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From Competitive Gymnastics to Marathon Running

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Chelsey Jones

Chelsey Jones is passionate about running. Thanks to Girls on the Run, she is able to share her passion with young girls and help improve their self-esteem and fitness at the same time.

An elementary teacher by occupation, Jones coaches third- through fifth-graders through the program. After serving as an assistant coach for a team in Parchment, Jones is now in her second year of serving as a head coach.

"I volunteer for Girls on the Run because I feel it is a great program. I think it teaches girls so many valuable lessons," Jones said. "From positivity, to self-esteem, to living a healthy lifestyle Girls on the Run teaches lots of great things. Through running girls learn to become strong in many different areas. I only wish this program was around when I was a child."

Even though she has only considered herself a runner since 2005, Jones has completed 18 marathons to date.

"I originally got into running simply to just stay in shape. Growing up I was a competitive gymnast. After ending my gymnastics career I was looking for something to help me maintain my fitness. My dad, who is a runner, suggested I try it.

"For a very long time it was very hard. I struggled to run a mile or two. I set a personal goal in 2006 to run my first marathon and completed it in 4 hours and 19 minutes," Jones said.

A Kalamazoo native, Jones said she didn't appreciate what the area had to offer as a teenager like she does today.

"Growing up I viewed Kalamazoo as a pretty boring place. It didn't seem like there was much going on. After leaving for one year to go away to college I quickly realized how much I truly missed Kalamazoo," she said.

"I feel like Kalamazoo has so much to offer now," Jones said.

"Some of my favorite moments that I have had actually have occurred here after college. Placing second in the Kalamazoo Marathon in 2012 is a great memory. I also have lots of great memories through working at Gazelle Sports and making great friends in our running community."

Jones enjoys watching the runners she coaches develop running related memories as well.

"As cliche as it sounds I love watching the girls complete the 5K. It's an awesome experience," Jones said. "To see so much energy and positivity in one place never ceases to amaze me. The best part is watching the girls cross the finish and to see the confidence they gain by accomplishing new goals."

Jones is looking forward to watching more of her runners cross the finish line at the Greater Kalamazoo Girls on the Run 5K on Thursday, May 22, at Western Michigan University.

For more information about participating or volunteering at the event, visit girlsontherunkazoo.org.

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