Guerilla Running: Empowering Women Through Running

Guerilla Running Sidewalk Group RunBy Laurie O’Brien

You have to start somewhere.  And everyone’s somewhere is different.  Guerilla Running doesn’t care what your starting point is, they’re more interested in helping women reach whatever their destination may be.  For some, it’s being able to run a mile without having to stop.  For many it’s completing a 5K race, even if it means walking most of it.  Still others have their eyes set on a marathon or participating in some other endurance running event.   For most, the goal is an ever changing one.  For everyone it’s more about the journey.

Guerilla Running provides a safe way for both men and women to explore the sport of running.  Rachael Jamison founded the group along with her partner Craig Dickson in 2009, but in the past year,  the women’s group, lovingly referred to as “Run like a Grrrl,” has taken on a life of its own.  On any given Wednesday night a group of up to 50 runners will meet at the Farmer’s Market.  While Dickson corrals the men and heads out with them, Jamison shepherds the women, making sure everyone feels welcome and informed about the evening’s plan.  There is always a group photo taken before a run, and more often than not, it is followed by a group hug.

It’s Jamison’s number one goal to create a nurturing, supportive environment for her group. “I was a very competitive runner for years and years,” she explains.  “I was very hard on myself and really used running as a way to beat myself up instead of to empower myself.  Through some fairly arduous personal struggle I got to the point where I realized that that was just garbage and that the heart of running really resides in community and in women having an opportunity to feel good about themselves.”

She wants women to know that running shouldn’t be about competition.  “The impetus for the group was to create a safe place for women to come and explore running and not feel competition and not feel like they had to be a certain weight or a certain size or a certain pace or a certain anything other than just where they are.  (We) really focus on, like I say, the heart of running, which is community.”

Guerilla Running Group PhotoIntegrating into the group is easy according to Jamison.  “We pretty much do a group hug and we say ‘Welcome,’”  she laughs.   “We have a rule that says no girl gets left behind, and it’s a very, very, friendly welcoming group, so there’s generally always people that will say ‘Oh you’re new – I’ll run with you tonight.’”

Each member of the group has her own story to tell.  Each came to the group with a different level of fitness and stamina.  One woman is proud of having lost close to 90 pounds since March.  She’s already completed a number of 5K events and is adding longer distances to her goals for 2012.  On Wednesday nights she might run alongside women who came to the group as experienced marathon runners.  These nights are less about training and more about support and encouragement.

At 46, Jeneth Tappan wasn’t sure what to expect when she joined the group last August.   “I had never run, ever, in my life” she says.  She eased into it with a 5K training group and participation in the free Wednesday night and Saturday morning runs.  Not only did she complete the 5K Puget Sound Classic in September, she has since participated in two 10K events.

Carrie Jackson tells a similar story.  “I had not run at all,” she says.  She started in May with the goal of participating in a women’s- only 4K event, The Moon Run, organized by Guerilla Running.  “Originally I just wanted to walk, and then I saw that they had the training groups, so I thought that I would try that and see if I hated running as much as I thought I would, and it turns out I don’t!”  This year she hopes to complete the half marathon option at The Moon Run.

Jackson also has a goal of completing the Transcendence 12-Hour Utra-Endurance Challenge in August.  For Jackson, the idea of moving her feet for 12 hours is more appealing than running a 26 mile marathon.  The Endurance event is set up more like a Run-a-thon than a race.  Participants do circuits around Capital Lake.  There is an aid station every mile and half and participants can takes breaks.  There is no clock comparing one person’s time to another’s.   12 hours versus 26 miles is “just more appealing to me.  Just to see how much I (can) do as opposed to having to do a certain amount.”

About 6 years ago Jackie Frederick pulled out the running shoes for the first time in decades.  She’d been a sprinter in junior high and high school.  Now she specializes in 50K races.   “I hated long distances until I started doing this,”  she says.  She’s currently training for a 100 mile race in October of 2012.   “My husband did a 100-miler (last) October.  I crewed him on that, and I (thought) ‘I have got to be a part of this.  I want to do this.”  For Frederick, it’s about having a personal challenge.  “Once you start, you’re just ‘Let’s see if I can!’”

While there are training groups set up for specific events, Jamison wants women to know that the Wednesday night and Saturday morning group runs are free and open to anyone who wants to give it a try.  “The way to get into Guerilla Running in general is to just show up.  This group (Wednesday night) is always free.  You just show up and run.”  There are 3 and 5 mile routes for each run, and people work at many different pace levels starting with a jog/walk option.

Jamison invites any interested women to join them for a Wednesday evening run.  All you have to do is show up at the Farmer’s Market stage area a little bit before 5:30.   Men are more than welcome to come too, but they’ll be running with a different group!  It’s all about the Grrrls!

Guerilla Running Capital LakeFor more information about the Run like Grrrl program, check them out on the web:

For more information about Guerilla Running and the Training Programs and events they offer:

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