In early March, my daughter asked if she could participate in a running program she’d heard about at school but couldn’t remember the name. Intrigued, I hopped on Google and together we searched girls running programs. The first site offered was a non-profit organization called Girls on the Run, and my daughter confirmed that was the name her friend had mentioned.
Poking around the website together, we learned the program was offered locally so I asked her why she wanted to participate. She mentioned her friend completed the program last year and really loved the experience. When she asked me to do the program with her, at first I wasn’t sure what to think.
Several years ago in one of my finer moments of questionable parenting, I used to make all 5 kids get up early and run 3 days a week all summer long in preparation for a few family hikes and 5k’s we’d run together.
I liked running, but to say the kids HATED it is probably putting it mildly. Summertime for my kids meant no sleeping in and wasting the day on movies or technology. The kids were up at out the door by 7:30 am; becoming hot, grumpy and hungry when they were back home by 8. About 3 years ago they all rose up in anarchy against me and I haven’t trained them since.
So before we committed to an after school running program, I wanted to be 100% sure this was really her idea. As she filled out the information online and we paid the fee, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The girls met twice a week starting mid-March and were encouraged to try and run at least one more day a week. Every Monday and Thursday I’d meet her after school for running, bonding and other individual or group activities that empowered and encouraged the girls; and included teaching much more than running.
In mid-May when my knee fully-committed to injury, I really missed the extra mile or two buddy run with my daughter. When the time came for the team’s first 5k preview, I drove ahead along the course in my van and cheered the girls on; marveling at how our roles had reversed. For years my daughter had cheered me on, and now it was my turn to watch her run solo and encourage with love. I missed running with her.
As the state-wide Girls on the Run 5k approached, I wondered if I’d be well enough to run. I’d been cross-training for 3 weeks but hadn’t been cleared for running. A few days before the race, I spoke with my coach, massage therapist and chiropractor and we opted to tape my knee and give it a go. If I experienced any knee pain while running, I’d simply just stop and walk.
The 5k was held at Sugar House Park on a beautiful sunny Saturday. Initially, we were surprised at the sea of pink shirts that surrounded us. With over 3,600 girls ages 8-14 and their “running buddies” participating, there were also thousands of friends and family present to celebrate the girls putting a cap on 4 months of hard work.
The event was well organized with lots of community and professional support and many activities for the girls to enjoy before and after the race.
As we lined up with the other runners to get started, my daughter reached up for my hand, as everyone crowded behind the starting arch together. At that moment I couldn’t help but feel a little nostalgia, realizing how much my youngest child has grown.
Step by step, we ran side by side. When going up hill or starting to feel tired, she’d reach up for my hand and a few brief times, we ran as one. Mile after mile, I loved every moment we spent together running and the new memories we made.
I don’t know if my daughter will ever love running or if we’ll even run another 5k together. In the end, that doesn’t really matter because what she gained through the Girls on the Run program isn’t even about running. When I asked her what she learned, she immediately replied, “that I matter, and that I can make a difference in my community and maybe one day change the world.”
To learn more about Girls on the Run, please visit their website. Odds are they’ve got a program in your state too. I’ve a included a link right here: Girls on the Run