This story is part one of a ten-part series leading up to the 2019 Sioux Falls Skedaddle. For more information about the race and how to join us on April 28, visit the website here.
Gretchen Ritterling is opening this story right now, just like you are. With one hand, she’s stroking her 19-year-old black cat, Friday, and with the other, she’s taking off one of her running shoes. Now she’s laughing that we know she just got back from a run.
No, Gretchen. Nobody is watching you. Stop giving Finn that look. He didn’t tell us. We know that you’re a bit sweaty and winded because there’s almost never a time you haven’t just returned from a run.
But it isn’t just a daily exercise or a heart-healthy effort. It’s something Gretchen does for her soul, and she does it as often as she can.
Having run most of Pink Gorillas events over the last several years, Gretchen was among the first to sign up for the newest half marathon, The Sioux Falls Skedaddle.
It all started years back.
Having given up smoking in 2013, Gretchen found her body responding differently to everyday life. Her body composition changed, and while her anxiety climbed up, her energy fell down. A former runner, Gretchen decided to start signing up for a few short races to get back on track. When a runner friend asked Gretchen to help her with a simple errand, grabbing a race packet she didn’t have time to retrieve herself, Gretchen heard of The Good Life Halfsy for the first time.
When delivering the packet, Gretchen voiced her new mission: She was going to run the Pink Gorilla events. All of them.
Her first was 2016’s Harvest Moon Hustle. She was hooked by the energy, the environment, and by the other racers and spectators, who make you feel like they are there just to cheer you on.
“You feel like you’re part of some huge extended family, and you kind of are. For that one day, we all have just one goal: Cross the finish line. And somehow you feel responsible for the people around you crossing, too. At one point during a race, I actually turned around to face the girl who had been shouting at me, encouraging me the whole race. I said ‘Look, I know you’re not here for me, you’re not here just to cheer me on, but I see you and please know that I appreciate you!’ No matter what happens, you have that moment. That vibe and that atmosphere, you can take that with you and remember it whenever you need to.”
Gretchen immediately signed up for all of the Pink Gorilla events in 2016, but her dogs had other plans. Playful and full of love for their mom, a particularly excited greeting from her Dalmatian/Great Dane mix, Snoopy, and her Norwegian Elkhound, Finn, took Gretchen out. A knee surgery later, her orthopedic surgeon told her she would never run again.
Fortunately, there is one thing Gretchen likes even more than Pink Gorilla events: Proving people wrong.
A grueling physical therapy schedule had Gretchen rehabilitating her knee for 10 weeks, and in 2 and a half months, she won an argument with her surgeon – promising not to run, but to walk the Good Life Halfsy.
Not only has her enthusiasm gotten her across an average of one finish line per month, but she has also now started infecting others with her contagious optimism and excitement.
“I challenged my boss to sign up in 2017. She asked what it was like, what to expect. I said I can’t tell you. I can’t tell you what it feels like, or what it will feel like for you, but I can tell you that nobody can take it away from you. You cross the finish line, and that becomes something you have always done. You always finished.”
Still determined, Gretchen insisted that 2018 would be the year she completed every one of the Pink Gorilla events. Her next half marathon would deliver the obstacle that would set her back a race.
“My feet got wet early in the race, and I didn’t think too much of it at first. By mile 8, I was in a lot of pain. I stopped and called my friend Sarah and told her I had to be done, I needed a ride. She wasn’t hearing it, she knew I wanted to finish. She pushed me, reminding me it was only 5 more miles, I’d already done more than that. So I pushed through, and I’m glad I finished… but I took my shoes off and it was bad.”
The blisters had covered the bottoms of her feet, and Gretchen required downtime to heal.
2019 is going to be Gretchen’s year, and we cannot wait to see her at each and every Pink Gorilla event. As she said, it’s not us making this event great, it’s you. It’s the people who show up, celebrate, and cheer for one another. It’s the family we are only lucky to be able to bring together, and it is our privilege to offer you fun, challenging events to celebrate and conquer, one step at a time!
We’re excited for our loyal friend Gretchen and 2,500 other runners to join us at the inaugural Sioux Falls Skedaddle. This race promises to be just as unique, fun, and organized as our other Pink Gorilla Events.