As most of you are aware, Girls On The Run is so much more than a running program. Founded in 1996 by Molly Barker, her aim was to provide “girls with the necessary tools to embrace their individual strengths and successfully navigate life experiences”.
From the Girls on The Run Northern Virginia site:
We envision a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams.
We inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running.
- Recognize our power and responsibility to be intentional in our decision making
- Embrace our differences and find strength in our connectedness
- Express joy, optimism and gratitude through our words, thoughts and actions
- Nurture our physical, emotional and spiritual health
- Lead with an open heart and assume positive intent
- Stand up for ourselves and others
I jumped at the chance when I was offered a coaching position this spring at my kids’ old elementary school. I was even more excited when my teenage daughter signed on to be my junior coach. Needless to say, it was quite the bonding experience for the two of us. She had a great rapport with the girls and was also able to empathize with some of the challenges coaches and parents of pre-teen girls face. I only have her home for about another year before she goes off to college so I was thrilled to have this time with her.
The program is designed to meet twice a week for 10 weeks. Each session has a specific lesson plan in addition to run time. Themes range from bullying, to self-esteem to being a good friend to name a few. There are specific activities and games designed around these themes before the run time each week. The runs are non-competitive and fun for the girls. There is lots of positive reinforcement by way of stickers, lap counters etc. In the 8th week we had a low key practice 5k leading up to our race May 18th
Our 5k was part of The Taste of Arlington (Virginia) celebration. The location was perfect with ample parking and plenty of spectator spots. Over 2,500 girls and their “buddy runners” lined up to take on the 3.1 miles. The younger girls typically run with a parent or friend while older girls run on their own.
I was asked to run with “K” one of the 10 year old girls on my team. I wasn’t really sure what her pace would look like race day as the girls are pretty much all over the place during the training runs. We arrived at the meet up point to have one last pep talk and stretch with our team. The girls were so excited to be running in a real race and seemed to have amazing energy. Even girls who really didn’t love the running aspect of the program seemed super excited and ready to go.
Similar to many 5k’s the start of the race was pretty crowded and we had to walk/run the first half mile or so to let the crowd thin out. As we neared mile 2, we were able to pick up our pace to about a 9:15 -9:30. It was so inspiring to hear parents encouraging their daughters along the way
“This is the farthest you’ve ever run!”
“This is the fastest you’ve ever run!”
“Don’t give up your so strong”
“You’re doing amazing-we’re almost there”
I found this so emotional as it brought back so many memories of doing the 5k 8 years ago with my daughter. I wasn’t a “Runner” yet then and it was a whole different experience for me this time. I was imagining these girls growing up and loving running as much as I do now.
As we approached the last mile, she wanted to pick up the pace and I was surprised that she could hold it. I was actually wondering whether I would be able to keep up with her. After an 8 week running hiatus due to a stress fracture this was my first real race back and I hadn’t done much speed work. We turned the corner and saw the finish line. She was so excited she just took off and ended up finishing about 20 seconds before me. I was so proud of her. Perfect ending to a great season!
My daughter was able to experience what it was like to volunteer at a large race and really loved handing out the medals to our girls at the finish.
I’m truly grateful to have had the opportunity to coach the girls this spring and I can’t wait to do it again next fall. It was so rewarding to watch them progress through the lessons, bond with their classmates and some even learned to love running. It’s a great feeling to think I could be inspiring the next generation of female runners!
Have you ever done a GOTR race?