Thanks to my wonderful niece, Devin, I had the pleasure of being involved in a wonderful after-school program called “Girls on the Run” (GOTR). https://www.girlsontherun.org/
This is the second year my niece was involved in the program, but it was my first time being asked to tag along as her running buddy for the practice 5k. Devin meets after school two days a week with several teachers, counselors, and local high school girls who serve as the GOTR coaches. She explained that they run or walk several pre-determined laps at each practice. When it rains they run in the gym, but that can be boring because they will run up to 40 laps in the same area. Devin said that the best part about practice is that they can even skip, or hold hands, or do other silly things while they are running. The emphasis is on moving, staying healthy, and having a good time.
I used to be a runner. I would run 4-5 days a week for exercise and compete in 5k or 10k races several times a year. I have not run more than 50 yards for several years. I still consider myself in pretty good shape, training in the Olympic lifts several times a week, but I was not sure how I would fair running for 3 miles in a row.
The practice 5k was four laps through two parking lots and a 5th lap that was shorter than the others. Devin was poised at the start of the run, and she did not want to go out too fast. She ran a comfortable pace for the first three laps, as I tried to keep up. She wanted to walk for part of the 4th lap and then pick up the pace for the end of the race. This all seemed like a good strategy to me, and I tried my best to follow Devin’s lead. I held back when she sprinted to the finish line to beat a friend and fellow soccer player.
The best part of the experience was getting to spend some quality time with my niece as she talked during the run. She told me about how her mom was going to run the “real” 5k with her. Her dad was considering doing the run as well. She was excited to cheer on her teammates we ran by them, and she told me her friends names as we approached each girl. Devin explained that it’s a rule that they should cheer on any GOTR when they pass each other. As a competitive athlete, I like to win at things, but I appreciated the emphasis that this program has on pushing yourself and others to be better.
One the reasons this program is so special is the impact it has on both the girls, and the important people in the girls’ lives. Because each girl is required to have a “running buddy”, there were around 50 girls at the 5k with moms, dads, and many siblings that came along to run or show support. These girls were beaming with accomplishment at the end of their run, and the best way to encourage girls to reach new heights is to support their endeavors.
At Garage Strength’s training facility we charge only one membership per family because a family who trains together supports one another. Parent’s who train while their kids train are more willing to bring their kids in to get stronger. Siblings who train together push one another to lift more, climb higher, and jump farther. Winning and competition are important motivators, but companionship and the right training partners can make supporting individuals better together.