Last year I took part in a program called Girls on the Run. I volunteered to be a Running Buddy for Highland Park Elementary School, located a block from where I grew up. As a Running Buddy you get partnered with a girl to run a practice 5K, then run the Girls on the Run 5K along with numerous schools throughout Seattle, held at Magnuson Park. The energy and girl empowerment was a magnificent sight to see! The whole time I was enveloped into this world I thought: I wish I had this growing up.
Statistics show that “more than half of girls (about 1 out of 2 or 56%) claimed to experience a drop in confidence at puberty. The majority (89%) of females aged 16-24 agree that words can be harmful, especially to girls. Only 19% of girls have a positive association toward the phrase “like a girl.” This program gives girls the confidence and tools to help them before they get to that point, reaching these girls through a 3rd-5th grade program. “Running skills such as breathing and endurance help girls connect with themselves at a time in their lives when they are under pressure to conform, says Stacy Rodriguez-Rennard, a mental health clinician and marathoner who founded Title IX Girls in 2007. The self-discipline of running, she says, helps girls manage such things as anxiety, depression, and emotional overload. That’s also the idea behind Girls on the Run, which began with 13 girls in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1996, has grown to more than 160,000 in 218 chapters, and expects to serve its millionth girl this year.”
A few weeks ago I took part in a fundraising event, along with two of my friends, called Girls on the Run for Grown-ups. We had a Girls on the Run lesson, boot camp workout, restorative yoga, and a luncheon. During our luncheon we had a speaker talk about her experience with running, how growing up it was all about the competitive process and doing something that made her father proud. When she got matched up with her girl to run the 5K, they got to talking while they slowed their pace a bit; she asked what she liked about Girls on the Run. The girl responded, “Because I get to choose when to fly!” And with that she was off running again!
Running for this girl wasn’t about winning or making someone else proud. It was about having a healthy and positive experience with other girls and gaining confidence in herself. I’ll be taking part in the Girls on the Run 5K again, but until then whenever I put on my running shoes, I’ll think: now I get to choose when to fly.