“I kind of just hit this point where I was like, I am not living authentically. What do I even like? I sort of had a relationship with myself but not really. Also, I was kind of battling my own sexuality at the time as well, too. And I just hit this moment where I was like, I can’t do it any more — I can’t live the way that I am living, I am not living for myself, and I don’t feel authentic. And so, I ended up quitting running for a short little bit and then revisited the sport with a different mentality of, how can I enjoy this and still figure out these other areas of life that feel kind of swirly and messy?”
Sammie Bennett, a west Michigan runner and SHE RUNS Grand Rapids race ambassador, grew up playing soccer and started running in 2012. Her first-ever road race? The 25K River Bank Run — a pretty big distance for a newer runner. Sammie and Heather talk about tackling this race (it was Heather’s first-ever race, too), how Sammie went on to race the RBR five times, SHE RUNS Grand Rapids (formerly Gazelle Girl) three times, and various other local races totaling 80+ races over the years. During their conversation, Sammie also is honest about how her relationship with running has changed over the years, and the personal growth she’s experienced in more recent time.
Mental health awareness is incredibly important to Sammie, and her mission is to create an inclusive space for all kinds of runners, so everyone has a safe space to challenge their bodies and minds. As a SHE RUNS Grand Rapids race ambassador, she’s particularly focused on helping create a welcoming, inclusive place for runners of all backgrounds and experience.
“Inclusivity is one of my highest values as a runner myself, and also as helping create space for people to have a place in the running community in Grand Rapids because it can be so intimidating and it can also be a little off-putting when you show up in a community and you’re like, I don’t look like anyone else, I don’t act like anyone else, I don’t run like them, but Iwant to be a runner, or I think I am a runner,” she says. “And it’s like, you know, you put shoes on and you go out for a run, you are a runner and you belong and that is really important for me to help empower people to not necessarily feel deterred because they don’t look or feel or do things like anybody else. But if you are curious about running and you want to run, and a barrier for you is accountability or lack of knowledge or you’re just looking for friendship, there’s a place for everybody in the Grand Rapids running community to do that. And I am really big on trying to create that space for everybody if I can. I am trying. I am trying my best.”
Sammie and Heather also talk about winter running and how signing up for a spring race helps keep us motivated throughout the coldest months in Michigan.
Registration is underway for SHE RUNS Grand Rapids, which takes place April 30, 2023. The all-women’s event includes a half marathon, 10K, and 5K. It starts and finishes in downtown Grand Rapids and features nine neighborhood and business districts on the half course, as well as area highlights including the historical Sixth Street Bridge. The event, now in its 11th year, features a Finish Line Festival, open to participants and the community — this event includes live music, food trucks, and local wines, ciders, and beers. 100% of event proceeds benefit Girls on the Run West Michigan and the YWCA West Central Michigan.
Learn more about SHE RUNS Grand Rapids, sign up for a race, and access downloadable training programs at sherunsgr.com
ALSO SHARED: Race discount code for the 30th anniversary Grand Rapids Public Schools Turkey Trot. Use the code 2022MRG5 for $5 off your registration. Register at GRPS.org/Turkey-Trot