Saturday, May 18, 2013

Give me a G! Give me an I! Give me an R, L, S!

A few days ago, this picture came through my Facebook page.  

The sentiment stayed with me and then came back again full force today. 

Why today?

I participated in my first "Girls on the Run" event.  As its website says, Girls on the Run was founded to be "a transformational physical activity based positive youth development program for girls in 3rd-8th grade. We teach life skills through dynamic, interactive lessons and running games. The program culminates with the girls being physically and emotionally prepared to complete a celebratory 5k running event. The goal of the program is to unleash confidence through accomplishment while establishing a lifetime appreciation of health and fitness."

As of today, Girls on the Run has grown from 13 girls in 1996 to more than 130,000 girls in 200 cities in 2012. 

How cool is that?

A few months ago, I signed on to be a running buddy, but when I got to the event, I discovered my partner's daddy decided to run with her instead. 

Now, that's even cooler.  (Even though I have to admit at first I thought, "Dad?  Isn't this GIRLS on the Run?"  But, there were a number of those from the male persuasion running and supporting the girls. And, that WAS cool.)

Because my runner dissed me (LOL--I think it's because she's read my blog!) I had the chance just to wander around, observe and think.  And, I began to think about why I found myself there in the first place. 

It was because Eileen, a good friend and running buddy, recently died of complications from cancer.  She touched many lives, including those from my local running club, the River Runners.

Shortly after her memorial service, someone from the club queried whether or not we should sponsor the Girls on the Run event in her memory. It was a program that Eileen supported as the "runner girl" she was. And, within several hours, the group had amassed much more than the $500 needed to be a sponsor. 

Fast forward several months and the day became a reality for 350 girls who participated in the program and around 600 other runners, including the girls' buddies. 

The River Runners were there in full force, from a Motivation Station where girls could get hair paint or temporary tattoos to multiple running buddies to volunteers wearing Tinkerbell stickers (in memory of Eileen.)  We also made the back of the tshirts!


Eileen's husband, Joe was there too, also getting into the spirit of the day (pink beard and all--see above!)  As he said, there's just such a positive energy at an event like this. (And, we had no doubt Eileen was there too, if only in spirit on our "Runner Girl" bling on our sneakers.)

The girls were buzzing with excitement from the moment this old gal got there.  One of the first girls I saw was one who was beaming and saying, "I've been running all morning.  I can't wait for the race to start."   (Hearing that just made me tired!)

I overheard another one saying, "You know what?  I've figured out I like running, but I'm really good at volleyball."

Girls from varying ethnic groups in all shapes and sizes were so excited to be a part of the event.  They obviously spent lots of time preparing, not only to run but also to look the part.  Colored tutus and mismatched socks reigned in glory!

The girls spent their pre-race time doing warm ups or participating in all the fun activities--including face painting, a bounce house and even placing their painted hand prints on a donated white van!  

And, I can wholeheartedly say this was a race that Eileen would have loved.  Not only did it promote "Girl Power" but it celebrated athletes of all abilities.  I had to chuckle because I started at the back of the pack--my normal place--and I quickly learned this race would be quite different than any other I had participated in. 

The View from the Back of the Pack--GOTR style!

The race field was quite crowded, especially because we had to leave the road and run on a narrow trail.  Therefore, it got backed up a bit and was difficult to maneuver around other runners.  Plus, some of the girls just plain stopped in the middle of the path to walk. 

It gave me a good opportunity to listen and I heard some really great encouragement.

One dad was telling his daughter, "When you're running like this, you should just take some time to look around you and take in the sights." 

Isn't that advice all of us need?

Many of the buddies were spending a lot of time encouraging and nudging their younger charges along.  I laughed when I heard one buddy tell her runner, "We've gotten in a quarter mile already!!  Yay us!"
I had to chuckle when I overheard a girl asking if she could stop to walk and her buddy told her, "Not yet."  (I got the feeling that would be the answer until they crossed the finish line!)  Then, there was another girl saying, "I thought this was supposed to be fun." And, I thought, "Honey....I say that to myself almost every time I run!"  

Yes, THIS is the water station.
I also got a kick out of the water station.  In a "typical" race, runners grab a cup and keep going.  In this race, the girls gathered around the water station and I believe some got refills!

But, aha--there was something in common with other races--the water cup drop!

In the end, girls were all smiles, hugs, fist bumps and even a few tears. (I'm going to assume because of the emotions related to finishing their first 5K.) I was able to watch as some more back of the packers came in, obviously thrilled to be able to cross the finish line. Most of the buddies were pointing to the finish line as they rounded the corner to it, saying, "Look!  The finish line!  We are almost there!  We made it!"

It was an event that I'm proud to have had a very small part in.  And, I think of all those girls who have been inspired to run or, at least, to gain a piece of that lifetime appreciation for physical activity. 

So, I think about the women who have inspired me in running...

I was going to name names, but I think I'll just say thanks to all who have inspired me to run, helped me get started, challenged me to be better, encouraged me to continue, supported me from the sidelines, offered wise training advice, managed to get me up early and served as awesome role models. 

And, of course, thanks to Eileen who has and continues to inspire me and countless runner girls.  Here's to you, Coach--a GREAT runner!

  Catch you again at the back of the pack! 


  1. Don't underestimate the inspiration and encouragement you provide others, my friend!