It’s just been a few months since Dawn Rushing set the goal of running 30 half marathons before she turned 30 years old.  A self-described non-athlete with a history of weight struggles, Rushing ran her very first 5K on Nov. 12, 2012.  She didn’t place in the field of 1,000 runners, but she did finish. 


 That gave her a sense of accomplishment and on a whim she decided to run her first half marathon the following month. Considering that she hadn’t really trained for it, she thought she did fairly well.


 After talking with a friend who had decided to run 30 half marathons before she turned 30 years old, Rushing decided that was just the challenge she needed.  She’d celebrate her 30th birthday in November 2014.  Before that happened, she decided she’d run in 27 half marathons in 2013 and finish off her 30 Before 30 challenge in 2014.  And, along the way, she’d challenge herself with a few full marathons for good measure.


 She’d set the 30 Before 30 goal for herself, but she also wanted the challenge to be more than just her own personal goal.  She began searching for a charity she could raise funds for while achieving her objective.  “I wanted to raise money for something that was meaningful for me and that’s why I chose Girls on the Run,” she said.  “I wanted to help girls learn that there’s a stronger version of themselves just a few steps away.


 Having a community that helps girls set goals is important to the mother of one- and three-year-old daughters.  Rushing, who lives in Talbot, Tenn., has found the characteristics of Girls on the Run appealing to her as a mom as she tries to teach her girls to be healthy, confident and strong. “I would have liked having a group I could have gone to when I was younger where everyone had the same thoughts and goals,” she said.  


 Rushing has also found that GOTR benefits parents.  “Parents need that sense of community and help in guiding their children.  We lose track in the midst of the hustle of our phones, computer, and work to focus on our children’s health,” she continued.  “Or, we don’t have the means to know what direction to take with them.  My parents didn’t know a thing about health so that hurt me in the long run.”


 Girls on the Run has an adult fundraising program called Solemates that begins with an adult agreeing to raise $175 which is the cost of the registration fee for one girl.  In return, the adult receives a training plan for the GOTR 5K race and free race entry.


 Rushing set out with the goal of funding 10 girls and designed a virtual race series called Run Like A Girl to provide scholarships for girls who might not have the money to participate in GOTR. Run Like A Girl race participants register for her three-part race series just as they would sign up for any race.  “You run your own distance at a time convenient to you between a set period of time between May 1 – 13, September 1 – 15 and December 1 – 15,” explains Rushing.  She named the three parts of the race series, Be Strong, Be Confident and Be Motivated and participants receive a different medal after completing each part. 


 She’s raised over $2,000 to date and expects to have more than $3,000 by the end of the year.  “Our original goal was to fund 10 scholarships, and we’re well over that,” she said. All of the funds go to support Girls on the Run Northeast Tennessee. 


 “We can’t thank her enough for her dedication to helping young girls in our region,” praised Jessica Thomas, co-council director of Girls on the Run Northeast Tennessee.  “She is an inspiration to us and a true role model.”


  “There’s a GOTR Council in Knoxville but I really wanted to support something that might not get as much money as a bigger city.  Besides we think Johnson City is the prettiest city in Tennessee and have considered moving there,” said the Indiana native, who runs this weekend in the Indy 500 Festival’s Mini-Marathon in downtown Indianapolis, the nation’s largest with 35,000 participants, on Saturday, followed by  the Cincinnati’s Flying Pig Half Marathon on Sunday.

 You may follow her progress at

Mom sets goal for herself and helps others at same time