Thank you!


You were one of 1,842 women to join us virtually from 28 states!


A race year many of us will never forget. Instead of 4,000 women overtaking the Calder Plaza in downtown Grand Rapids in the early morning, we found ourselves running in our neighborhoods … in the mid-afternoon if we wanted. (Which, by the way, was super nice! I ran after my morning coffee instead of a dark o’ thirty wake up alarm. I am more of a night owl than a morning person.)

I have found that during social distancing I have had up days and down days. Some days, motivating myself to put on “real” clothes has been a challenge. I remember the day I had the epiphany that I could run the virtual Gazelle Girl race. I had run Gazelle Girl every year prior to becoming the race director and now was my chance to join all the participants in solidarity again. I’d been wracking my brain on how to truly engage with all of you and support you as a race director, and this was the way to do it. Then I got the idea that I would run all the distances to support every runner. And then someone just a bit crazier than me who shall remain anonymous but leads our ladies run camps, ahem, suggested that the distances be run consecutively – much like the Disney Goofy Challenge. I was all in. This idea gave me that reason to keep training at an optimal level to be sure I could successfully do the distance and feel connected to every single participant in her experience.

Friday came. 10k. Saturday. 5k. Sunday. I set out around 11:30 a.m. As I mentioned, I am not really a morning person. Is there such a thing as an afternoon person? Asking for a friend.

I “socially distance ran” with a dear friend and committee member. We started from a random spot on the course and headed for downtown. It was wonderful to cheer on participants passing from opposing directions. (Even stopping traffic in one instance to yell across the street!) We crossed over to Ottawa and headed for Calder Plaza. It is startling, the moment you realize all that is supposed to be alive with celebration and the sounds of laughter and success from so many women and their families instead remains silent except for the sound of the breeze. I’d be lying to say no tears were shed. However, I found it sort of cathartic. That opportunity to quietly listen to my heart, unwinding my own story of running, and the “why” behind how much this community matters to me. I was reminded of the lyrics from a Switchfoot song… 

“I dare you to lift yourself up off the floor

I dare you to move

I dare you to move

Like today never happened

Today never happened before

Maybe redemption has stories to tell

Maybe forgiveness is right where you fell

Where can you run to escape from yourself?

Where you gonna go?

Where you gonna go?

Salvation is here”

I discovered a strength I never knew I had. A resilience lurking in the depths of my heart. A forgiveness for bearing the weight of things I didn’t own. Maybe you did too? Without the distraction of spirit stations staffed with fun run camp men and music from JOY99 you were left to dig into determination and grit – and you did it! No one else can you give you that gift but you. And you’ll be able to conquer any real race event because of it! Thank you for showing up for you – and for this community of women. We are truly better together and you are #worldchangers.

-Holly Visser

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