If you’d asked me 10 weeks ago whether or not I thought my older daughters would be capable of running (and finishing) a 5K, I would have been dubious at best. Not so much for my athletically-inclined 9-year-old, but my 11-year-old has always been the child who begged to ride in the stroller even when she’d obviously outgrown it and who complains of various aches and pains any time she is required to exert herself in any way that doesn’t involve immersing herself in a lake or pool.
When I asked both girls over the winter about participating in the Girls on the Run program, I was mostly interested in the social aspects of the program – I was really attracted to the idea that it encourages and inspires girls to achieve their goals, works with them on self-esteem and team building, and (I pulled this from their website), “help pre-teen girls build confidence, strengthen their self-image and develop healthy life skills”.
With my oldest daughter having social issues and challenges throughout her lifetime, I thought this would be a perfect way for her to interact with and get to know some of her classmates better and have them hopefully learn to understand Abbi and what makes her such a truly unique and amazing individual. I figured that the running couldn’t hurt either – and maybe she would enjoy an activity like this that’s not only quantifiable (easy to count laps and keep track of run totals) but also can be pursued either in a team setting like this or individually.
Somehow I also found myself agreeing to be an assistant coach for Abbi’s 5th Grade team, sharing those duties with another mom (each of us taking one of the two afternoon practices per week). I was kind of intimidated by the fact that a) I DON’T run – walk, maybe. But I’m so not a runner… and b) I don’t always interact well with others myself, especially tween girls – Abbi is hardly an example of a typical 11-year-old girl so I had nothing to judge by in order to know what to expect.
Over the 10 weeks of the program, I went from dreading Thursday afternoons to actively looking forward to them. As an assistant coach, I could observe, help out as needed and listen to the girls. Abbi was thrilled to have me there – up until now I’ve always had younger ones at home so haven’t been able to volunteer for her classes and activities as much as I would like. I got to know the girls’ names and personalities and am glad to be able to say hi and chat if I see them in the halls at school. This was an amazing group of girls and I loved getting to know them.
Plus, I watched Abbi go from a slow meandering amble around the track, to a purposeful walk with many laps run as well. The other two coaches (who are runners) worked with her on posture and running technique so she stopped having so many cramps and other pains when she ran.
And this past Saturday, both of my girls joined the crowd of nearly 1,700 total who participated in the Celebration 5K to end this Girls on the Run season.
They decorated headbands and their t-shirts to show team solidarity and took off from the starting line without a look back.
As I watched, I realized that this program has done much more than inspire my girls to reach their goals – I want to reach mine. One of which now includes joining Hannah in next year’s 5K instead of watching. Whether I run it, or (more likely) walk for most of the time, I want to be out there showing my daughters that I can be strong and healthy right along with them.
I am so proud of my girls – Hannah completed the 5K right along with one of her best friends (they ran together the whole way) and finished around early to middle of the pack. And Abbi finished in one of the main groups as well – way ahead of where I thought she’d be, having been one of the very last to complete the practice 5K they held at school a couple of weeks before.
I can’t wait to get Hannah involved in this program again next year as a 4th grader and although Abbi will have aged out of the main Girls on the Run program (3rd-5th grades), I talked to another mom about seeing if we can put together a Girls on Track team for our 6th graders this coming fall.
GOTR, let’s go girls!
I was not asked nor compensated in any way to write about Girls on the Run, I simply wanted to share our experiences with the program. All opinions stated here are 100% my own.