Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- Each year, hundreds of Northlanders gather to run during Grandma's marathon weekend, including runners from local high schools and colleges. This year, two local athletes hope to give back.
In just three days, runners will once again crowd the starting line before Grandma's weekend gets underway.
Almost two years ago now, Denfeld alumni and cross country standout Matt Kero died unexpectedly.
"It was his favorite time of year," Alissa Boyhtari said. "He always ran the half marathon."
It was a difficult time that his teammates will never forget.
"We were all really sad, but at the same time, it made us want to push harder and made us want to try and run like he did," Boyhtari said.
That's exactly what recent Denfeld grad Boyhtari plans on doing this weekend when she runs the Fitger's 5K.
She says Kero continues to inspire her running career even after he's gone.
"That just made me want to run even more and get more into distance running because that's what he did. He made it look so easy, and I know it's not. It's a challenge."
And if he was around this weekend, Boytari knows he'd be there running next to her.
"He'd always make sure to tell you good job or tell you to keep going. I know he'd be giving his support."
Boytari isn't the only Northland runner giving back during Grandma's.
St. Scholastica senior Tracy Perish will be running 13.1 miles for kids with disabilities and supporting her sister with cerebral palsy.
"Seeing how it affects them, how little things like an extra toy or being able to play outside and not worry about things, that's enough to motivate me."
The Saints track athlete raised over $500 for St. Jude's Children Hospital.
"Really, everyone chipped in like ten to 15 bucks. In three weeks, I had $500."
As far as running her first half marathon, Perrish says it doesn't compare to what those kids go through each day.
"I'm so lucky to be such high functioning. There are so many things I take for granted, like just being able to get up and walk around. Just knowing that is a little extra push."
A little extra push that both Boytari and Perish will need when they cross the finish line this weekend.
Posted by Sarah Wheeler