June 2019 - ATHLETE PROFILE
Hometown: Verona, NY
Family: Husband, Brian; Kids, Abigail (14) and Wyatt (12); Trixie, Dog (3)
Occupation: Senior Media Manager
Favorite Quote: Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the number of moments that take our breath away
By Michelle Germain McDonald
Fresh off her stellar performance at the Capital Region’s premier Freihofer’s Run for Women 5K, this ‘veteran runner mother’ brings more than a fast time to her sport. Karen Dolge has an extensive history of being a top runner in the region. While she runs her own race, she sports an uncanny ability to encourage people, ranging from the speedster to the caboose, to learn and love to run.
Karen captured first place in her age group (45-49) on June 1 in the 41st running of the Freihofer’s Run in downtown Albany with a 20:25. Among 2,648 finishers, Karen placed 55th in a field of USATF runners and amateurs from her community to across the nation.
She’s not one to brag and always wants to know first about how somebody else did in a race. When I asked about her races and awards, Karen humbly supplied some ‘fast facts.’ She’s clocked 32 total marathons, including 15 Boston races. In 2003, she came in 59th female overall with a Boston PR of 3:06. Her PR is at the Hartford Marathon and the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon, where she ran a 3:04:00 in 2008 and 2009, respectively. She says, “I usually run around a 3:10ish, but am still working on a PR.”
In May, she ran the CDPHP Workforce Team Challenge, and the Kinderhook Bank OK5k in June. “These short distances are really uncomfortable for me, but I do them to push me outside my comfort zone. Plus, these races are well-organized and enjoyable to participate in. I am also looking forward to training for a fall marathon (race TBD).”
With all its excitement, Karen’s running career comes with its share of pain, suffering, and even horror. She’s just back from a few injuries and looks forward to getting stronger and running more races this year. Since 2017, she suffered two stress fractures in her right foot, the second, at mile 25 of the MHR Marathon. After she recovered, she started falling while running and fell eight times in two months. Sadly, she received no answers after multiple tests. She was introduced to Ray Webster, physical therapist at Positive Motion. “Ray helped me adjust my gait, work on some imbalances, and got me to the start line of Boston this year. Knock on wood, I haven’t fallen since January.”
Karen remembers the horror in Boston on that fateful day, April 15, 2013. She says, “We were heading to the “T” (Boston’s subway) to go to our hotel when we heard what we thought was a car backfiring. When we got to the hotel, we turned on the news to watch the rest of the race coverage and were horrified to see what happened. The fear of not knowing what was going on, the disbelief of what happened to that little boy cheering on his Dad, and to the others killed and injured, was such a senseless act. The next year at the marathon was so emotional, and the bond the runners have and the whole Boston community, was that much stronger! That is why Boston is my favorite race.”
I wondered what was Karen’s Running Epiphany? How does somebody decide to do one marathon, much less 32? She says back in high school she joined cross country and track, mainly for the social aspect. She and her coach knew she wasn’t going to be a sprinter, so she did the mile, 3200m relay, and occasionally the 3200 individual. “We weren’t good, but we enjoyed our time together at the track.”
After college she really enjoyed running long distance. “I would run for fitness, both physical and mental. I was going through some tough times in my life, where my saving graces were my friends and my fitness. Running helped me clear my mind, and feel good, both inside and out.”
She entered local 5Ks, 10Ks and 15Ks, and placed in her age group division. At 30, she made the commitment to run her first marathon with Leukemia’s Team in Training program at San Diego’s Rock n Roll Marathon. “An amazing and inspirational experience, I would highly recommend to anyone. I qualified for Boston at this marathon, so my second marathon was Boston!”
After her first marathon, she got the marathon bug. “I found the distance that I LOVE. Ever since then, I have been running two marathons a year, in the spring and fall, with the exception of when I was pregnant. I ran during both my pregnancies, up until the day I gave birth.”
It’s a family affair this marathon bug… “When I was training for my first marathon, my husband was a rolling water stop, he rode his bike alongside me to hand me water when I needed it.” Her husband and six-month old daughter rode Boston’s T to mile 21 on the marathon course to see their runner mother for a second. “They are my biggest cheering section on the sidelines of my marathons.” Not surprisingly, her daughter is now on varsity track and has broken two school records set back in the 1980s – 1500m and the 4x800 relay.
Karen is one of the founding members of Kinderhook Running Club, which became an official club in 2009, and celebrates its 10th year anniversary. “We encourage runners of all abilities to join our club runs and social events. Everyone has their own goals and we thrive on helping them achieve them in any way we can. Just taking that first step out the door, knowing people are waiting for you, is very motivating. KRC organizes a spring clinic every year to help encourage community members to come out and be active; whether walkers, newbie runners or veteran runners, we love to see people work for, and achieve their goals. It is so rewarding to see a huge smile on someone’s face once they cross their finish line goal.”
Perhaps where Karen has made most of her impact, I think, is with her involvement in the KRC. She certainly made a huge impact on me. As a member of the KRC, and throughout my six KRC runs at the Utica Boilermaker 15K, she was always supportive and interested in my running and goals. Nothing can tame her enthusiasm for fellow runners, even us slow poke steadies like me.
She has a natural way of relating to kids, both on and off the track. “I like to believe I am a role model for my kids, but I also feel they are a role model for me as well. I am blessed to have two healthy, active and athletic kids, who love to play basketball, soccer, baseball and running. Sometimes when I head out for a run, I will come back to find them setting up hurdles, cones, and an agility ladder in the backyard for their workout.”
What’s her trick to juggle training, family, and work? Karen loves being outside and its one reason why she loves running so much. She enjoys hiking, gardening, skiing and swimming. She doesn’t have a lot of free time because of kids’ sports, but always makes time for a run. “Whether it means getting up at 5:30am, heading out at 8pm, running during lunch, or when kids are at practice, it is so important to take care of yourself, mentally and physically, to be there to care for your children.”
As for the future, she says, “I am inspired by those who are my age or older and are still running strong. I don’t foresee myself ever giving up running, and I still have a couple of goals to achieve. I am looking forward to running races with my kids, as well as cheering them on from the sideline.”
Michelle Germain McDonald (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a 17-year runner mother, writer/project manager, and three-year blogger for the Times Union covering the East Greenbush area.