Back when I was working on my Master’s Degree, I did much of my specialization in relational (hidden) aggression in adolescent girls. Basically, why mean girls are mean girls and what it would take to change that. In the course of my research, I came across an amazing non-profit organization called Girls on the Run (GOTR). My love-at-first-sight was doubled, seeing as it was a Girls’ Empowerment program as well as a running program. I vowed to myself that one day I would be a part of, and coach with, this program (#53 on my list).
I feel like this point in time is really an ideal time for me. In recent years, I’ve mulled over the meaning and motivation for my running. Having been a runner myself since age 10, I have met every goal I’ve ever wanted to meet in regards to my fitness. I have 5 marathons under my belt, have participated in countless Fun Runs (I pride myself in running the very first Run to Feed the Hungry in Sacramento 19 years ago) have traveled halfway around the world and back to “compete” and now…. what? I had scoffed and turned my nose up at these themed runs, after reading an exposé in a Fitness magazine about it just being another trendy thing fattening the pocketbook of someone capitalizing on “Fun” runs by making fools out of people standing in line waiting to belly flop into mud or run around wearing ugly prom dresses with zombie make-up on and binge drinking afterward, so… those were out of the question. Had I passed my prime? Jumped the shark? Kicked the bucket?
In the back of my mind for the past decade, however, has been GOTR. I believed in its message and knew it was everything good because I had lived it myself. Running from an early age on gave me a confidence, mental endurance, self-awareness that I don’t believe I would have really gotten anywhere else had I not joined a running team. GOTR is running combined with group discussions on self-esteem, relationships, bullying, health, etc. I knew I wanted this for all girls, not just my own. Seeing as my small little town had no cross country team, and no sports programs at all for youth until HS, I knew this was as good a time as any.
I went out, spoke at the PTA, spoke with the District, solicited the help of the other social service agencies and put a request out for other co-coaches. The response was overwhelmingly positive and within weeks I had 3 other co-coaches, full weekend training under our belt and I presented the idea to the students shortly after. I still remember the day my Running Coach came to my classroom and invited me & my peers to join- it was life changing, clearly. To fast forward 20 years later and find myself doing the same thing, just shows you never know how and when you might make an impact.
We now have a team of 10 girls (a feat in itself seeing as there are only 16 girls in the whole school that are of the right age range requirement) and have been practicing twice a week for the past month! These girls are nothing short of AMAZING.
This has been significant to me in many ways. Being able to provide this kind of program to a group of girls who otherwise have little-to-no resources available to them I think is so much more powerful than if I had done this program in an affluent community with an abundance of programs (fitness, arts, camps, etc) already available. Anywhere else this may have been viewed as just one more item to list off on a child’s resume of extra-curricular activities. Here, these girls are incredibly grateful and genuinely joyful to be a part of this. It’s thrilling. It’s also significant to me because I have repurposed my running to serve a community that I love. No longer is it my self-serving hobby, I am mentoring and empowering young girls to do and be their personal best (a huge GOTR message) and I feel motivated all over again to run.