A Cross-Country Runner Gives Back


GOTR at Reading Central Elementary

As I entered a difficult transitional time in my life, I was looking for a way to step outside myself and help others.  One day I saw a commercial that asked both elementary school girls and adult women what it meant to “run like a girl.” While the adults interpreted that statement in less than positive ways, the young girls only knew that it meant to “run really fast” and “win the race.” With that perspective in mind, I knew exactly where I wanted to go. Girls on the Run was an organization that I was aware of and as a former cross country runner, I thought any opportunity to introduce young girls to the joys of running and the confidence it can bring was the perfect choice. What I found was not only that, but so much more.

Girls on the Run is a program for third through fifth grade girls to learn skills for addressing challenges they face at their age.  Along with physical activities, each practice involves a lesson where the girls learn healthy living habits, how to address and channel their emotions, and how to be kind and supportive of each other. Teams of 15 girls work over 12 weeks towards a 5k race, which they run with an adult running buddy. This season, the race was held downtown at Sawyer Point on November 21st.

It’s hard to capture in words the exact energy and positive spirit that was in Sawyer Point that day – face painting, hair painting, Dad’s wearing tutus, music and dancing set the celebratory tone. Every girl wore a bib with the number 1. As each one crossed the finish line with their running buddies, the chute was lined with friends and families cheering for each of them.  But you could also hear shouts of encouragement from the girls to each other – far from competitors they were united in their accomplishment.  Their pride and beaming smiles at crossing the finish line brought tears to my eyes – and a few other spectators as well, I’m sure.

As a Mission Adelaide volunteer, I had the privilege of working with the third and fourth grade Reading Central Elementary team. I was welcomed by the wonderful coaches and students immediately. Their excitement and energy was so refreshing and uplifting – both for each other and for me. My favorite part of practice was always the energy awards. Girls volunteer to give recognition to another teammate for great things she did in practice that day. Comments like “she never gave up” or “she encouraged her teammates today” showed how much these girls support each other and how perceptive they are at recognizing how meaningful the encouragement from a friend can be. Then the student being recognized gets to pick their favorite cheer for all the girls and coaches to do for them.

The goal of Mission Adelaide is to raise community awareness about the incredible impact this program can have for young girls.  The cost for one girl to participate in the program is $150 and operates on a sliding scale based on a family’s capacity to absorb that cost. Donations help ensure all girls have the opportunity to learn these lessons and cross the 5k finish line to cheers from their families and friends. It also provides proper running shoes so girls can train without injury, healthy snacks after each practice, entry to the race and lesson materials.  There are many ways to get involved from coaching, volunteering for events or simply making a small donation. For more information, please visit http://www.girlsontherun.org/Get-Involved  “We envision a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams.”  Help us make sure that all girls realize from a young age that “running like a girl” means she can, and will, do anything she sets her mind to.