Race Recap: Girls on the Run 5K

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.

I’m so thankful for amazing coworkers that support our girls!

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!

Girls on the Run is So Much Fun!

At the end of last year I was out on a run (and probably complaining about it on Instagram) when I got a message from a parent from my school. She mentioned that students in her class at the local university were coaching Girls on the Run as part of a class project and thought it would be something I’d like to do at our school.

I had heard about GOTR through social media and a few other things, but hadn’t really thought much about coaching or getting involved. I coached Cross Country at my school last year and that was my first experience with coaching anything, so I was interested to see what GOTR was all about.

We got in touch with the director, met with my principal, and applied for our school to become a site for GOTR over the summer. I also learned that a new teacher we’d hired was previously a coach and would also be interested in coaching…and Girls on the Run was born at my school.

Coach Ashley and Coach Randee in our matching shirts!

There were some logistical things to work out (still are) but we wrapped up our first week on a positive note and I’m really looking forward to the rest of the season!

If you’re wondering what Girls on the Run even is, here’s a little information for you about their core values:

  • 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

Now, I’m a second grade teacher and the program is for 3-5 and 6-8 grade girls. I love these values and everything GOTR stands for. I believe it’s something my school tries to instill in all of our students and I’m so glad we got to bring this program in to help empower some of our girls.

I was nervous about whether or not we would have girls sign up, but we actually had so many that we had to bring in another coach and waitlist some girls for next season. A lot of these girls I’ve known since they were either in kindergarten or second grade, and some of them are my former students. I love the fact that some of my girls signed up because I was the coach, but I truly hope that they learn and grow from this program. What we’ve seen so far has been a lot of fun. The girls are eager to learn and participate in the lessons (even if I’m still learning them too!), they are already helping us problem solve (because it rains in Florida every afternoon), and they are learning how to encourage others. They had fun running inside last week when we had to move for rain and made the most of it!

It’s been one week. Two days! I am so looking forward to seeing these girls grow. I know there are some who will only enhance themselves and their own values, but there are also those that struggle. The older girls are getting to points where everyday is a challenge and there’s always something new to discourage them. Some of these girls are doing a lot of activities and are already learning to make choices about what they are good at and what they want to do. Some of them just need to know that someone is there for them to lend them a positive outlook on life.

The program allows girls to set their own running goals each week as they increase their time spent running and build up their stamina. So far our running has been minimal, but the girls are still having fun and setting goals for themselves.

Kyndall kept us (me) entertained while running and exceeded her run goal.

Presley set a goal and exceeded it. She’s a rockstar!

I’m already loving seeing these girls and their passion for running and fitness, and it’s only been one full week. Like I said, I can’t wait to see what these girls can and will do. I feel privileged to be their coach.