Courtesy of Bethany D. Lavins-Merillat
A Northeast Ohio native, health psychologist/runner Bethany D. Lavins-Merillat (MS Ohio University, MEd Cleveland State University) built her research career earning graduate degrees focusing on how to help people make healthier choices in their lives.
When her husband came across a flyer for a dog friendly race last year, she started doing research online to find races near her.
“None of the major race databases that I contacted was currently keeping track of which races are dog friendly,” says Lavins-Merillat. “I pitched the idea of a research study focusing on the current state of dog-friendly events in the U.S.A. and potential health benefits to humans to my boss at RunRepeat, and six months later, I found myself swamped with work. In general, my research focuses on understanding the psychology behind why people might want to exercise and why they don’t — I examine ways to help motivate people to live healthier lives. With dog-friendly events, I saw the potential for a link between the social aspects of a dog-friendly event and the physical/health benefits.”
She’s recently published a research paper about dog runs/walks in the country and has even developed an online, mobile phone friendly “race finder” tool
to make it easy to find dog friendly runs/walks near you. She says that Ohio has the second largest number of dog-friendly walk/runs in the country, many of which occur in the Cleveland area.
“It’s snowballed into this wonderful thing, and I can barely keep up with the research,” says Lavins-Merillat, who just ran a local dog-centered race with her husband and their pup Boston this past weekend. “I’ve been getting a lot of great feedback from people about the site.”