This weekend ahead is somewhat bittersweet, running-wise, for me. It’s Gazelle Girl weekend and a group of my best running friends are making the trek from TC to GR to run the half marathon. Last year we all ran the race together, making a girls’ getaway of it, and we had a blast.

This year, though, I’ll be somewhere else. I’ll be 941 miles east of my girls, in fact. I’ll be in Boston.

Yes, this is the (incredibly) sweet part: being in Boston … running the world’s oldest marathon on Monday, Patriot’s Day … toeing the start line of the race I’ve been gearing up for these past 18 weeks…

I’m beyond excited, to say the least. And nervous. And amazed it’s finally here. (I’ll be posting to the MRG Facebook page all weekend from Boston, and look for a race recap next week!)

But I also can’t help be a tad sad about missing out on what’s sure to be a fantastic race weekend for Pam, Katie, Erin and Jen — and all of the hundreds of others signed up for the half marathon and 5K this Sunday in Grand Rapids.

I do know, however, that I’ll be there in spirit. Michigan Runner Girl will have a booth at the race expo on Saturday, with my lovely, helpful and supportive friends serving as MRG ambassadors. I would love for you all to stop by and say hello! While I won’t have MRG clothing available for sale (this is due to an expo sponsor policy), I promise there’ll be some goodies and loads of info … and a cool giveaway you’ll want to check out. Please don’t be shy. I know Pam, Erin, Katie and Jen would love to meet you guys–and you’ll want to meet them, too.

In that spirit, here’s more about each of the MRG ambassadors:

A favorite photo of Pam and me (wearing white hat) at last fall's Detroit Women's Half Marathon.
A favorite photo of Pam and me (wearing white hat) at last fall’s Detroit Women’s Half Marathon.

MRG Ambassador: Pam Carrigan
How I got started running: I have been running on and off since participating in in high school track. Running is one of my favorite activities to do with friends – you get to catch up with them and get a workout in! Perfect!
I’m looking forward to… Hanging with a few of my closest friends and meeting new people at the MRG booth. Oh, and running the race will be fun too….

Training for Gazelle: Overall, my training has been great! I’m following the Hansons Half Marathon Program (beginner) and I am completely amazed at how many more miles a week I can put in versus what I thought I could! Unfortunately, I may have taken the speed work a little too seriously and am nursing a sore shin because of it. Pretty confident that I am on the mend.

Best race distance: It’s been a long time since I’ve done a 10K, but that may be my favorite race distance. At least I remember really enjoying them.  Halfs are just so darn long!

Running in the Mitten: My parents have a B & B in Presque Isle on Lake Huron and it is my favorite place to run. So quiet, scenic, peaceful…..and flat! The best part about being a Michigan Runner Girl is the camaraderie — being around other MRG’s is awesome. It keeps me motivated.

Erin, smiling after completing her first half marathon in 2013. She ran the Grand Rapids Half Marathon.

MRG Ambassador: Erin Henshaw
Former running motto: “I only run when being chased.”
How I got started: In 2005 my family decided to run the Bayshore 10K, all of us. My husband and I were active but not runners; my dad was taking a run/walk class; my brother, sister-in-law and sisters were runners. Having two young kids at home, I barely trained. The weekend before the 10K I headed out the door on my final “training run” and told my husband I would be home in two hours. He gave me a questioning look and asked why I was going to run for so long. I had to fess up that I hadn’t trained and wanted to make sure I could walk six miles without going out of my mind. My dad stuck with me the entire race and we finished the 10K at a slow but steady pace without any walk breaks in just over an hour.

