February 21 2018
Karen Lyons started running to escape hardship–and couldn’t stop.
Dominique Scott is determined to help girls in northwest Arkansas know the joy that running has brought her. After competing in the Rio Olympic Games for her native South Africa, Scott returned home to Arkansas to learn that one of her mutual friends had an 11-year-old daughter who was excited to become a runner but had no place to learn. Scott discovered that while the area had soccer clubs and gymnastics teams and lots of other sports clubs, there was no place for girls to learn the fundamentals of running until they reached high school. And at the high school level, runners were expected to be up to speed about drills, form and all of the intricacies of the sport. Scott saw an obvious lack of opportunity for middle school girls in the running community and was inspired to create the Dom Squad, a running club for middle school–aged girls who have no other access to run coaching. Scott coaches a group of 15 girls aged 8–12 once a week to teach them the fundamentals of the sport, working on form and technique, warm-up and cool-down exercises, as well as drills and light runs. She also assigns two “homework” assignments each week to keep them motivated and plugged into the routine of running. Scott’s motivation for the Dom Squad is to get girls excited about running and to make sure that they learn the proper way to run and keep them from picking up any bad habits before they start running cross-country or track in high school. Scott’s commitment to sharing the sport with girls who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to receive run coaching is creating a whole new generation of female runners in northwest Arkansas.
Jenny Gresla found herself in an unexpected situation a few years ago. Though she was a marathon runner and lifelong athlete, a series of difficult life events knocked Gresla out of her normal routine, and she gained a significant amount of weight. For the first time in her life, she couldn’t find workout gear that she felt comfortable wearing. Determined to help other women with similar apparel struggles, she set out to create comfortable and fashionable workout tops for women at every stage in their fitness journey, despite not having any experience in the fashion or retail industries. The result of two years of research and design was the launch of SELA Fit, a collection of chic and comfortable workout tanks that fit and flare in a flattering silhouette. Gresla believes that making women feel comfortable and stylish while they work out has a big mental impact on starting and maintaining a fitness routine. Gresla says, “Running was never really my thing…that is until I ran the Chicago Marathon. Up until that point, it had always been more of a chore. However, throughout the training process, I gained a whole new appreciation for it. Over time there was a shift, running transitioned from a chore to a ‘tough’ joy…it was hard (and still is), but it ultimately was the catalyst for me when it came to getting back on track.”
But Gresla isn’t satisfied with just creating great workout apparel for women of all sizes; she also wants to give back with her business. Every SELA Fit top purchased results in a $5 donation to the nonprofit Girls in the Game, which is dedicated to giving girls the tools to become confident leaders through access to sports.
Holly Kearl first experienced street harassment while training for a marathon the summer before she started high school. The catcalls, whistling, crude remarks and inappropriate grabbing that she’s faced in the years since are incidents that too many women can relate to. After majoring in women and gender studies in college and writing a thesis on street harassment while completing her master’s degree at George Washington University in 2007, Kearl launched Stop Street Harassment in 2011, a nonprofit geared toward raising awareness about gender-based public displays of aggression. “The goal at that time was to have a place for anyone in the world to share their stories and find resources and advice,” Kearl explains. “I started tracking activism that was happening around the issue and relevant news stories. It’s just grown from there.”
It certainly has. In addition to raising awareness about street harassment statistics, Stop Street Harassment participates in the annual International Anti-Street Harassment Week every spring and unveiled its own national street harassment hotline for U.S. victims in 2016. Kearl regularly appears on panels and in the media to discuss the topic, and has also authored three books on street harrassment in hopes of making a difference.