Girls on the Run to host June 2 5KWritten by Morgan Delp | | firstname.lastname@example.org
A group of energetic third- and fourth-grade girls from Whitehouse Primary School giggled with excitement about the upcoming 5K race they have been practicing for since January as members of Girls on the Run (GOTR) of Northwest Ohio.
“This will be my first 5K, and I’m excited because I like running in the woods!” fourth-grader Holly Shade exclaimed, speaking of the June 2 race location of Side Cut Metropark. The race, which is put on by GOTR, is open to the public and begins at 9:30 a.m., with registration beginning at 8.
“I have already done 5Ks before,” third-grader Clara Ollerenshaw said. “This will be my third.”
Ollerenshaw is not alone is her experience, as other participants in Girls on the Run of Northwest Ohio have run 5Ks before. However, for many of the girls, like Shade, this race will be a completely new adventure.
“It will be fun to finish a race because I’ve never run anything like this before,” fourth-grader Kaylee Kahl said.
Finishing is the most important aspect of the race, Whitehouse Primary coach Lindsay McKibben said. McKibben is also the council director of the Northwest Ohio chapter of Girls on the Run, “a positive youth development program which combines an interactive curriculum and running to inspire self-respect and healthy lifestyles in pre-teen (third, fourth and fifth grades) girls,” girlsontherunnwohio.org says. The program is in its first season in Northwest Ohio, with teams at Whitehouse Primary and Wayne Trail Elementary School.
“It’s most important for them to set a goal and accomplish it. For them to go out and finish the race is the most important thing,” McKibben said. “The race is not timed for the girls, there’s no winners or losers.”
While the name may suggest an emphasis on running, Girls on the Run is a program for all girls, not just runners, McKibben said.
“We have varying levels of ability,” McKibben said. “… We encourage the program to be for all girls and … with the “keep moving forward” [mentality], we don’t stress time, we just stress keeping a steady pace, whether that’s walking or running fast if your ability allows.”
The main goal of the national organization, which was founded in 1996 by Molly Barker, four-time Hawaii Ironman triathlete, is to “inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running,” the website said.
Throughout 24 after-school sessions, leaders address the physical, emotional, mental and social well-being of the girls, the website said. This is done through group discussions, workouts and running games.
McKibben said the girls participate in discussions about positive choices, body image and teamwork, among other topics.
“We cover a lot of topics that the girls face in their day-to-day life, like being positive and choosing to speak positively about their selves and others, and avoiding behavior such as bullying and gossiping, and how to stand up for themselves,” McKibben said.
When asked what she has learned from the organization, fourth-grade participant Ally Vossen said, “We learn that we shouldn’t put ourselves down or be upset by how others act or see us.”
Besides the positive feedback from participants in Girls on the Run, the website says that “academic evaluations show a statistically significant improvement in body image, eating attitudes and self-esteem.” This statement is supported by data from a 2007 study by Rita DiGioacchino De Bate, associate professor at the College of Public Health at the University of South Florida.
The Northwest Ohio chapter hopes to expand their program this fall, McKibben said. In the future, program leaders hope to bring Girls on Track, a program for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade girls, to the area, McKibben said.
“We were limited to two teams in our first season. … We are currently talking to a number of new schools for fall. It’s just a matter of getting things finalized,” McKibben said. “We’d like to have more teams so that there are multiple teams within a school district at each site. Eventually we’ll get there.”
The culmination of the nationally recognized program is the community-wide 5K race, which raises money for the nonprofit, donation-based organization. Every girl runs with a race buddy, which may be a family member, family friend or volunteer, McKibben said.
“It’s open to the community. All family members and friends are encouraged to participate and cheer the girls on [through] the finish,” McKibben said. “It’s definitely a special day for the girls because they’ve been training and working towards this throughout the whole season.”
All are invited to register online at girlsontherunnwohio.org. The cost is $25 before the race or $30 on race day. There will be awards for different age groups and every participant of the Girls on the Run program receives an award as well.