DULUTH - Dakotah Lindwurm's favorite mantra is: I'm strong, I'm fast, my speed will last.
The rising star distance runner from Eagan stood by her word, again, in Saturday's 46th Grandma's Marathon. Aided by superb racing weather, she won a second straight women's title, in 2 hours, 25 minutes, 1 second. It was a personal best by four minutes and was the second-best women's time in race history and the 12th best in American women's marathon history.
"I've never been so happy. This might be the pinnacle of my career so far," said Lindwurm, a former high school hockey goalie in St. Francis. "I was reminded of what the course record was, just before the race started, and it gave me a purpose. It gave me something to chase."
The day was kind to nearly all of the 8,832 entries, including men's course-record holder Dominic Ondoro of Eldoret, Kenya. Because of injuries, he hadn't won a race since the 2019 Twin Cities Marathon. Ondoro, 34, won Saturday in 2:09:34, the second-best time on the course since he finished in 2:09:06 in 2014.
It was about 48 degrees at the 7:30 a.m. start in Two Harbors with an 8 mph tailwind, and it was no more than 50 at the finish in Duluth's Canal Park.
Lindwurm, a member of the Minnesota Distance Elite program, found herself alone at about 16 miles and pushed on to finish within 33 seconds of the course best of 2:24:28, set by Kellyn Taylor in 2018. Two months ago, in the Boston Marathon, Lindwurm finished 14th in 2:29:55, and that wasn't what she wanted.
"I was really disappointed. I knew I could run, maybe, three minutes faster," the 5-1, 105-pound Lindwurm said. "The weather today rated 10 out of 10 and helped me do that."
Ondoro and training partner Elisha Barno have ruled Minnesota's two largest marathons in recent years. Ondoro has won the Twin Cities Marathon four times (2015-17, 2019), and Barno, 36, is the only four-time Grandma's Marathon champion (2015-18) and won the 2018 Twin Cities Marathon. They were part of a six-man group for the first 21 miles Saturday.
Ondoro says he likes hills, and he made his move on one, at the base of Lemon Drop Hill, on London Road, at 22 miles. Only one runner, runner-up Sammy Rotich, 35, of Kenya covered the surge. Ultimately he was left behind, too.
"I picked out that hill. I knew that's where I was going to go, and I was feeling good there," Ondoro said. "I cannot tell you how happy I am to win again. I wasn't sure when, or if, it would happen."
His injuries since 2019 have included ankle tendons, knee and groin. But recent training, with Barno, averaged 130 miles a week and both were ready. Barno finished fourth in 2:10:22 in the best mass finish in Grandma's history, with five men going under 2:11. It was also the best mass finish for women, with five going under 2:29.
Ondoro won $12,500, including $2,500 for going sub-2:10. Rotich was second in 2:10:07, fifth-fastest in race history, for $9,500, and James Ngandu, 32, of Kenya was third in 2:10:17, sixth-fastest in race history, for $7,000. Defending champion Milton Rotich of Kenya didn't finish the race. The top Minnesotan was Kevin Lewis, 28, of Richfield, 10th in 2:13:48.
East African men have taken 12 straight Grandma's Marathon titles and 22 of the past 25.
Lindwurm had an excellent payday, earning $20,000, including $10,000 for going under 2:28. Sarah Sellers, 30, of Ogden, Utah, finished second in 2:25:43 to earn $17,500, and Susanna Sullivan, 32, of Reston, Va., was third in 2:26:56 for $15,000.
Lindwurm is the only Minnesota woman to claim consecutive titles in Minnesota's oldest marathon. U.S. women have now won four straight years at Grandma's Marathon, which hasn't happened since 1994, when the streak reached six.