A few weeks ago, I shared a bit of my experience as a coach with Girls on the Run. At the time, we had just completed our practice 5k and the girls had just grappled with their first experience of facing a goal – and the associated fear of not achieving it – head-on. As they expressed why they were nervous for the 5k, they brought up all those “what if’s” that every athlete has faced at one point or another during races and hard training days – what if I’m not as fast as I hoped to be? What if I underperform? What if I don’t achieve the goal I’ve set for that workout/race? I told them what I always tell myself in these situations – you’ve done the work, so now you have to trust that training, turn off your head, put one foot in front of the other, and just do it! Oh, how much easier it is to tell others to do this than to do it yourself! However, they did just that, and they did a fabulous job, with everyone completing 3.1 miles in under 45 minutes.
So, three weeks later, when my 14 girls, their running buddies and I found ourselves at the starting line of the official Girls on the Run Spring 5k in Grant Park, I had no doubt that all of the girls would CRUSH! The weather was perfect - slightly chilly, but sunny - and the excitement in the air was palpable as the girls warmed up by dancing to the tunes playing over the speakers (our crew obviously took warm-up to the next level – jumping jacks, high knees, butt kicks, and dynamic stretching…. followed by dancing!).
The 3.1-mile race flew by thanks to all the enthusiastic cheer squads along the way, and the girls I ran with were passing people left and right! Seeing their proud smiles as they sprinted across the finish line and collected their congratulatory medals was incredible, and hearing each girl’s jittery account of the race as she posed for post-race pictures brought back memories of my early running races and the excitement of accomplishing something completely new!
As I’ve mentioned, Girls on the Run strives to inspire and empower girls through running. I believe it did just that with my girls based on our last session, when we went around and shared something we learned over the spring and something that each of us loved about ourselves. I couldn’t help but smile and feel I had touched the girls in some way as they went around and shared that they loved their “ability to run a 5k,” their “sportiness,” their “trustworthiness,” and even their “singing voice <lalalalaaaa>” It was heartwarming to see previously shy little girls pipe up to share what they had learned about pacing, how to prepare for a race and work towards a goal, how to eat healthfully, how to stand up for themselves and to not gossip.
While I feel I left an imprint on the girls, they have also left their mark on me. They snapped me out of the business school bubble that can be so all-consuming and kept me grounded during a stressful quarter. They helped me reconnect with the pure, simple joys of running and being healthy. Seeing them face their fears and embrace the challenge of completing something that they previously couldn’t even fathom was inspiration that I will carry with me forever. I can’t wait to work with my next Girls on the Run crew, but this first group of girls will forever hold a special place in my heart!
CONGRATS TO ALL THE SPRING 2014 GIRLS ON THE RUN!!
Montage of Spring 2014 Girls on the Run 5k at Grant Park.
P.S. Thanks to all the parents and my personal Sherpa, Ad, who have supported the girls throughout the Spring and came out to support us on race day!