When it really clicked for me… I discovered that running was a nice way to “get away” from being at home all day. I was a stay-at-home mom living in Grand Rapids with a neighborhood that had nice sidewalks and streetlights. After tucking my young children in bed, I would watch some prime-time TV with my husband, then head out the door for a run around 11 p.m. After moving back to Traverse City, I discovered it is a little more difficult to go on my night runs without the streetlights of a big city. I still prefer to run around dusk. Being a runner has evolved over the years. At first it was to give me a little “me time” while being a stay at home mom. Now it still gives me the time to decompress and give time to myself, but it also allows me to be a part of the running community and watch my kids grow with cross country and track at my kids’ schools. I coached my kids in elementary school and now that they are older I am their biggest fans watching at the finish line. I enjoy running with my daughter still, but my son is way too fast for me… not much longer until that is the case for my daughter.
Bring on the races! The past two years, the race bug has hit me (I run about a dozen a year). Let’s be honest, I’m not the fastest so I look at races as the biggest party on earth. Nothing beats the excitement of race day. The emotions and jitters you feel as a group while lining up at the start line is something magical. I’m not there to win the race, I’m there for the party (the swag and possible free beer at the finish line is a big bonus). I am very inconsistent with training — my favorite thing to do is make my own training plan according to what I want to run. My plans don’t win races, but I cross the finish line with a huge smile on my face wanting to sign up for more. I still cover just as many miles as the first place person!
Running Gazelle Girl: I love Gazelle Girl Half Marathon because the race route brings me back through the neighborhood I lived in when my kids were very little. Running though Riverside Park and by the playground is emotional for me as I think back to memories of the kids playing at that park (they are now 11 and 15). Making it a girls’ weekend is that much sweeter. The bond you feel with running friends is pretty amazing, so getting away for more than just a run or a quick lunch is a lot of fun. I’m really looking forward to helping at the Michigan Runner Girl booth at the expo. Talking about running and what it means to everyone is something I could do all day long.
Race training: Ah, training. That is usually a four letter word for me. Let’s face it, I don’t like to work hard. I’m just here for the party. I usually get injured and hobble through my so-called training plans. This year I decided to pay attention to my fitness (you know, stretching, clamshells, lunges and stuff to keep my legs moving right) and be more consistent with my training. Wow, following a real training plan really makes a difference! At one month before Gazelle Girl I was injury-free and increasing my miles and pace. I was exhausted toward the end and really wanted to skip my training runs, but told myself to get out there and get at least part of it done. Even though I was exhausted, my legs took over and carried me through both runs at a faster pace than I intended. This could be my first half marathon (5th total) that I complete injury-free. There is even a chance I could hit my “someday” goal of sub-two hour half marathon. Then again, no pressure, I’m not there for the race, I’m there for the party.
Best race distance: My favorite race distance is the half marathon. It is a distance that you have to work for, but it is attainable. I’m not the fastest so I would rather run a slow half marathon than a slow 5K. Another “someday” goal of mine is to run a 25K. If everything goes well at Gazelle Girl, I may sign up for the Riverbank Run 25K. Waiting to see how Gazelle Girl goes and if it is too much as I am also signed up for Bayshore Half Marathon in May.
Running in the Mitten: If I could run anywhere in Michigan it would be along water. Luckily that is not hard to do in Michigan, especially Traverse City. I also love running in Michigan winters. I love being hot, but only while sitting on the beach reading a good book. I sweat too much while running so I would rather run in 10 degrees than 70. Plus remember, I’m an evening runner so I don’t get up to beat the summer heat. The Michigan winter snow also gives me a reason to run so slow. The best part about being a Michigan Runner Girl is staying in a state of motion. Our state has so much to offer… water to run along, swimming, wonderful bike trails. I also love the friends I have made through running and our fun adventures. Our friendship means so much to me. I also love when I get stopped out and about wearing a Michigan Runner Girl item, it is funny how female runners are like one big tribe.
Katie (far left) with Erin, Pam & me at the finish of the 2014 Gazelle Girl Half Marathon in Grand Rapids.
Katie (far left) with Erin, Pam & me at the finish of the 2014 Gazelle Girl Half Marathon in Grand Rapids.

MRG Ambassador: Katie Kearney
How I got started running: I started running when I was in middle school, really just for something to do. All of my friends ran track so I decided I wanted to also. I honestly did not start to love running until I was late high school. I was never good at it and always came in towards the end in all of the cross country meets and high school. Once I realized it didn’t matter if I won or lost, I realize how much I loved it.

The Joy of a Run: Running takes me to another place — it is very humbling and satisfying at the same time. Some days are wonderful, where I feel like $1 million. Some days are horrible where I realize that running is bigger than I am. It really puts things in perspective! It’s a wonderful time to think, sort out anything positive or negative that has happened in my life, and it gives me time to stop and smell the roses.
Racing After Baby: I’m looking forward to being with my friends and my three girls. This will be my first half marathon after having little baby Ava — she will be nine weeks old. I am looking forward to getting back out there and just having fun, not racing to win anything but enjoying what’s going on around me. I’m also excited to help at the MRG booth and get people excited about Michigan Runner Girl!
Best Race Distance: My favorite is a 25K. I love it because it’s longer than a half marathon but is not so long that it makes me feel tired before, during or after. It’s just a fun distance to do, especially on the trails!
Running in the Mitten: If I could run anywhere in Michigan, I would think anywhere on the western part of the state or in the U.P. The best part of being a Michigan Runner Girl has to be the friendships — running friends are the best friends ever!

MRG Ambassador: Jen Gorman

How I got started running: About 2-3 months before my wedding back in 2000, I started to run one mile every morning before work to ensure my wedding dress would fit on the big day. I could barely make it the whole mile without stopping and was so bad guessing how far a mile was (this was pre-GPS), I really thought I was running 3 or 4 miles because it was so hard. I stopped a few weeks before my wedding because I took a spill (it was still dark at 6 a.m. when I would run) and scraped up my hands, knees and elbows. My parents made me promise to stop because they were afraid I’d be hobbling down the aisle if I didn’t. That break lasted until about five years ago when I took up running again.I’m looking forward to … the whole Gazelle Girl experience — my only other half marathons have been the Bayshore, which I love, but I’m excited to travel to GR with friends, help with the MRG booth, go out to a nice dinner and finish the weekend with the race.Winter Training Fun: This is actually my first half marathon that I have trained for with friends and through the winter months. It has been awesome! I was always very intimidated to run with others because I wasn’t sure if I could keep up, but it’s amazing how much more faster the miles go by when you’re running and talking with friends. I look forward to getting out for our runs instead of dreading when to squeeze them in.

Best race distance: My favorite is 10K because it’s not too overwhelming. However, I feel like I need to add at least one half into my repertoire to keep pushing myself. Like anything in life, it’s easy to settle into what’s comfortable but it feels empowering to step up to a challenge.

Running in the Mitten: I have been running a lot on East Grand Traverse Bay and West Bay this fall and winter. It’s so beautiful to see the sun and water and be reminded that this is where we live. We are so blessed!

Best part about being a Michigan Runner Girl: It’s never boring or mundane — with four very different seasons and various scenery and terrains to choose, from every run is unique. Whether you finish a 5-miler in -15 conditions or a perfect 10-mile run along the bay with a beautiful breeze, the feeling of accomplishment, peace and gratitude are there every time.

Good luck to everyone running Gazelle this weekend! Have FUN! I can’t wait to tell share my Boston experience with you all!

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