line of Grandma’s Marathon, located just outside Two Harbors.

Shene and Johnson will officially receive their awards during a breakfast on Thursday, June 16.


Longtime local television executive and active community member Deb Messer will be the recipient of this year’s Marsh Nelson Media Award, recognizing her longstanding commitment to the coverage and development of Grandma’s Marathon.

Now the general manager at WDIO-TV, Messer has more than 35 years of local broadcast experience in both television and radio. The St. Scholastica graduate also served a term on the Young Athletes Foundation (YAF) committee, and her fierce belief in community involvement has helped shape and grow her station’s coverage of Grandma’s Marathon as a major media partner since 2017.

The first to admit it takes a team of dozens working behind-the-scenes, Messer’s leadership has led to several key advancements of the race day live streaming broadcast produced by WDIO.

Messer will officially receive her award during a luncheon on Friday, June 17.


Grandma’s Marathon began in 1977 when a group of local runners planned a scenic road race from Two Harbors to Duluth, Minnesota. There were just 150 participants that year, but organizers knew they had discovered something special. Grandma’s Marathon weekend draws more than 20,000 participants for its three-race event each June.

The race got its name from the Duluth-based group of famous Grandma’s Restaurants, the first major sponsor of the marathon. Over time, the level of sponsorship with the restaurants changed, but the name stayed the same. Grandma’s Marathon-Duluth, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization with a 17-member Board of Directors and a nine-person, full-time staff.