When she started the running group “For the Run of It” two years ago, Kathy Dale had no idea it would grow this much, this fast.
The Grand Haven woman started the group to help beginners get into the sport of running. It began with a small group that met a few times a week in Grand Haven. Now, there are For the Run of It groups meeting in Muskegon, Grand Rapids, Traverse City, Sault Ste. Marie and even Maui.
“When I was training for my first half (marathon), people were really looking at my dedication, going out in the winter and training, and I always trained by myself,” Dale said. “Pepole were like, ‘Wow, your motivation is just amazing.’ They said they wished there was someone who would start a beginner’s running group, because ‘I don’t go fast’ or ‘Sometimes I have to walk.’”
Dale took those pleas to heart.
“Most running groups, when they start, people aren’t ready,” she said. “Even for beginners, you have to be doing at least an 11-minute mile to stay up with them. I wanted to encourage a beginners group to know that they can walk at the start, then progress to running.”
For the Run of It uses Facebook to keep in touch and offer encouragement to members, who meet each Saturday morning for a run.
“During the week, we do some running, but that’s geared more toward the ones who have already started,” Dale said. “We’ll go to different spots. In the summer, we like to do Hofma Park, and over in Muskegon, Hoffmaster, and sometimes we’ll cruise out to Spring Lake.
“But on Saturdays, I like to keep in the same. We run the Coast Guard Run 5K route. That way, people can look and say, ‘I made it a block farther this week.’
As word of the group began to grow, people in other areas began to express an interest in similar groups in their town. Dale also spreads the word with a booth at the Living Well expo in Grand Rapids.
“In Muskegon, I met another runner who took over, and I actually went up and searched in Saulte Ste. Marie, did a news article up there,” Dale said of her efforts to expand the organization. “In Traverse City, she was going back and forth running with the Saulte group, and decided to stay in Traverse City and lead it for me.
“The leaders don’t get paid. They just do it for the love of running. I just ask if they would run that one Saturday, and post things during the week.”
Using Facebook as a social hub for the group allows seamless communication between running mates.
“If they can’t run on a certain day, they can say, ‘Hey, I can’t make it Thursday but I can go out tonight. Does anybody want to go for a run?’” Dale said. “So the Facebook pages have really taken off.”
Dale’s ultimate goal is for those who try For the Run of It to become more accomplished runners, moving on to bigger and better obstacles in their running careers.
“Hopefully, I’m a stepping stone so they can go on and do different races, move on to other groups,” she said. “That’s what we want. We’re all a running community.