I’ve yet to try any of the obstacle-course-mud-runs which are all the rage these days (though the 25K trail race I ran in the Upper Peninsula a little over a week ago felt like one at times). I could have tried one coming to Grand Rapids this weekend, thanks to the organizers of Dirty Girl Mud Run…unfortunately a prior commitment prevented this from happening.

But I’m hoping some of you will sign on (and you can tell me how it goes and maybe next year I’ll have the opportunity to get in on the action). The race organizers, who contacted me about this event that is coming to Michigan for the first time, have generously offered a $20 off race fee discount code to anyone interested in signing up.

Sarah (in purple shirt and shoes) during a recent race. She is looking forward to running her first women-only race this weekend in Grand Rapids.
Sarah (in purple shirt and shoes) during a recent race. She is looking forward to running her first women-only race this weekend in Grand Rapids.

They also connected me with Michigan runner Sarah Balko, of Marquette, who is participating in this Saturday’s event. I wanted to learn more about the runners who run these events, and Sarah, 35, who grew up in Dearborn, is a veteran of these kinds of races. (Though this will be her first women-only event). Here’s her Michigan running story—and a little inspiration for anyone wanting to give this event a try:

How long have you been a runner, and what got you started?

I did my first 5K in 2011 and loved it! I never really liked running but I agreed to run the Hope Starts Here race in Marquette, Mich. in 2011. The race was great—such a rush to sign up for a run and complete it. As a result, I entered a few more races in 2011 to motivate myself to keep up the running.

Sarah with her family: husband Norm and their kids Sammy, Harry and Lilly.
Sarah with her family: husband Norm and their kids Sammy, Harry and Lilly.

Why did you decide to sign on for the Dirty Girl Mud Run? 

One of the races that I did in 2011 was the Suicide Hill Mud Run. It was the first annual mud run in my area. I liked it so much that I did it again in 2012. I would have done it again this year but I found out about the Dirty Girl Mud Run through an organization that I follow on Facebook and decided to run this one instead (they are the same weekend). I was diagnosed with breast cancer last year. Since then it has been discovered that I have the BRCA mutation as do several members of my family. This mutation increases a person’s risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Bright Pink is an organization providing support for young women at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer. When I found out that this run was benefiting Bright Pink, I had to do it.

Do you have a favorite Michigan race?

I have run the Great Turtle Run 5 mile race on Mackinac Island for the last two years and am signed up for it again this year. The race is in October and it is a beautiful run. It goes through the trails of the island, the leaves are changing colors—it is simply breathtaking. I had set a goal for completing the run in under an hour last year, which I met. After the diagnosis and surgeries, I met my goal—it was amazing. That is what doing these races is all about: setting a goal that might be outside of your comfort zone (setting a personal best, doing a mud run…) and completing that goal. That is the best therapy!

Best Mitten State Running:

Anywhere where there are trails and beautiful scenery. I’m lucky to live in Marquette; we have lots of beautiful running trails.


Interested in signing on for this Aug. 24 run? Visit the Dirty Girl Mud Run site to register. Use this coupon code to receive $20 off your race entry: DGGRANDRAPIDS

More about the Dirty Girl Mud Run events, which take place across the country:
• In 2013, Dirty Girl expects to donate $250,000 to Bright Pink, a national non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention and early detection of breast and ovarian cancers in young women. Cancer survivors run free of charge.
• An untimed obstacle course that welcomes women of all ages and athletic abilities, Dirty Girl Mud Run “challenges women to break from their routine for a day, get out of their comfort zones, get dirty, and accomplish something brand new – all while having a blast.” Every one of the obstacles is optional, so participants can skip anything they find too difficult. Forming teams is encouraged, and so are “crazy team uniforms.”
• Dirty Girl events attract thousands of women in each city they stop in, and they expect to reach over 350,000 participants by the end of 2013.

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November 19, 2020

Moving Through It: Running, cooking, reading (and Abby Wambach) for the win

How are you feeling — really feeling — these days? In this latest episode of the MRG Podcast, I share some honest thoughts on how things are going for me. Most importantly, I talk about the things that are helping me get through and move forward. It’s not easy, but we can do this. We can keep trying.

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Let’s Talk Tempeh: so many tasty possibilities with this plant-based protein

There is a lot of talk these days about plant-based eating — and for good reason. Eating more plants is good for your health and good for the planet. But some of the plant-based foods can seem scary and maybe you aren’t sure what to do with them. Well, that’s where I can help.

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