My first season as a Head Coach for the Girls on the Run of Franklin County culminated this past Saturday, at the New Balance Girls on The Run 5k! There are just too many things to say about the past 10 weeks, but suffice it to say that they have been some of the most inspiring, challenging, heart-warming, and rewarding weeks I’ve had the chance to experience.
Each week, I spent 2 hours with 15 young girls. While most Girls on the Run teams are based at elementary schools, my team was based at a community center called the Run the Race Club. My first day at GOTR back in September was a bit overwhelming. The center bursts at the seams with kids after school, and it was chaotic to say the least. The first weeks are always a little rough as everyone gets to know each other, but as time went on our team hit a groove; then all of the sudden, it was time to for our end of the season celebration – a full 5k race!
In the weeks before the race, our girls received their brand new New Balance shoes. The team was blessed with two generous sponsors, so each girl got a sweet pair of running kicks along with their shirt and 5k registration. It was so much fun handing out those shoes – the girls were THRILLED, and couldn’t wait to put them to good use in the race.
The morning of the 5k came early and cold, of course, but excitement was in the air – we had a race to run! The girls were ready; we had built not only endurance, strength and fortitude, but genuine confidence and positivity. Those weeks held some difficult conversations, challenges in respecting and truly listening to one another, and true breakthroughs in building positive and healthy relationships. We were ready.
After we picked up our packets and got our numbers pinned on, we spent some time enjoying the festivities – the girls LOVED the hair station! They each got sprayed up with different colors, picked out some festive hair ties and pins and we had a blast just being silly and enjoying each others company.
And then, it was time to line up at the start! Each girl is assigned a running buddy who is there for moral support and to ensure her safety before, during and after the race. I started the race walking with 4 girls from my team, but one, K, wanted to run a bit, so I went ahead with her while another coach walked with the other girls. All through the race, K did an amazing job – she ran for awhile and walked when she got tired. I set small goals for us – run to that tree! walk to the lamp post and then run again! Jog to the water station! After a few minutes, K caught on, and started setting her own goals. I really loved spending so much one on one time with her, and we talked about all sorts of stuff!
Before we knew, it we hit mile marker 3, where we had already decided we would sprint to the finish. Watching each girl cross the finish line and receive her awesome GOTR medal was one of the coolest experiences! I got to cheer in most of my girls, and it had me nearly in tears…
I never could have guessed 10 weeks ago how this experience could have changed me; but in those weeks, I saw how these lessons impacted each girl. Each week, they shared stories about how they had taken what they learned at GOTR and used it – how they had heard hurtful gossip about a classmate and put a stop to it, were welcoming to a new girl in class, and stood up to peer pressure. I’ll admit, at first I wondered whether the lessons would stick. Sometimes, the conversation starters we threw out were met with little more than crickets. But as they came back, week after week, I started to notice something different – a small spark that wasn’t there before.
Maybe 10 weeks isn’t long enough to truly make a lifelong change. But, it is certainly enough to light a spark, and hopefully the lessons these girls learned through GOTR can be fanned into something truly amazing – strong, confident and healthy women!