At the end of last school year a friend approached me about bringing the Girls on the Run program to our school and, before school let out, the plan was put into motion. I discovered early on that a new teacher that was coming to my school was also a coach and, soon enough, our plan became a reality!
When we started in September, we weren’t sure how many girls would sign up, but we actually ended up having TOO MANY and had to turn a few away until next season. Needless to say, it’s been a great experience for me as a first time coach. Some of our girls have grown tremendously in their confidence and athletic ability. They also (hopefully) learned a lot about themselves and different ways to deal with the things around them.
This past Saturday was the culmination of all of their hard work and it was amazing!
We’ve been prepping for weeks for the girls to run their final 5K. Girls on the Run isn’t a “running club” as much as it’s a way for young girls to feel empowered. There were some days where we didn’t run or days where we only ran a little. We did a practice 5K and, though it was around our track at school, the girls did really well. For the actual 5K each of the girls was assigned a running buddy. This buddy was a friend, teacher, or parent who was willing to support them in their run. Myself and Coach Randee, my awesome co-coach, paired ourselves with girls and we’re also lucky enough to work with some amazing women who partnered with girls as well.
The energy at the venue on race morning was unlike any race I’d seen before. I’ve done plenty of family races and large races, but this was so different! Our GOTR team is the only one in our county (which is kind of cool), so our meetup was with the neighboring county. Hundreds of girls, coaches, and buddies out in the early morning to run and have fun!
There were craft stations, hair stations, hot chocolate, and just lots and lots of giggles. It was so much fun to watch, not only our team, but all the girls run around before the race and just be with each other!
We got together for some silly pics at the start line and soon we were off! I ran the practice 5K with my run buddy, a 3rd grader who is a little kindred spirit to me, so I knew we were going to take it easy.
She did great for the first half mile, then we started to slow down a little. The course was fun and full of girls going at a lot of different paces. We passed a couple of our own girls (and had them pass us back a few times) but kept a pretty decent pace. I was probably an over-encourager, but I wanted my buddy to know that she was awesome. Everyone once in a while, she’d take off at a sprint and I’d have to catch up, but we managed to make it the whole way. Once we rounded the track and she saw all the people cheering for her, she was off! (And I had to do the catch up thing.)
At the finish line were plenty of our other girls, families, and our school principal taking pictures and cheering everyone on to finish strong. I got to watch a few more girls cross the finish line before our whole team was through. Seeing them all after, congratulating and hugging each other, made me feel so proud.
I remember when I started running and ran my first 5K. I was 30. THIRTY! These girls are in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade and they crushed their runs. (We also had a few buddies running their first 5K, which was amazing!) This season has been such a learning experience for me and I’m so glad I got to do it. Encouraging girls to not only incorporate fitness into their lives, but also kindness and self-respect, has been so uplifting for me. It wasn’t always easy, as working with kids (especially pre-pubescent girls) never is, but man was it fun.
I’m looking forward to what the next season has in store for us and our girls.
Until next time: Girls on the Run is so much fun!