I read a lot about Girls on the Run in the blogging world this fall, and I made up my mind that I would become a coach. I loved the idea behind the program—that it taught young girls to be confident and respect themselves through running and giving them a feeling of accomplishment through a big 5K event—and I loved that I could give my time to a group of local girls in need of a good role model.
My co-coach and I were assigned a group of about 20 girls at a local elementary school, where we used a quarter-mile section of sidewalk around the school grounds rather than a track for our workouts and a hallway floor or grassy area for our lessons. We encountered a variety of personalities and abilities: Some girls loved running and embraced the lessons, completing all of their assigned laps and actively contributing to the conversation. Some girls loathed running and ignored the lessons, walking most of their assigned laps and talking over the conversation. But we did our best to push through our twice-weekly meetings and workouts.
Many girls opened up and started to be themselves as the season progressed, which was both a blessing and a curse—a blessing because some girls started to share more personal stories and thoughts during our lessons and a curse because some girls found it acceptable to talk, giggle and play on their cell phone during our lessons (and especially while the coaches were talking).
Many girls also started to push themselves to run more and walk less as the season progressed.
The season concluded Saturday, May 21, with the big 5K
celebration extravaganza. We met the girls bright and early and handed out tiaras. We reassured them that they would not, in fact, be the last girl to cross the finish line and encouraged them to pace themselves. We listened to announcements, thank-yous and instructions and heeded our call to the starting line.
We tried really hard to stay together but soon realized it was impossible. Christopher, who joined us for the race and helped us keep tabs on the girls, and I stayed with one little girl for most of the race. (She later thanked me for running with her the whole time and told me she had fun with us.) We alternated running and walking and encouraged her to keep going through the end.
We rounded the track to the finish line; coaches were instructed to veer off the track so the girls could cross the finish line alone, receive certificates, flowers and goodie bags—all like a real 5K race!
I was so proud of our girls. They did an amazing, wonderful, incredible job! Many finished with big smiles on their faces and many couldn’t stop talking about the race on their way home.
My co-coach and I wrapped up the season and said goodbye to our girls at a small pizza and root-beer float party this afternoon. We handed out awards and received a few thank-you cards. We ate pizza, drank root-beer floats and talked about summer plans. We exchanged big, tight hugs and made promises to try to come back to the school next year.
I really loved my experience with Girls on the Run, and I hope to return to the program if not right away next year than in the very near future. I would love to work with girls who want to run and who want to participate in the important conversations. But I also want to work with girls who need someone to appreciate them, listen to them, care about them for a couple days a week.
I think the program is fabulous, and I think girls truly benefit from the lessons, even if they don’t seem to from their input or lack thereof, and the workouts—especially the feeling of crossing that finish line after 12 weeks of hard work.
All in all, I had a wonderful season and grew to love the girls and look forward to spending time with them. I had a hard time saying goodbye to a couple of them this afternoon, and I hope I get to see them again next spring!