The hundreds of attendees of “Red Dog’s Dog Days,” Lawrence’s own community workout, know that when Don “Red Dog” Gardner interrupts the workout there is something important to say.
Chrissie Wellington, the female winner of Sunday’s Ironman 70.3 Kansas, was the featured speaker at Monday night’s session of Dog Days. Wellington was a sight to see at the annual race and an inspiration, according to volunteers of the event, many who were at Monday night’s session. She was known not only for finishing first in the female division, but battling a flat-tire while still maintaining her signature smile.
Yet, Wellington was not there to speak about her journey as an athlete, or what it felt like to be a champion. She came to thank Red Dog himself for his contribution to the Lawrence community.
“I think it’s important to acknowledge what he’s doing,” Wellington said. “He highlights issues I am passionate about. By me being here, it simply supports what he’s doing.”
Wellington, a native of Great Britain, first heard about Red Dog two days ago.
“I had been told about the numbers,” Wellington said. “I had to come see it for myself.”
Wellington was as shocked as the normal Dog Days’ rookie to see hundreds of people outside of Robinson Gymnasium, stretching in unison before running together.
“I have seen community workouts but none like this that attracts so many different kinds of people,” Wellington said. “From little tots to older, I mean anyone, regardless of ability. It is truly phenomenal. It really brings the community together.”
After being introduced to the crowd of attendees, Wellington offered her thanks to Red Dog, saying that what he had done for so many people’s lives had truly touched her.
“Sport is a vehicle with means to empower,” Wellington said. “All you need is a network.”
Those sitting on the east side of Robinson clapped loudly for Wellington, and many came to shake her hand before being sent out to the next exercise.
“It’s awesome for her to come and be so nice,” Red Dog said. “She has a great personality with no ego. She talks to people she races against like a long lost buddy.”
According to Wellington’s speech given during Sunday’s award ceremony, she simply fell in love with Lawrence.
“This community has a soul and the heart is here (at Dog Days),” Wellington said. “And the heart is beating loudly.”