This weekend I was honored to be a volunteer for the Northern Virginia Girls on the Run 5K. The run started at 8:30AM and was held at Jiffy Lube Live. The closeness of the location to my house, made it a little easier for getting up at 5:30AM on a Sunday morning to ensure that I was on the grounds of the pavilion by 6:30. The decision to volunteer for the event was a last minute decision but once I read about the program I couldn’t say “no”.
Girls on the Run is national after school program that works with girls ages 8 to 13. Girls on the Run ties running and self-esteem together using various activities. It is a 10 week program that is led by female coaches. The coaches teach specific life lessons such as dealing with body image and the media, resisting peer-pressure, making healthy decisions, and contributing to the community. And along the way, the girls train together to walk or run in a 5K event. You can view a sample lesson from their curriculum here.
According to their national website, Girls on the Run’s core values are as follows:
- Recognize our power and responsibility to be intentional in our decision making
- Embrace our differences and find strength in our connectedness
- Express joy, optimism and gratitude through our words, thoughts and actions
- Nurture our physical, emotional and spiritual health
- Lead with an open heart and assume positive intent
- Stand up for ourselves and others
Based on those alone how could I not want to help out at their event. So, back to my Girls on the Run event experience:
Starting around 6:30AM I was given my tasks of helping runners, parents, and buddy runners locate and get to their starting corrals. Once they arrived at their corrals they would meet up with their coaches and the rest of their team to get their race shirts and bib numbers. There was a DJ playing Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez songs while the girls and their race buddy prepared for their race. ( Each girl has a race buddy, an older sibling or parent, assigned to them to run the course.).
Around 8:10, my job along with the other volunteers working the corrals was to get the 7,500 runners moving out of their start corrals and down to the official start line (which was about 1/4 mile from where we were located). Once the girls took off running, my job then moved to congratulating them as they came through the finish line, and providing them with food and water.
My favorite part of the event was just seeing the changes in the girls from start to finish. You could just feel the nervous energy as they were waiting with their teams prior to the race. And when they crossed the finish line, red faced and slightly winded… you could see their sense of accomplishment. Everyone I spent time with at the race was polite and thankful… Having ran quite a few races this isn’t always the case. I loved being a part of the experience and hope to have a chance to work with them again.
I don’t have any girls, life instead blessed me with a house full of boys. And while there have been numerous times I have “threatened” to trade them in for girls.. I wouldn’t trade them for the world. However, if I did have a pre-teen or teenage girl this is definitely a program that I would want them to be a part of. I loved not only seeing the girls succeed in finishing their race, but also watching them cheering and coaching their team members behind them. I can think of no better lessons that the feeling of self-confidence and team building (knowing that you are an integral piece of something larger).
Slideshow of the Girls on the Run 5K (email subscribers will need to go to our website to view)