October 22, 2012

Girls on the Run! From Guest Blogger Michelle

I recently applied to be a Girls on the Run coach and hopefully will start in the spring of 2013 at a local elementary school here in North Carolina.  While researching the program, Michelle replied to a question I asked and offered to tell us her story of GOTR and coaching at her daughter's school.  Please read through and leave comments.  It would be wonderful to hear from other coaches and their experience, too.  

"Hi Ladies, Here is my GOTR story. I had heard of Girls on the Run but dismissed it in my mind because my oldest daughter (now 11) wasn't really an avid runner at the time and the Girls on the Run teams I knew about met in neighboring towns right after school so it wasn't convenient for my daughter to attend given the distance we'd have to drive right after school twice a week.

Drawing courtesy of GOTR
In May 2011, a friend approached me and asked me if I would like to walk the Girls on the Run 5K with her. Her daughter, in 4th grade at the time, had participated with a Girls on the Run team and she wanted to show her daughter support. Plus, at the time, my friend was active in Weight Watchers and WW was offering a 5K charm for any member who walked a 5K the same weekend the Girls on the Run 5K was to be held. I was just starting to run/walk and train for a 5K, so I told her I'd join her. I really wanted to see what Girls on the Run was about so I could possibly start a team at my daughter's school. My daughter was about to enter 5th grade and was starting to enjoy running and other physical activities.

Our area Girls on the Run is Girls on the Run of Southeast Michigan. Our 5K is held on the campus of Eastern Michigan University. For my first GOTR 5K, which I walked with my friend, we started and ended in the football stadium at EMU. I wasn't sure what to expect. It ended up being one of the hottest muggiest days of the season. I was fully expecting a bunch of hot, whining girls who didn't want to run. What I actually experienced was just the opposite. As the girls took the field to wait for the start of the race, the stadium filled with girls cheering, singing and chanting about Girl Power, running and being the best you, you can be. The enthusiasm was overwhelming and nearly brought me to tears.

I knew this program HAD to come to my daughter's school. In May 2011 I vowed that by May 2012 the girls at my daughter's school WOULD be participating in the Girls on the Run 5K. I signed on as a site liaison and a coach.

Looking at me you would not automatically think "Oh, she's a runner". But, the more I learned about Girls on the Run, the more I realized it is WAY more than a running program. Yes, the girls run and play physical games at each meeting and they are ultimately preparing for a 5K, but it is so much MORE than that. To be coached by someone who doesn't automatically look like a runner, I thought might mean more to the girls who wanted to participate, but didn't see themselves as "runners".

When I went for my coach's training, we watched a video of founder, Molly Barker. She explained how she was not always a happy girl who always fit in. She often found herself shoving herself into the "girl box" or forcing herself to be something she wasn't just to please those around her. Her misery lead her down a difficult path, one of drinking and other unhealthy habits she is not proud of. But, once she decided to look inside herself and to be the best she could be, she was able to develop and launch her vision for the first Girls on the Run team. She wanted a place girls could feel safe to be themselves and free from put downs, self esteem issues and other negativity.

Girls on the Run is a 10-12 week program which meets twice a week. During the lessons, girls are asked to talk about their feelings, their perceptions of themselves and their perceptions of the world. They tackle tough subjects such as bullying, self esteem, choosing friends, and how the media often portrays women and the definition of "beautiful". They learn a lot about themselves and how to relate to others so that when they are faced with a bully or a not so kind friend in real life, they have an arsenal of tools from which to draw and deal with the situation.

Girls on the Run gave me confidence as I began my journey to become a runner. It also gave the girls confidence to be themselves when often the world tells you not to. Our first team had 16 girls in grades 3-5. At our first meeting we introduced the girls to some traditional Girls on the Run silliness in the form of cheers and spirit awards. The 3rd grade girls jumped right in, getting silly and loving it. The 5th grade girls rolled their eyes and looked at each other for permission to be goofy. By the end of our 10 weeks together, if not for their differences in height, you could not tell the 3rd graders from the 5th graders. They were truly a team who supported each other and loved being silly together.

I know it made a difference in the girls' lives because one of my sweet girls came up to me near the end of our season and said, "Coach Michelle, I just want you to know because of Girls on the Run and all I've learned here, I've become more sure of myself and more confident. I've learned so much and I loved Girls on the Run."
She is the same girl who when we were talking about bullying and how to deal with bullies said, "I don't get it. Half the time, the bully is someone you're not even friends with and you don't even talk to. Why do they think they need to get in my business and make fun of the things I'm doing?" It was awesome to hear her grasp the concept and for them to all realize bullies have issues with themselves that have nothing to do with their victims. They realized they can be strong and stand up to bullies whether the bullies are targeting them or others.
The running part is great and it's fabulous to see the girls finish a 5K with smiles on their faces, but the things they learn along the way are even more incredible.

 Thanks for the opportunity to talk about Girls on the Run. It really is an awesome program."

Thank you Michelle - great feedback!  We can't wait to support this wonderful program.

P.S. Don't forget about the GIVEAWAY!


  1. I have been contemplating girls on the run and I just need to do it - I will look into it - thanks for the push!

  2. I am a Girls on Track coach (same organization but for girls 6th-8th grade) and really enjoy each practice. It is amazing watching the girls progress so quickly and knowing they are getting positive and important life lessons. I would recommend being a coach to anyone!