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Last year’s Bellin champ to reprise her role on the course

Kathy VanDehy took the top spot in last year’s 2023 Bellin Run. VanDehy also participated in the 2024 Olympic Trials, placing 68th. Submitted photo

By Tori Wittenbrock

Associate Sports Editor

GREEN BAY –  The 2023 Bellin Run champion, Kathy VanDehy, competed in the Bellin Run in 2022, and after taking first place in last year’s race said that 2024 will be no different.

“I’ve been a runner since middle school, so 20-something years,” said 29-year-old VanDehy.

According to the Menasha native, being a long distance runner is an essential part of her identity as an athlete.

VanDehy said that in order to perform at such a high level, a disciplined training schedule is essential for success.

“My main event is really the marathon. When I am preparing for that I am on a ten day cycle — I take a rest day every ten days,” said VanDehy.

“When I am in my offseason schedule I switch back to a seven day cycle so I can let my body rest and recover. That’s what I am currently doing right now, just letting my body rest one day a week and letting my body get back to my base level which is anywhere from 65 to 80 miles a week, which is where I feel really solid and consistent.”

VanDehy said that she will typically use shorter races like the Bellin Run as part of her training to set goals for herself and to remain in a competitive mindset.

“Through marathon training I will jump in shorter races anywhere from 5ks to 10ks to a half marathon just to use as workouts and to get in that racing mentality. Right now I am kind of in an offseason so I am focusing on  a lot of speedwork right now trying to work on moving a little quicker and getting my legs turned over so that I can get into that muscle memory of the marathon pace,” said VanDehy.

“That’s what I’m really going to try to do at Bellin this year. I have a few other races and half marathons on the schedule for the rest of 2024.”

Although she can often be found participating at an elite level in bigger races, VanDehy said that there is nothing like competing in a local race.

“I actually just ran the Cellcom marathon in Green Bay a few weeks ago, so Bellin will probably be a little slower than I am anticipating because I am still recovering from that,” said VanDehy.

“I really enjoy racing and competing in the area I grew up in and now currently reside in. Just through the running community you know so many people, so on a race day you have so many people you know and love that are cheering for you and supporting you. You may not even know who they are but they know who you are through other races and being at that elite level in the area.”

As an elite runner, VanDehy said that competing in Green Bay can be encouraging and can provide that extra level of support that you don’t often see when participating in a bigger marathon.

“It’s fun for me to compete in some of the smaller races at the local level rather than being on the big stage all of the time just because you do have that hometown connection. It’s fun for people to cheer for a local elite and to know who you are and it’s fun for me, too,” said VanDehy.

A show of support

Like most athletes, VanDehy said that the people around her that support her goals and work ethic are paramount to her success.

“I have a great support system. I have my husband Casey and we’ll be married for two years in October,” said VanDehy.

“My parents try to come to as many races as they can whether it’s local or if they are traveling to Florida or Indiana to support me and cheer me on. It’s also with the day to day training and the grind.”

Because her training schedule requires so much dedication, time and energy, VanDehy said that having a flexible work schedule has been very helpful.

“I do have a great workplace balance in the sense that my employer understands that if I have a 20-mile run scheduled on a Tuesday, I might not be in at my normal time — he completely understands that and if I need any time off of work for traveling to races and all of that they are very good to me about it,” said VanDehy.

“I competed at the US Olympic Trials in February and my team here at work threw me a little going away party when I was leaving so it is really nice to have that support from a professional standpoint.”

On the big stage

According to VanDehy, taking her skills to the next level has been a great way to push herself and see how far her training has taken her.

“This was my first time competing at the US Olympic Trials. Going into it I didn’t really know what to expect, not only from a performance standpoint, but also in terms of mental preparation, too,” said VanDehy.

“I can’t even articulate it, but it is not like any race I have ever competed in before. Just the entire atmosphere, the athlete approach, the athlete mindset is all completely different. I think I put a little bit too much pressure on myself to prepare and perform well at the trials but it was an amazing experience and I can’t wait to go back in four years.”

At the 2024 Olympic Trials, VanDehy’s work paid off as she earned herself a spot in the top 68 runners.

“I know the whole city is different every four years but this year in Orlando was phenomenal. It was so cool to be truly part of an elite field. Sure, you can go to Boston and be part of that elite group of athletes or go to Chicago and say the same thing, but it’s not truly an exclusive event when you’re in those elite fields at larger races but this was, and that was really cool,” said VanDehy.

In addition to running the Bellin Run, Cellcom Marathon and participating in the 2024 Olympic Trials, VanDehy has acquired an extensive wrap sheet of accomplishments.

“I’ve run Boston once and I was the eighth American woman to place and I think my time was around a 2:34 and that was in 2021. I’ve competed in the Chicago Marathon a handful of times. I ran the Houston Marathon in 2023. I was the fifth runner there. I also ran Grandma’s Marathon in 2023 and I was the fifth runner there. Both Houston and Grandma’s are considered mini-majors and the competition there is just outrageous so I am very happy with those performances and I hope to stay on that track,” said VanDehy.

Why the Bellin Run?

VanDehy said that as a local elite, there is something special about the way that the Bellin Run influences the local running community.

“I know that they offer some different training plans and I know that there are different groups within the Greater Green Bay community like run-in groups that you can join to prepare for a race,” said VanDehy.

“Bellin just does a really good job overall with this event. I love the fact that they invite and have complimentary entry to the top 20 males and females and they offer elite hospitality to those runners as well. With it being a smaller local event, they are able to cater and give that elite opportunity to others who may not have that opportunity at a larger event. Giving them that extra motivation and opportunity at a smaller local event is really cool and unique and not something that you usually see at a lot of other places.”

In terms of her advice to others who are hesitant to register to compete in the Bellin Run, VanDehy said that it is time to pull the trigger.

“I think for those who are considering running Bellin and haven’t done it yet I would say,  ‘Why wait?’ because it truly is a fun community event. Not only are you able to run the streets of your local hometown, but there are also football players out on the field that stand around mile four that give you high fives. It’s just a good event. They do a good job with the course and its fun and generally really good weather. My other general advice is just  to keep it fun and enjoy the journey with other friends and family who may also want to participate.”

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