Charlotte women persist with the Persist 5K

A group of dedicated Charlotte women who take part in boot camp training are helping to organize a fundraiser. Photo by Chea Waters Evans

You need mental strength, not just physical, to haul your body out of bed in time to make a 6am boot camp. A motivated and early-rising group of Charlotte women meet twice a week for this class, which is sponsored by the recreation department. After attending the Women’s Marches in Montpelier and Washington this January, many boot camp regulars returned to real life wanting to do more. From this, the Persist 5k run and walk was born. The event will take place on Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 14 in Burlington, at 9am.

The women arrive for boot camp in the dark, headlights flooding the deserted CCS parking lot; as the sun comes up, the gym slowly fills with the echo of sneakers pounding on the floor. It also fills with the constant chatter of passionate, involved women who have a lot to say.

Many boot camps are quiet and intense, but this one is noisy and intense. With fondness in her voice and a smile on her face, instructor Kristen Hartley, who signed on to be the Persist 5K race director, said, “They never stop talking.”

Ideas start flowing while their blood gets flowing, and the boot campers talk about their jobs and their children, the state of the country, good books and social issues and more, all while working out and waking up, throwing medicine balls and doing what seems like an endless amount of pushups.

After she returned from the Women’s March in Washington this January, Persist 5K organizer Jean Swayze said, “I was out for a run, and thinking about how I wanted to do more, and it came to me: we should hold a 5K.” A conversation at boot camp inspired others to lend their talents to the race, and it quickly picked up enough momentum to become a reality.

Proceeds from the race and walk benefit the Vermont Women’s Fund. Swayze’s fellow boot camper Meg Smith is that organization’s director. Polly Heininger is creating all print design, and Debbie Deale created the web site and all online facets of the project. Others are recruiting corporate sponsors, managing race details, and working (and running) the event.

The Vermont Women’s Fund provides support for young women and girls; their mission is to focus “grant making on Vermont women and girls ages 12-25, with a strategic emphasis on programs that offer financial literacy and job and life-skill training.”

The non-competitive race is in Burlington, and all are welcome; Swayze noted that it’s a great activity to do as a family. On race day, registration opens at 7:30am and the race begins at 9am. There is also a one-mile walk loop for those who are walking instead of running, which means seniors and those with tiny ones can participate comfortably as well. Leashed dogs and strollers are welcome. For more information or to register, visit

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