How I Get Sh*t Done: Karen Stark/Gowns on the Grind

If you’ve ever travelled to Vancouver then Grouse Mountain might be a familiar hiking spot to you. At the face of the mountain, there’s a trail that is known as the Grouse Grind, or “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster.” It’s a 2.9 kilometre, 853- metre high trek that can get even the best of hikers! Now what if I told you to climb that trail, but in a wedding dress or a your old promo dress?

That’s what a group of 13 women will be wearing when they climb the Grind on September 29th for the first annual Gowns on the Grind fundraiser! And it’s all for a great cause!

This week, Healthy is Hot sits down with the founder of this event, Karen Stark. A North Vancouver resident herself, Karen works as a marketing manager at BC Bike Race and came up with this idea two years ago. We find out her motivation to start this fundraiser, the impact it will have, and how a healthy active lifestyle has become part of who she is!

What began your passion for fitness?  

I was brought up in a family with a brother who rode on the pro circuit for mountain & road biking and I was essential the swayneer & cheerleader on the sidelines for years.  Then one day I started getting in to some races myself, started with running, then biking then adventure racing. 

How did the idea for Gowns on the Grind start?  

My brain is constantly churning with business & fundraising ideas.... usually the best ideas seem to come to me on runs in the woods with friends that I bounce the ideas off of.  I had this particular idea 2 years ago but kept putting it to the back of my mind as life got busy. 


What is KidSport and why did you want to start a fundraiser for it? 
Kidsport helps get kids into organized sports that couldn't otherwise afford it.  Every child deserves the opportunity to participate in sports and research shows that this type of participation enhances academic performance, improves health & develops valuable life skills in the area of teamwork, socialization, goal setting & time management!   


What dress will you be wearing to the event?   

Mine is a bridesmaid dress.



Everyone is asking about the dresses, but what kind of shoes will you be running in? 

Salomon kindly donated the NEW Sense Ride trail shoe for all of the hikers!!! So I bought a dress to match the shoes (lol). Vancouver Umbrella has also kindly donated umbrellas for everyone given theres a good chance we will be hiking in the rain!!

Will you have any snacks on hand during the hike if so what are your go-to’s for hiking?  

My go-to's when i'm out hiking, biking or running are normally home made power bars that are packed with goodness... on this particular Gowns on the Grind day Tim Hortons is providing us with coffee and donuts which definitely fits the fun factor of the day! 

How do you like to stay active in your everyday life?  

I try to get in a run/bike most days before work... sometimes 6am if that's the only time.  I have a wonderful community of friends that all love doing what I do so there's no shortage of people to sweat with.  I don't think I have a single friend that works regular 9-5 jobs either so there's lots of flexibility to make health a priority! 

What do you want people to take away from this event? 

I would love it if people carved out some time to help in any way they can with something they are passionate about.  Step back from busy life & look around at what matters in life, be the reason someone else smiles that day.  Doesn't have to be in relation to fundraising just life in general... don't take things to seriously. 

There will be 13 of you hiking up the Grind, if the event continues next year, would you open it to the public?  

Yes I would like to open it up where anyone who raises or pays themselves I suppose $350 can hike. 

What does this kind of event mean to you? 

I get excited when I see things start from the ground up, believing in them fuels my fire & keeps the momentum going to see it through till the end.  

There are a lot of people who will read this and feel inspired to start their own movement, fundraiser, etc. What advice do you have for anyone who wants to make a difference through a fundraiser or event like this?  

Believe in your ideas, work hard, ask for what you want, build a team of passionate people to help and don't let any set backs or rejection hold you back.  

What does Healthy is Hot mean to you?

Means being happy!  A happy person is a healthy person! 

Follow the Gowns on the Grind Journey on Instagram: @gownsongrind

Follow Karen: @karenstark