I did cross-country in middle school, but did not continue with running until I moved to DC in 2008 to start graduate school. I quickly fell in love with running, and found it to be a confidence-booster, particularly among the challenges of grad school. I began racing marathons and competing in other races, and I quickly found that the confidence and dedication to training that I had picked up translated into success in my doctoral program. Running became an empowering component in my life, and it was something I wish a coach had impressed on me when I was younger (instead of just telling us to get out and run). The mission and curriculum of Girls on the Run is designed to teach the girls a set of valuable skills and lessons that will continue to shape their lives for years to come. It is a privilege to help support that endeavor. On a personal note, last spring, my ten-year old cousin Meryl completed her first season of Girls on the Run, and it was so exciting to hear about her enthusiastically describe the program, particularly all of the fantastic components of the 5k event. I wanted to give other girls the same opportunity she had, and be a coach who could help empower the next generation of girls to realize their own potential and their own ability to take on new adventures and challenges.
There are so many lessons that the girls learn throughout the season, but the one lesson that was most thrilling to watch how empowerment shaped the girls’ experiences so much. Our girls became really enthusiastic about cheering each other on, and often would line up to shout out cheers for the girls who were finishing up their laps. The smiles on the girls’ faces made it clear how much they appreciated the support from their teammates. Moreover, as the girls gained confidence throughout the program, each milestone or breakthrough was something to be celebrated. When we did our practice 5k about a month before the 5k, the girls were so stunned that they were able to actually able to complete 3.1 miles. Such an endeavor taught them that they could take on challenges that seemed previously insurmountable: a lesson that translates both on and off the road.