One of the benefits of owning my own Pilates business is I work a more flexible schedule. Not only can I run my errands while the rest of the world is sitting in an office- I also am now able to volunteer with Girls on the Run. This is something I had wanted to do for quite some time but it required being available from 2-4pm. I was drawn to GOTR because I started running as a shy 7th grader. I truly believe running has enriched and changed my life. It has given me confidence, taught me how to work towards goals, shown me the highs of winning and how to react to losing. I’ve made great friends through running and of course it’s kept my body strong and healthy.
If you aren’t familiar with Girls on the Run – here’s the nutshell description: GOTR is a non-profit organization that works with girls usually in the 3rd-6th grade to teach them life lessons, confidence, self esteem, teamwork and it’s all done while training the girls to run a 5K race. Many of the girls in the program come from lower income families or single parent families. Each girl has an adult female buddy (or mentor) who serves as a role model and runs the 5K race with the girl.
My girl on the run is Kennedy – a shy but spunky 9 year old. Her best friend Ninivet is also in GOTR and the two often run together holding hands. I was paired with Kennedy because I was told she needed a buddy who could run an 8 minute mile. I was up for the challenge!
This past Wednesday was the practice 5K for the girls. It was a chance for the girls to try their hand at running the 5K without all the other runners and the pressure of the real race. Most of these girls practice in small spaces behind their schools and don’t have access to a track or a chance to run much more than a mile leading up to this practice. I knew Kennedy was speedy and I tried to explain to her that we should not start too fast so we could run the whole race and finish strong. The concept of ‘negative splits’ was lost on this nine year old. Honestly – I still struggle with this concept sometimes so I’m not sure why I thought a kid would get it!! As the gun went off, she took off at a 6:15 per mile pace and held that for the first 1/2 mile. Around the 1/2 mile mark Kennedy realized her best friend Ninevet was not far behind and she wanted to slow down and wait for her. This program is about teamwork and self esteem not speed so I couldn’t argue with that! We continued the rest of the race alternating between all out sprinting and some walking. Kennedy and Ninivet stayed together until about the last 3/4 of a mile. Ninivet’s buddy had fallen behind so I was helping both girls at this point – offering encouragement and making sure they stayed on the course and out of traffic. As Kennedy began to pull ahead, I was stuck running back and forth between both girls. Ninivet was needing more support and encouragement but Kennedy was leading all the other runners and could not be left alone. It was a bit of a dilemma. Fortunately, we had a lead bike and I asked her to keep an eye on Kennedy and bring her home while I helped Ninivet. For the real race – we’ll find Ninivet a faster buddy 🙂
Kennedy came in first for the Girls on the Run Girls by over a minute and finished at 26:06. Her friend Ninevet was not far behind and took second. Both girls grinned from ear to ear as they crossed the finish line. And both nine years turned in a respectable 5K – regardless of their young age!
I truly believe both of these girls have natural talent for running. I hope they will continue to pursue running and possibly compete in track or cross country when they are older but only if they continue to enjoy running. They are too young to do this if it’s not fun! Even if they never run again after Girls on the Run- they will remain winners. They have learned how to help out a friend, to support each other, to make good decisions and to finish what they start. I’m just happy I get to be part of this and act as a positive role model. This race is not about me or my time and I was happy to sprint the first half mile to stay with my girl on the run. This was her race and her victory but I am the one that left inspired!