Last weekend, I laced up my running shoes for a great cause: Girls on the Run®!
My older sister and I signed up to race with the Northwest Illinois division, which included about 650 young girls, each with an older “running buddy” to guide and cheer them through a 5K race. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but when my alarm went off at 6am on Sunday morning, I was excited to see what was in store for me.
My sister and I got to the race area, and I met my 10-year-old buddy, Lexi, who was quiet at first. As we stretched with the decorated group of girls from her school, she fidgeted with the giant flower in her spray-painted hair and the plastic beaded necklace around her neck. (I got lucky and missed the hair spray-paint pre-race festivity…my sister, however, went home with green, pink and yellow striped hair!)
I asked Lexi about her school, how long they had been training to run, and was she nervous? She said they had been meeting twice a week at her school to run, talk about things going on in their young lives, and have fun with friends. The week before, they had done a training run of 3 miles. It was hard and she had to walk some, she said, but she finished it! So, she was nervous, but more excited.
“Did you do a training run?” she asked me.
“Oh…I did a couple.” I said nonchalantly. (I wasn’t sure what she might think if I told her I had run 13 miles a few weeks earlier!)
As we corralled into a mass of giggling, jumping girls and older (also bouncing around) adult buddies, we kept stretching and chatting away. I learned that Lexi was also in soccer, about to get her black belt in karate, liked playing volleyball, wanted to join track and cross-country in two years, and also wanted to start learning how to ride horses. Busy girl! We sang along to “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” and before we knew it, we were counting down to the start.
“You look like you’ll be pretty fast,” I said to Lexi. “Am I going to be able to keep up with you?”
“Don’t worry…I can slow down for you!” she replied.
I laughed to myself, and then, we took off. We ran slow and steady for the first several minutes, and almost a mile into the run, I was so impressed that all these young girls were able to run so far, especially with their legs half the length of mine! Everyone was smiling, encouraging each other, and cheering their girl friends along. It was inspiring to see all these young girls there for each other and helping each other.
We ran and walked our way along the 5K route to the sounds of encouraging parents and brothers and neighbors; when we stopped to walk, we picked a landmark ahead (a lamp post, a tree, a car) to start running at again. When we ran past others who were walking, we gave them a boost and told them they were doing great as well. When we finally got about a quarter mile from the finish, we figured out what to do as our victory pose as we crossed the finish line. Adrenaline kicked in, and Lexi took off—and this time, I was afraid I actually wouldn’t keep up! We sprinted our way to the finish, through the giant pink and green balloon arch, to the tune of cheering parents and friends. As we crossed the finish line, we threw up our arms and joined in the cheers. Lexi got her medal, her dad snapped a photo of us, and then we went to cool down and stretch.
The whole experience was so great: to see so many young girls there, excited to be running even though it was early on a Sunday morning, and their parents so thrilled for them, really made me so happy and inspired. To me, it didn’t seem like a big deal to join the 5K and run with my buddy, but in the end I could see the difference it made. I will definitely participate again next year, and I encourage you to see if there is a Girls on the Run division nearby you! You can check here: http://www.girlsontherun.org/map.html.
And now, I leave for my next running adventure. Pictures and stories to come next week, folks.
Starting weight: 166 pounds
Last week: 149 pounds
This week: 149 pounds
Goal weight: 145 pounds