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Originally published Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 7:23 PM

This group of female runners always sticks together

Run Like a Grrrrl has been increasing in popularity (from 10 runners to more than 40) since it was founded last summer as a part of Olympia's Guerrilla Running Club.

McClatchy Newspapers

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School has just started in many parts of the country, so it might be a good time for a little story problem:

Q: A former member of the U.S. duathlon team, a Boston Marathon qualifier and a woman who can't run a mile without walking leave Olympia on a Wednesday night on a five-mile run. Who finishes first?

A: All three, if they're members of the Run Like a Grrrrl running club.

"No girl left behind," said Rachael Jamison, the club's founder. "We all stay together on every run."

That principle and the club's emphasis on encouragement over competition probably explains why Run Like a Grrrrl has been increasing in popularity (from 10 runners to more than 40) since it was founded last summer as a part of Olympia's Guerrilla Running Club.

The members say there are other reasons they love the club, too: It's a social activity, self-deprecation isn't permitted, and no boys are allowed.

"Some women who have never run are intimidated running with guys because they are generally faster and don't tend to wait," said Susan Giordano, self described as one of the group's slower runners. "And it makes for a kind of a girls night out kind of thing."

But don't feel sorry for the guys, Guerrilla Running also has a Wednesday men's run.

Jamison, 35, hatched the idea for Run Like a Grrrrl as she pondered the stressful training she put herself through during her running career. She was a member of the 2005 U.S. Duathlon team, she qualified for the Boston Marathon, she's run ultramarathons, and she's won local races.

But what she really wanted to do was inspire people to start running.

"That's why we aren't looking for the fastest runners," Jamison said. "We want people who will be ambassadors of running, people who will have a smile on their face when they cross the finish so that people might see that and want to get out and try running."

Run Like a Grrrrl, whose growling name is an homage to the 1980s and '90s Riot Grrrrls punk feminist movement, has plenty of fast runners.

Marilou Powers Russell has run 86 marathons (including three in one weekend), 100-mile races and three Boston Marathons. Marilyn Olson is an ultramarathoner who runs 50- and 100-kilometer races.

Both consider the casual Wednesday runs a highlight of their week.

"I love the social aspect because running can be a very solitary sport," said Powers Russell.

Olson calls the club "a blessing in my life."

"It's a chance to run with other people. And it's a chance to give something back and help encourage people. ... A lot of people who come don't have that encouragement," she said.

Carrie Jackson said she "was by no means a runner" when she found Run Like a Grrrrl in May.

"I couldn't run," Jackson said. "Now I can run three miles without feeling too terrible."

Jackson loves running and tried to find other clubs but often felt out of place.

"A lot of clubs say they are for all levels," Jackson said. "But then you get there and you find out it's not really for all levels.

"So I was definitely hesitant, but I took the plunge. Nobody runs alone, and they don't make you feel like a burden if they have to stop and wait because they are having such a good time."

Now, Jackson is trying to convince friends who aren't runners to try the group.

Before each run Jamison sends out a group email reminding members the run is noncompetitive and focused on socializing and encouraging people to enjoy the sport. And before each run the women pose for a quick group photo that Jamison emails to everybody after the run.

"It's great to see the progression of the group, how large it's grown," Powers Russell said, "and to see the days we ran in the rain and snow.

The club hasn't missed a weekly run yet. In the winter, the women even wear headlamps so they can run in the dark.

"Running can be so profoundly empowering for women," Jamison said. "It gives you the opportunity to build healthy friendships and community and to challenge the preconceived notions of what you can do." Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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