Gotta Run: Girls on the Run, Stu Stepp, and it’s racing season

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 21, 2016

With the nice weather of the past week bringing thoughts of spring, a big upswing in running and racing has arrived. One of the coolest names for a local race, the Will Run for Food 5K, is set for this coming Saturday at Centenary Methodist Church. Food often has a lot to do with our reasons to run, but this one is different. Race director Carla Kluttz and her church members and friends annually package thousands of dehydrated meals for shipment to underprivileged areas around the world. Kluttz says that each registrant for the 5K, both runners and walkers, will provide the funds to package 133 of these meals. All participants get a cool dri-fit shirt and some great food, along with the opportunity to win dozens of overall and age group awards both in the 5K and ½-mile fun run.

Looking ahead, Rowan has two more races coming up in March. The Salisbury Fire Department has the popular St. Patrick’s Day 5K on March 12, and Mt. Hope Church has their Run for Missions 5K at Salisbury Community Park on March 26. More info on all the races can be found at

Another local runner has joined the ranks of those with 100-mile belt buckles. Stu Stepp completed the Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile Trail Run in 25 hours and 34 minutes over five 20 mile loops. Stepp said, “It was like running at Uwharrie but with very little elevation change. There were plenty of roots. I ran the first 60 miles in 12:37 and was moving pretty good until mile 85. At that point, I knew that I needed to walk a little bit and get past the current wall that I had hit.”

That’s when it got really tough for Stepp. He continued running when he could to stay warm. Stepp said, “I realized that it was really cold, about 35 degrees. But it felt much colder to me. Around mile 94, I hit an aid station and asked for a trash bag to help keep warm (runners often wear a trash bag in a long race to help maintain body heat). The ladies at the aid station gave me a jacket and told me to keep it but I still stayed at the aid station in front of a heater for 15 minutes hoping to warm up before making my way to the finish.”

Stepp reported that he tore up his left big toe nail, his ankles were swollen and his legs and shoulders were sore. He said, “I had no real injuries, and a little extra sleep and rest should help my recovery. It was a great experience and I look forward to doing another 100-miler someday.”

With 358 runners starting the event, Stepp finished 114th out of the 241 who finished. The Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile Trail Run is held annually in Huntsville, Texas. The 20-mile loops use jeep roads, forest trails and bike trails around Lake Raven in Huntsville State Park.

A notable running group that has gained a greater significance in our area is the Girls on the Run. Now celebrating their 20th year, Girls on the Run International has served over 1 million girls since its inception. GOTR of the Greater Piedmont began in 2008 in Iredell County, originally serving 48 girls. Last year, with the program growing in Rowan County, over 1,000 girls were served in the two counties. A celebration 5K was held at Catawba College in December.

The GOTR youth development program is led by trained volunteers who coach a team of 8 to 20 girls in locations that include elementary and middle schools. Eligible girls attend the third through eighth grades and teams meet twice weekly, usually after school. Each meeting balances physical training and life lessons through the GOTR curriculum, focusing on confidence, character, caring, connection and competence. During the season, the girls continue to grow these skills and make a meaningful contribution to the community and society by creating and implementing a Community Impact Project. Each spring and fall GOTR season culminates in a celebratory 5K where the girls find a tangible sense of accomplishment for their hard work while learning the power of goal setting. The next 5K is scheduled for May 7 at Lowe’s Corporate Headquarters in Mooresville.

“For 20 years, Girls on the Run has been encouraging girls to nurture their physical and emotional health. With the commitment of dedicated volunteers and supporters, the program has flourished and impacted many lives,” said Girls on the Run International CEO Elizabeth Kunz. “We are inspired by the girls we have served and look forward to expanding our reach in years to come.”

For the spring season, 123 girls are enrolled so far at eight elementary schools. “There is plenty of room to grow!” said Events Coordinator Amy Spear. The spring season is set for 12 weeks. Scholarships are available with currently about 30 percent of all participants in Rowan and Iredell receiving some financial help. For more information, call 980-307-3135 or visit

Remember the Learn, Act and Grow workshop on Personal Safety at the Rowan County Public Library in Salisbury on Monday night. Presenters will be Sidekick Karate’s Ricky Smith and the Salisbury Police Department. The workshop, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., is free, but reservations are requested by calling 704-216-7734. Fowler Physical Therapy is offering a free seminar on back pain and sciatic nerve issues on Thursday evening from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Fowler PT is located at 1508 W. Innes St. They played a big part in curing my recent bout with sciatica. I am cautiously building mileage again.

Lots going on, so I’ll hope to see you at some of these events!

David Freeze is a nationally certified running coach and president of the Salisbury Rowan Runners. Contact him at Learn more at