My son’s school is participating in Girls on the Run and I’ve been volunteering this spring. If you haven’t heard of it, Girls on the Run is a wonderful after-school program targeted at tween girls that encourages confidence and empowerment in their day-to-day lives.
Yes, there is running but there is so much more. I would say one-third to one-half of the time is actually devoted to running in preparation for a 5K. A sampling of the themes we have covered so far in the 12-week program includes true beauty, healthy habits and peer pressure. One game involved asking the question, “What would you do if…” and all of their responses were incredibly inspiring.
So about the 5K. Coaches and volunteers run in it as well. In fact, I just signed up. Although Girls on the Run is a non-profit organization, the 5K is classified as a fun run, meaning it’s not for charity and no times will be taken.
Did I mention I hate running? You will never see a 26.2 sticker on my car. You also won’t see a 13.1, or even a 6.55 if someone made them.
It’s true, running has never been my go-to method of working out. I’ve never enjoyed that jolt my feet feel as they crash onto the track or turf, how that jolt travels up from my feet, rattling my knees, shaking my chest. It tires my body quicker than pretty much any other form of exercise. Everything about it seems harder to me, whether it’s taking that next step or simply breathing. Sort of ironic considering running requires nothing other than me, myself and I.
Meanwhile on my bike, I can move the pedals with a fluid motion. I have more control since I can brake, or not. Even though I am arguably more encumbered by a bike and a helmet, I feel more free on a bike. The scenery is prettier too and more varied as I can cover way more ground than I could by running.
But this is Girls on the Run, not Girls on the Bike. I am not required to run in the 5K. So why did I sign up to run?
It goes back to the girls. If you think about it, we ask so much from them. Twice a week for an hour and a half after a 7 hour school day, the other coaches and I ask them to cooperate, to brainstorm ideas for the session’s non-running activities. We ask them to pay attention to the other girls and nominate one at the end of the day for an effort award. Of course, we ask them to run, and then run some more.
It reminds me of my time as a financial manager and my desire to do that work once again. I believe the most effective managers are the ones who are willing and able to step in and perform the tasks of those we manage. In order to lead you have to know quite a bit about the work and the best way is to actually do it. How can you answer questions for fix something if you don’t know what to do?
Of course there are only 24 hours in a day and many managers are asked to lead multiple groups. That number multiplies if you get promoted so it’s virtually impossible to perform all the tasks all the time. When I say step in, I do mean just that.
It’s simply part of being a professional. You listen to the call of duty, no matter what it is, whether you like it or not.
The same holds true for the 9 and 10 years old girls in my group. I can’t in good faith tell them to do something I am not willing to do myself. That includes running.
So now I train, during our after-school sessions but also at the gym while my 3-year old future Girl on the Run is in preschool. And you know, it hasn’t been so bad. I still don’t like that jolt of when feet meet track but I do like the way I feel when I’m done. Physically I feel a bit more energized and mentally I am stronger for meeting each goal I set for myself.
Less than a month from now, I will grab my pink water bottle, drive down to Joliet with my family, pin on my bib and and head out onto the track with the group from school. While I will never say I love running, I can say I love running this race, and how it has transformed these girls and me along the track, from the starting line at the first session all the way through to the finish line on the track.
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