The big idea: create a race that honors women, encourages new runners to participate in the sport, enhance community partnerships and raise money for women’s charities.
By all accounts, the Gazelle Girls Half Marathon & 5K, held for the first time last April, achieved all of these goals. Consider these stats:
- 3,126 runners participated in this spring event held in Grand Rapids
- Nearly $50,000 was raised for three charities—Kent County Girls on the Run, YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women (GROW)—with each organization receiving more than $15,000
The timing of the event was significant, too, says Bridget Meyers, race co-director with fellow Gazelle Sports team member Tiler Webster.
“The reason we started it was the 40th anniversary of Title IX,” Meyers says. “For women to be able to be on the same level playing field as men in athletics and organized sports is a huge thing. Not that long ago, we wouldn’t have been able to run in an event like this.”
This year, for the second Gazelle Girl Half Marathon and 5K, race organizers are going even bigger, adding a fourth charity to support (D.A. Blodgett – St. John’s, Sisters in Support) as well as increasing the runner cap for the half marathon from 2,000 to 4,000 runners.
I’ll be at this event, thanks to a great partnership MRG has with this race, and I’m looking forward to running the half marathon with several friends (perfect training for my upcoming marathon). I am excited to meet MRG readers and new friends at this event, too!
I recently caught up with Bridget, who is an assistant manager at race sponsor Gazelle Sports in Grand Rapids, to talk about this event. Read on to learn more—and if you’re thinking about signing on (I hope so!), save some money by registering before Feb. 28, which is when the cost goes up by $10 for the half marathon and by $5 for the 5K.
What kind of experience do you hope runners have at the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon and 5K?
Just a lot of fun. We have aid stations on the course and also we have spirit stations—there are different community members at those, and last year more than 150 Girls on the Run girls were at one spirit station. You have so many people out on the course cheering for you. We heard such positive feedback about the support on the course.
How about the course—what’s it like?
It’s a fairly flat course. It really showcases some great areas of Grand Rapids Riverside Park, neighborhoods. Last year it was an out-and-back … The course is still subject to change pending a few tweaks for the certified distance, but compared to last year, the biggest change is that we will cross the Sixth St. Bridge twice, once early on to come up the west side of the river before corssing again at Park Street and coming south through Riverside Park.
There are pacers at every 30 seconds—three pacers for the half marathon distance. These women are coming out to some of our monthly training runs that are free and open to anyone. Their bios are on the web site, and most pacers are returning from last year….
This event also was changed from a Saturday to a Sunday this year…
Yes, the city was asking us to move to Sunday because of the number of roads we were closing. There are two different hotels that are our hubs and we’re putting together activities, so it can really become a weekend. Some restaurants will be opening early.
We are doing optional worship service that morning because we know that for a lot of people, that’s a deciding factor. The Kalamazoo Marathon is on a Sunday and they offer this. We want to be as accommodating as possible. We’re also listing options for church services on Saturday.
Creating a “green” event was important to your team. Please tell us about that.
We’re going for a greening certification. We’re working with the Council for Responsible Sport, trying to be a zero-waste event. This limits the kinds of cups we use and what we give out. A digital race packet will come out the week before the race.
Tell us about the finishers’ medal, which will be revealed the end of this month…
We do a finisher’s charm, which is made by an international company here in Grand Rapids, Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Jewelry.
A lot of women are doing the River Bank Run in May, so if you do that, the 25K River Bank, and also the Gazelle Girl, you’ll get a $25 gift certificate to Gazelle Sports.
Ready to sign up for this event? Head over to the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon site to register and learn more. The site features several inspirational runner profiles, too. Training runs and meet-ups also are available.
Already signed on? I look forward to seeing you there!
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