In March I ran my fastest 5K ever. This Saturday I ran my slowest, and it was just as much fun. Plus, I got to wear a rainbow-colored tutu.
The occasion? Girls on the Run (GOTR), a nation-wide program that I should have created. It’s the kind of program I could’ve used as a kid and dreamed of as an idealistic new teacher. I wish I’d had the foresight to see this thing to fruition. This award-winning holistic girl-empowerment program (that just announced partnership with mega athletic girl gear company, Athleta) features self-esteem boosting meetings and activities while simultaneously training for a 5K. Oh, and the girls are in fifth grade.
I wrote about GOTR while living in Bellingham in 2008 (August 26-Sep 2, 2008 issue). Inspired, I tried half-heartedly for a while to find a place for it to blossom on this side of the mountains when we moved back to Wenatchee in 2009. I made some calls up to Chelan, where there had once been a GOTR program. Then I tried to entice the local YMCA, the hospital, and an elementary school PE teacher to no avail. I should have tried harder, but my focus drifted.
When I found out last month that a local GOTR program had formed under the guidance of Columbia Valley Community Health I was thrilled. Unfortunately, between my recent humanitarian trip to Haiti and the GOTR coordinator’s aid trip to Guatemala, I didn’t get to help beforehand like I’d hoped. But I wound up getting to take part in the grand culminating event anyway (translation: most fun Apple Blossom Festival run ever)–as running buddy to my friend V’s daughter, S.
To run and walk alongside such a rock star kiddo (people, she makes her own videos already!) completing her first official 5K race (she’d already completed the training version with flying colors, of course) was beyond compare. We’d done a short pre-run recess workout the day before. Based on Friday’s dry run I thought we’d be walking nearly the entire race on Saturday. But S did tell me she liked to run, and she proved it on race day when I saw a glimmer of her friendly, competitive streak burst forth. She ran like the wind for spurts; then she slowed down to catch her breath. All the while we talked about favorite books, writing stories, field trips, and summer plans.
On the home stretch I tried to surge ahead to grab an action photo of us on my phone. S surged right along with me, leaping past her peers with ease. In fact, she kept up so well that I only barely managed to get ahead for a photo, an off-kilter one at best. S looks radiant and nonplussed, whereas my expression mirrors the terror I felt during that split second of time, on the verge of ungracefully tripping over myself and in danger of breaking my nose (in full tutu and all). Thank goodness we crossed the finish line together a mere eighth of a mile later, unscathed and giggling.
From her pre-race peppy cheers and dance steps (totally my fault since while we waited for the race to start my fake hip hop moves were noticed, I caved to peer pressure, and suddenly found myself choreographing an impromptu Girls on the Dancefloor troupe…), S was an absolute trooper, athlete, and delight. I had a ball and hope she did, too. Maybe next year she’ll be my training partner for my second full marathon? I guess I’ll have to ask her mom for permission.