More than 2,500 runners—including three of my best running friends and me!—are planning to run this weekend’s Gazelle Girl Half Marathon and 5K in Grand Rapids.

This year Gazelle Girl is raising funds for four Grand Rapids-area charities. One hundred percent of the proceeds will be donated to these non-profit organizations that support girls and women in Kent County: D.A. Blodgett – St. John’s – Sisters in Support Program, G.R.O.W. (Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women), Kent County Girls on the Run and the YWCA.

Katie Dole, a 27-year-old Grand Rapids runner who works as a clinician at East Kentwood Freshman Campus as part of the Kent School Service Network and D.A. Blodgett – St. John’s, is looking forward to the half marathon this weekend. She also recruited several of her friends and co-workers to join her. I caught up with her recently to talk more about her running and this weekend’s race.

Let’s start with your running story – how did you get started and why?

I started running in 2010. I was finishing my internship in the master’s program at Grand Valley [State University]. And my two supervisors were runners and were running the 25K River Bank Run. I remember saying to them, “You guys are crazy, that’s 15 miles. That’s insane.” Later, I was working third shift at the time and in the morning I was watching them take off and I thought I could do that. I decided I was going to do the 10K. I have a disease when I decide to do something, I am going to do it. I was talking with my mom about it and she said she would do it with me. In the summer we started training.

What came after the 10K? Did you want to do another race?

In 2011, I was training for the 25K when I snapped two metatarsals in my foot and stopped training for that. A friend had run the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco, and I decided, well, I am going to do that. And so after my foot healed, I threw in an entry [the Nike Women’s Marathon is lottery-based] and I was pulled the first year. I had no choice but to run a marathon in 2012. I ran that full 26.2. It was beautiful and I would love to say I loved every minute of it, but at mile 18, I was done. I still loved the experience. I will never do a another full. It was beautiful to do it once.

Why did you want to run the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon?

One of my friends who has been going through a lot this past year, I told her, ‘We’re going to do this. You’re totally capable of doing this.’ When Blodgett became a sponsor, I threw out an email to our executive director Sharon Loughridge and asked if the organization would sponsor some runners and she said yes. I was extremely fortunate with that. So we got some girls together.

Tell us a little about D.A. Blodgett – St. Johns.

I love the agency I work for. I’ve been here just over five years now, and I’ve worked in positions across the board. I love the variety of programs we offer, from the minute a child is born, to foster care, adoption, residential–it’s everything.

It’s very cool to see that there is that community involvement [with D.A. Blogett – St. Johns partnering with Gazelle Girl]. To get out there and have a connection with the community … it’s nice to have that friendly connection with the community. We are a positive agency that has a lot of things to offer.

A chilly winter training run.
A chilly winter training run.

How has the training been?

It’s been good, aside from the cold. I think it’s gone well. We started training the second week of January. We met that first Saturday of January when the River Bank Run runners did their meet-up at the YMCA. There’s a consistent four of us–we’ve done the long runs together. Everyone has their own pace. It’s really nice to see people who have never before gone out and run. It’s a little bit of a runner’s high being on the sidelines and watching people accomplish goals they never thought they’d accomplish. It’s been awesome to see the camaraderie build.

Do you have a goal for the race?

My personal gial is to finished under three hours. I just want to see all of us come acros that finish line. 

A big part for me with running and training is … and I noticed this when I first started, and I continue to see this as I watch more people get involved … is that it can be scary and extremely intimidating to start running. I wish more people would know that the running community is so welcoming. Just take that first step. It’s phenomoneal and it’s a great experience. One of the girls who is running with us is afraid of being left behind and that she won’t finish, but the thing is you will find someone who has your pace at that race. You will form a friendship over the 13 miles. It’s so cool the running community has this … I definitely like the 13.1 distance. That’ll be something I continue to do.

There’s still time to sign up for this Sunday’s Gazelle Girl Half Marathon and 5K. And, race organizers are holding a special “Throwback Thursday” pricing event for anyone who signs up tomorrow, Thursday, April 10. Here’s the details:

Race organizers wanted to do something fun for those who were on the fence about signing up; perhaps it was because your training didn’t go as planned or you had wanted to register but the price increased. The snow is melting, and it looks like it will be a beautiful spring weekend — “We’ve waited patiently for the weather, now we’re waiting for you,” says Nancy Brozek, a member of the Gazelle Girl marketing committee.

The event pricing will be back to the early bird pricing of $75 for the half marathon and $25 for the 5K from 12:01AM until 1:00PM on Thursday, April 10. Half Marathon finishers will get a Nike tech shirt and imua jewelry charm shaped like the state of Michigan. 5K participants will get a shirt and 5K magnet. Both events are open to runners and walkers. After Thursday at 1PM registration will be closed but registration will be available at the Expotique (Sponsor Expo + Packet Pick Up = Expotique) at the Downtown Market from NOON to 8:00PM with prices being $95 and $35 respectively. There will be no race day registration.


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