This spring, I was one of the coaches for a new Girls on the Run location at the Richard A. Henson Family YMCA, and I had a lot of fun. The Girls on the Run saying of “Girls on the Run is so much fun!” really is true, even for a 28-year-old like me.
The program is for girls in third through fifth grade (there’s also the Heart & Sole program for middle school girls), and the participants prepare to run a 5K — but not just by running. They’re also enjoying different activities and learning. It’s non-competitive, which I think is perfect.
Here’s the Girls on the Run mission: We inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running.
If running wasn’t fun for me, I probably wouldn’t do it. (It’s a little hard to imagine it not being fun, so who knows…) I think it’s important to introduce or reinforce that running is fun and it doesn’t matter what pace you run, particularly for this younger age group.
What if someone had scared you away from running as a child? Running serving as a punishment for sports or being something to be dreaded in gym class may be a reason that plenty of adults don’t like running.
Our team met twice a week for 10 weeks, and we had three coaches — me, Veronica and Nicole. Since I have my group runs on Wednesdays, I usually just went on Mondays and filled in on some Wednesdays.
We ended our season at the Wyatt’s Warriors Foundation 5K at WinterPlace Park in Salisbury on Saturday, May 4. Girls on the Run has its own 5Ks, which look like a lot of fun for the girls, but our chapter’s was in Baltimore, more than two hours away from Salisbury, so we opted to do a local one this time. I would love for the girls to experience one of the Girls on the Run races, though.
We all wore matching shirts for the event, and each girl had an adult running buddy who accompanied her throughout the course. All the buddies also wore matching green T-shirts.
My buddy, Aubrey, unfortunately got injured before the race, but she was able to walk. We started out walking with her family, and after the first half-mile or so, it was down to Aubrey, me and her mom.
Since she had to walk because of her injury, the other girls were already finished when we came toward the finish line, and they were all cheering for her by name. It was great to see that support, and it was fun to see the girls enjoying themselves. I also heard a story of how one of the volunteer buddies was able to encourage her teammate when it was getting tough.
One of the employees at the Y, Deanna, had the idea to do face painting before the race, which turned out to be a great one. I bought a small kit on Amazon and painted whatever was requested, hoping there wouldn’t be anything too difficult. I think I was pretty successful, painting runner girls, a panda, cacti, rainbows and more. It was fun!
Then, after the race, I let one of the girls paint my face with a surprise message. She wrote “best coach,” which I thought was so nice! Then I let her cousin (I think she was her cousin) draw a rainbow on my cheek and a butterfly on my arm.
I wish it would have been around when I was a kid. I just looked it up, and it was actually founded in 1996, the year I turned 6, but it was local to Charlotte, N.C. According to the Girls on the Run website, the organization became Girls on the Run International in 2000, the year I turned 10.
It’s certainly expanded a lot since in the nearly two decades following, and I first heard of it once I was already an adult. Lots of the programs are held in schools, so this one was somewhat unique in that it was held at the YMCA and the girls came from various schools: public, private and home school.
I think the girls had a lot of fun during the season and I hope some of them return for the fall. It would also be great to introduce some new kids to Girls on the Run!