Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Girls on the Run

As I alluded to over the weekend, I’ve recently gotten involved with an after school program called Girls on the Run. I’ve participated in the program as a Running Buddy (see Wondergirl 5K race report to laugh about that experience), but I wanted to get more involved with the program.

Basically, the program is for girls from 3rd – 5th grade, two days a week, for 1.5 hours per day. Though many of the activities revolve around running, the program actually uses running/walking/skipping/activity as a way to promote self-confidence, teamwork, friendship, and success in girls before they enter the dreaded teens, and all of the emotional and physical changes that come with it. One of the crazy stats that I learned in training class on Saturday was that 90% of kindergarten girls consider themselves confident when they enter school. By 5th grade, it’s down to 60%, and by 12th grade it’s down to 5%. Every woman reading this knows exactly what I’m talking about. This program works with girls of all shapes, colors, and backgrounds, and instills in them the confidence in themselves and their social skills. At the end of the 10 week course, all of the girls race at the Iron Girl 5k – and they are all winners once they cross that finish line.

My father raised me, and though he was absolutely excellent at keeping me focused on school, getting involved in music, teaching me the rules and the joys of watching football and baseball, and creating a loving home environment, we had neither the time or the money to participate in group activities (other than playing in the neighborhood) or team sports. And, as much as I love him, when it came time to learn about periods, makeup, style, and how to interact with other girls, I was woefully behind schedule. Unfortunately, I was also sensitive of my father’s feelings about being inadequate as a parent, so I didn’t even bring home the permission slips for “girl’s video day” or “health class” – to save him from feeling like his parenting wasn’t enough for me.

We all go through those things, and as an adult I have found the love of running, racing, and tri-ing. These sports have given me so much! Not only am I fitter and healthier, which were my initial goals and reasons for getting into sport, but I radiate confidence. My relationships are better because I not only spend these awesome moments with my good friends, but also because I’m no longer tightly wound. I’m calmer. I’m more centered, and I feel more comfortable in my own skin. I even feel like a girlie-girl, and I love it – thank you Running Skirts!

I think that because of the awkwardness that I felt as a teenager, the lack of relationship that I had with my mom, and the unbelievable and almost indescribable benefits that I have received from running, I want to give back. I want other young girls to be exposed to the peak experience of having a dream, working hard, and succeeding at something that sounded impossible just few months before. I want girls to get outside of the “girl box” and not always evaluate another girl head to toe before even saying hi. Most importantly, I want to give an opportunity to the girls who really need some extra love and support from a mentor. I want to be able to be that person for someone who needs it.

I’m even looking forward to interacting with the 5 other female coaches for my school – and that’s progress!

Girls on the Run is so much fun! Girls on the Run is #1! Woo!!

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