On Sunday morning I had the distinct pleasure of participating in the Girls on the Run Spring 5K. Just in the last year have I heard about this organization but knew immediately after reading about it I wanted to be a part of it in some way. From their website: “Girls on the Run® is a life-changing, character development program for girls in 3rd through 8th grade. Our mission is to inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running.” SOLD!
I volunteered to be a community running buddy. Running buddies are individuals who are a part of the community and do not know the participants. You register and pay for the 5k as you would any other race plus go through a background check (don’t worry, I passed). About a week ago I also volunteered at the GOTR Volunteer Appreciation Night. It was a combination team race packet pick up and thank you celebration. I was able to meet the Program Director as well as some of the coaches and other volunteers. FUN!
The event was held at Anacostia Park, south of Nationals stadium in DC. Unlike some of the adult races, we didn’t need to check in until 9 am and the race didn’t start until 10 am (score!) Sunday was a bit dreary and rainy in DC but the weather didn’t have an impact on the girls spirits!! As I walked to the race area from the parking garage, I passed two little girls in bright pink shirts. One said to the other, “Are you nervous? Cause I’m nervous!” I knew I was in for a fun morning. After a quick and easy check in for my bib and shirt I found my assigned team and made introductions.
The entire atmosphere was amazing. Sponsors of the race include Goody and girls were able to get their hair sprayed in different colors, wear all kinds of fun (and bright) accessories and have their faces painted. The sponsoring gym led a pre-race dance party (I mean stretching and warm up exercises!) complete with DJ. It really was great to see so many girls and their families and classmates dancing and laughing and joking, even in the rain.
The race started promptly at 10 am. All the girls were assigned the number “1” on their bibs. We were separated into 3 different color corrals. My pink corral was first and my runner, “H” was simply adorable. I asked if she was ready and excited and with a big smile said “YES!” Soon, we were off. Several times I asked H if she was doing ok and always got the same enthusiastic and wide smiled YES! She was quite speedy. We cheered on some of her teammates (and also soon passed many of them! I said she was speedy). When we got past the Mile 1 marker, I said ok – one mile down 2 more to go. She exclaimed, “only one mile? I thought we were further!” but smiled her big smile and kept going.
We never stopped running though and her little 9 year old arms pumped away. There was a water station about halfway so we stopped to replenish and walk a bit. Then she was ready to go again! At one point she even turned to me and asked if I was doing ok – made my heart melt!!!! We only stopped one more time, about the 2+ mile marker and she told me she needed a break. We walked for about 30 seconds and then we just took off again. I soon spotted the finish line and alerted her we were close. H, got a huge smile on her face and no kidding, started picking up the pace. We sprinted to the finish line to cheers and claps by the crowd. Her teammates who had already finished, along with her coaches and family members were there to greet her. After picking up post race refreshments we headed back to meet up with her team and cheer on the rest of her group followed by photos, high fives and medals.
I cannot say enough what a fabulous morning this was. The GOTR program and the positivity from these girls is beyond inspiring – I wish it existed when I was younger. I will definitely be back in the Fall and hope to extend my volunteerism on a deeper level.
If you are interested, GOTR is a national organization and there are a variety of ways you can get involved. Check out their website to search for a local council near you. Support this group and its mission by being a Coach, a Community Running Buddy, raising funds as a SoleMate, volunteering at an event or making a monetary donation. Best decision I ever made!