Dawn Grunnagle makes running look easy during her laps around White Rock Lake.
She’s a professional runner, logging about 90 miles a week, rain or shine, sometimes 20 miles at a time. It’s a fairly recent career path, however. She spent a decade as a teacher, including seven years at Merriman Park Elementary, where she continues to volunteer with the Merriman Park Elementary Running Club.
In June, with Nike as a sponsor, Grunnagle ran the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon in less than an hour and 15 minutes, meeting the qualifying standards for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials Marathon. In February 2016, she’ll race in Los Angeles, alongside 20-plus other runners, to compete for a spot on the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Team in Rio.
It’s taken years of dedication, discipline and hard training to get to where she is now, plus the support of her family and community. As a full-time athlete, Grunnagle is proof that it takes a village to make a runner. “No one at this level could do this by themselves,” she says.
Grunnagle has been running since she was 16. She always had a competitive spirit, and when her high school coach told her a track scholarship could be her ticket to college, her passion intensified. She ran track for Texas Tech University and the University of Houston before entering grad school to become a teacher. She continued to run while teaching third grade at Merriman Park and then fourth grade at Good Shepherd Episcopal School in North Dallas for three years. She signed on with Nike while prepping for the 2012 Olympic trials and then quit teaching to focus on running.
Within the last couple of years, Grunnagle decided to switch from running track to running marathons. Her trainer has been by her side, helping her transition into long-distance running, and her husband, Harry, rides his bicycle beside Grunnagle during her runs whenever he can.
Grunnagle also has an entire team of supporters in the running organizations she created, SpeedKIDZ and SpeedKIDZ Elite. The latter is a team of girls ages 8 to 14 who come from all over the Dallas area to receive Grunnagle’s coaching and opportunities to race. It’s her way of continuing to teach.
The girls aren’t the only ones who have profited from the mentorship. Grunnagle’s work with SpeedKIDZ has changed her perspective on running, she says.
“Before, I ran for myself and my own goals,” she explains. “Runners, we’re never happy. Now I have 36 girls watching every single thing I do. They’re watching how I react to failure and success. It’s a whole different mentality for me.”
Visit speedkidz.com to find more information on Grunnagle’s work as a running coach.