NorthShore: An Interview with Dennis & Kristin Ellertson

Race Director

For the past few years, Dennis and Kristin Ellertson have packed their skates and running shoes, and together have headed north for the weekend to participate in their respective NorthShore Events. Dennis and Kristin are a father/daughter duo from the Chicago, Illinois, area. Dennis, a member of Team Rainbo, participates in the NorthShore Inline Marathon, and has participated in 21 events, while Kristin has participated in the NorthShore Run St. Luke’s Wheels Off Half Marathon since 2015. We had the opportunity to talk to the Ellertsons on their experience with NorthShore, the traditions they share over race weekend, and how NorthShore can be a family event for everyone!

NorthShore: What is your favorite part of the NorthShore Race? Race Weekend? 

Dennis Ellertson (DE): It is a well-run race with great scenery.

Kristin Ellertson (KE): It’s fun to listen to the bands play in the highway tunnels during the last couple miles – and gets you pumped up to finish strong! Of course, my favorite part of race weekend is spending time with my dad. It’s wonderful for us to do what we love, together, in a beautiful place! We also enjoy visiting with friends at the awards ceremony at Grandma’s Sports Garden.

NorthShore: What keeps you coming back to the NorthShore Events? 

DE: The North Shore race has a beautiful point-to-point course, and its wave start with skaters of similar abilities is especially nice. 

KE: It’s gorgeous to watch the sunrise over Lake Superior as runners wait for the race to begin. Lots of us pause to snap a photo. Also, the Wheels Off Half Marathon is a great race for runners participating in their first half marathon, or those looking for a new personal record – such a great course with a lot of room to spread out. Plus, residents come out to cheer us on, which is an awesome boost.

NorthShore: What does it mean to do this race and experience the weekend together?  

DE: While in Duluth, my daughter and I enjoy the Expo, Gooseberry Falls and Duluth Grill.  We enjoy supporting each other before and after the races and getting together with friends who we’ve met at previous NorthShore races.     

KE: Race weekend is a mini-vacation for us! We explore Duluth, visit the beach and hike at Gooseberry Falls. It’s great to spend time together, make new memories and build our relationship.

NorthShore: Over the years you have participated in the event, have you made connections/friendships with other skaters?

DE: I participate as a member of Team Rainbo. Not only do I see my fellow team members at the race, but also have a chance to continue friendships with fellow racers from other areas.  

KE: Absolutely – it’s easy to make new friends at this event! Everyone we’ve met has been extremely welcoming and friendly. Last year, dad sat next to another inline skater on the bus who was participating in her very first NorthShore Inline Skate Race. They became friends, and she posted a selfie with him – a “race veteran” – on her Facebook page! I’ve also made some friends, including members of my dad’s inline skating team (Team Rainbo) and another participant my age who I met on a bus to the race a couple years ago. We stay in touch on social media.

NorthShore: As you participate in different events with NorthShore, what does it mean that you can attend the same weekend, but participate in different events?

DE & KE: Participating in different events allows us to pursue what we’re passionate about – running or inline skating – and then come back together at the end of the race and share our experiences. Even though he doesn’t run in the race with me, I still push harder knowing that he’d want me to give it my all!


NorthShore: What traditions do you have over race weekend?

DE & KE: We always go on a long hike at Gooseberry Falls the morning after the race. He’s a very fast walker, so it can be challenging for me to keep up! Duluth Grill is also a real treat – such a nice local, farm-to-table restaurant with a great variety of options. I try to bring that experience home with the restaurant’s cookbook!

NorthShore: When and how did your traditions start? 

DE & KE: Shortly after I started running, dad heard NorthShore Events added a Wheels Off Half-Marathon to race weekend. He invited me to join him, and I was thrilled that we could participate together. The half marathon initially aligned with my training program for another marathon in the fall, so it was a perfect opportunity to see if I was on track timing-wise. 

Dennis & Kristin at Gooseberry Falls.

Dennis was recently diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, and as a part of treatment Kristin is donating stem cells to her dad. While training and racing is looking slightly different for Dennis, he is looking forward to getting back to racing this year or next, and making his way to Duluth for NorthShore. 

NorthShore: After your recent diagnosis of Acute Myeloid Leukemia, how has this impacted your skating journey? 

DE: My diagnosis has cut down on my training for the race due to the risk of falling and the complications from that, so I haven’t been able to get out as much as I’d like.

NorthShore:  As you are receiving a stem cell transplant soon, what does it mean to have your daughter donating stem cells to you? And Kristin, what does it mean to be able to donate to your dad?

DE: It is very exciting to have my daughter match as my stem cell donor. The procedure is currently scheduled for the end of June. She is doing everything possible to stay healthy and be ready for the procedure.

KE: It’s incredible that stem cell transplants can offer a potential cure for certain blood cancers. A transplant helps people make new, healthy stem cells and build an entirely new immune system. It can be challenging to find a good donor match, so I was thrilled that dad matched a family member. At first, I was surprised to have been the best fit for him – but looking back, maybe it’s not so crazy after all. We enjoy many of the same activities – from being active outdoors to country music – so it makes sense!

NorthShore: Do you hope to be able to continue skating this year or next year at the NorthShore Inline Marathon, after treatment and recovery? 

DE: Yes, I hope to participate in the skate race next year and enjoy all the activities. 

NorthShore: If there was one piece of advice you could give to skaters, runners, or skiers doing a NorthShore Event, what would it be?

DE: When the race starts and all skaters are together, be careful until the skaters thin out along the course.

KE: It’s always an adventure running up Lemon Drop Hill. I recommend runners practice going up hills to help them push as fast and strong as possible. I don’t have too many hills where I live, so the first race was quite an awakening! Fortunately, there’s a nice hill near Soldier Field that I use now, and it’s fun to diversify my training routine.