Friends who run together have fun together

Kayla Whitmore and Jane Crotteau were “soaked to the bone” even before starting this year’s Dam to Dam race.

Jane Crotteau and Kayla Whitmore, soon-to-be fourth-year students in Des Moines University’s osteopathic medical program, have been runners since their teens, but by their second year at DMU, their paths had crossed and their steps aligned – literally. The two have been running together since, including in half-marathons and other distance races.

“There’s something about running with someone you really like,” Crotteau says.

“No talk about medical school is allowed while we run,” adds Whitmore.

“We do share a lot of celebrity gossip,” Crotteau explains. “And we play music from a fanny pack with the worst pop music – One Direction, Justin Bieber – and we dance and sing.”

The skies had cleared when the two osteopathic medical reached the Dam to Dam finish line.

The latest event the two students ran in was the 39th annual Dam to Dam, a 20-kilometer event on June 2 in Des Moines. Dam to Dam began in 1980 with 375 finishers and grew to become the largest 20K race in the nation, with 9,000 people crossing the finish line this year. Somewhat ironically, the growth of the event made it so unwieldy that this was its last running. Crotteau and Whitmore first participated in Dam to Dam in 2017.

“It was so well run; we loved it,” Whitmore says. “Then we found out this was its last year. It was very fortunate that Jane and I got to run together because they limited the number of runners this year.”

They almost missed that chance: On the morning when registration for the race opened, Crotteau was stuck in an eight-hour surgery while on rotation at Madigan Army Medical Hospital in Tacoma, Washington. Because registration filled up in minutes, she used Facebook and Craigslist to find someone willing to give up his/her slot. Two days before the race, she’d found a ticket.

Dam to Dam wrapped up its run in dramatic fashion. Thunder and lightning filled the sky and “sideways rain” poured down, delaying the start time. “While we were waiting for the bus, we already were soaked to the bone,” Crotteau says. “They lined us up on the dam. I looked at all these people getting pummeled with rain. We were laughing. It was awesome.”

The two running buddies’ first race event together was Des Moines’ Bubble Run in 2016, during which bubble machines spewed foam all along the route.

As usual, the two students had a blast at the event. “She always finds the dogs, and I always find the babies,” Crotteau says. In fact, the Des Moines Register ran a photo the next day of Whitmore gleefully running to greet a dog along the race route.

“Running races together feels like the end of a chapter,” Crotteau says. “We always finish holding hands.”

While the two will be in different states on rotation their fourth year, they hope to participate in at least one race event together before they graduate. That might include the next version of Dam to Dam, which is expected to be picked up by a local start-up under the new name, Dam to DSM. Next February, they’ll travel to Tanzania for a rotation in global health, something they share a passion for. And despite the aches and pains that distance running can provoke, they plan to stick with it, using their osteopathic manual medicine skills when necessary.

“It’s a good thing we know OMM,” Crotteau says.