After St. Louis half-marathon is canceled, friends and family line roadways to cheer on Gainesville woman’s ‘race’ here

Natalie Kiger reached the finish line of her own 13.1-mile half-marathon route at Highways 160 and Third Street in front of Top Dog Fitness Center. In true Ozark County fashion, Natalie’s brother Nathan, left, and father Jerry, used a discarded hay wrap netting as an improvised finish line.

Natalie Kiger stands with friends Blakely Morrison, left, and Peyton Donley, right, after completing her half-marathon.

Natalie Kiger’s parents, mom Brandy Kiger, left, father Jerry Kiger and his wife Julie, were some of the many friends and family member encouraging her as she ran her own half-marathon recently in Gainesville.

By Jessi Dreckman


Gainesville resident Natalie Kiger, a student at College of the Ozarks, had been training for the March 29 Go! St. Louis half marathon with friend and running partner Kara Ford since December, but like most events across the country, the race was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Natalie and Kara, who lives in Ozark, didn’t give up that easily. The women decided to complete the race instead in their respective hometowns, about 75 miles part. 

“Today was supposed to be race day in St. Louis, but God thought differently. With many changes to the original plan, we needed to improvise,” Kiger wrote on Facebook on March 29. “Even though we’re not jamming to our amazing playlist, dancing… giving words of encouragement when we want to quit or crossing the finish line together, we made the most of the day!”

Kiger’s family and friends gathered alongside the roadway throughout the 13.1-mile route, waving signs and yelling words of encouragement. Her father, brother and friends took turns running alongside her and handing her water along the way. 

The run was an emotional one, Kiger said, but it was incredibly heartwarming to have her friends and family with her throughout the run.   

“The thing I learned today was not the number of miles I can run in a certain amount of time, but it was love and selflessness. The love I felt today was indescribable! I cannot put into words what I felt when I topped a hill or rounded a curve to see some of the people I love most holding signs and cheering me on!” Natalie posted. “They took the time to watch someone run for two hours and cheered louder with each mile. That is love.”

Kiger gave a special thanks to her dad, Jerry Kiger, and his wife Julie, who coordinated the effort. 

“But God deserves the most thanks, because He made this all possible!” she said.

Ozark County Times

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