Runner, Dog Duo to Tackle Geist Half Marathon
Writer: Jon Shoulders
In July of 2015, Morgan adopted Bella, a black lab, from the Vanderburgh Humane Society (VHS) after coming to a realization. An avid runner since 2002, she’d begun training at odd hours on sparse country roads in her hometown of Evansville, and it occurred to her that having a pet along for some partnership and protection might be a sensible idea.
“I fell in love with her when we went to see her,” Morgan says. “We got her home when she was about six months, and I started running with her when she was one. I started bringing her to my cool-downs and slowly increased her distances.”
Before long Morgan had begun taking the dog along for competitive half-marathon races, and Bella couldn’t get enough. The duo now runs six days per week, typically covering 35 to 45 miles in a week-long span, and Morgan says even that level of training often leaves the dog wanting more.
“The one day off a week is horrible for her,” she says with a chuckle. “In the summer we’ll get up at 3 or 4 a.m. because she doesn’t do real well in the heat. We’ll do one long run a week, and then the rest of the days we’ll do speed workouts and tempo runs. She does it all.”
At only three years old Bella is now a marathon veteran, having completed 11 half marathons and several 5K and 10-mile races. The duo recently broke their personal half-marathon record with a time of 1:43:01 in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and will be training throughout the summer for their second full marathon taking place in the fall.
“She has so much energy – she gets up every morning and starts following me around the house until I get my running shoes on and ready to go,” says Morgan, a University of Southern Indiana graduate. “It’s just so much fun to run with her, and take her for races when I’m allowed.”
While Morgan remains passionate about competitive running, her true enjoyment when stepping up to each starting line now lies in the unique bond she’s forged with Bella.
“It’s not about my running anymore – it’s more about being a partnership and making sure she’s safe and everything,” Morgan says. “The heat is the hardest thing on her. We stop when we need to for water breaks, and slow it down sometimes.”
Last summer Morgan launched Run Bella Run to the Rescue, a nonprofit campaign, to raise money for the VHS and increase awareness of the importance of rescuing high-energy dogs — many of which Morgan says do not get adopted from shelters. Last year Morgan successfully raised $3,200 for the Humane Society, and her goal for 2018 is $10,000.
“The Run Bella Run term came from when I first started training her,” Morgan says. “I would yell out, ‘Run Bella run!’ and get her to pick up the pace. She knows that term really well now.”
Last November Morgan ran the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon, and during some downtime she struck up a conversation with Geist Half Marathon representatives who had set up an informational booth at the race. Instantly intrigued, she decided to inquire about competing with Bella.
“We always ask race directors before I run a race with Bella, for permission,” Morgan explains. “The Geist director was very excited to have Bella run. I like the course description, and it seems like a race where everyone’s really supportive. I’m always excited to do races in other cities, and we’re excited to come.”
The Geist Half kicks off May 19 at 7 a.m., and Morgan looks forward to a new course and a fresh challenge – but probably not half as much as Bella does.
For more on the Geist Half Marathon including registration details and course info, visit geisthalf.com.
For details on the Run Bella Run to the Rescue campaign, visit facebook.com/Run-Bella-Run-To-The-Rescue-278078796010235.