When I got a last-minute invitation to run in a “Girls on the Run” 5k race in Cheyenne, Wyoming, I said “Sure, as long as I don’t have to run fast.” I’m finding myself in a mellow walk-a-day, run-a-day mode after a gut-busting October. No races planned for a while, but I knew a little of the Girls on the Run organization and I wanted to support this, the first race ever for them in Wyoming.
Girls on the Run was founded 20 years ago to teach life skills through dynamic conversation-based lessons and running to girls ages eight to thirteen. It has spread steadily across the country until, in the fall of 2016, Wyoming became the 50th state to adopt the program. Today it is in 200 schools in the U.S. and Canada and in 2015 sponsored the largest series of 5k runs in the U.S.
These 5k races celebrate the end of a ten-week program, held in the spring and fall. Aside from being a whole lot of fun, they celebrate the girls’ achievements during their participation in the program.
They meet twice a week after school for a series of activities which finish up with a training run each session. At the end of the ten weeks, participants take part in a celebratory 5k race. The organization also conducts programs for older girls where the focus on running becomes a bit more serious.
The idea is to encourage girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum to achieve that goal. It seems to be working. At Lions Park in Cheyenne, a group of 35 excited little girls from three elementary schools got their faces painted, hair-colored and danced up a storm to lively music as a warm-up for the race. Meanwhile their parents, siblings and a whole host of other supporters prepared to run as well.
I was lucky enough to shout “ready, set” and then ring a cowbell to start the race. Off they went amid dogs, strollers, walkers and well-wishers along the sidelines. Billed as “non-competitive” the races are just that. The kick comes in participating, in finishing and in, at the end of the day, feeling good about yourself. It is what running is all about.
I couldn’t have been more pleased that I was able to be part of it all.
I will add a photo as soon as it is available.