Running To Make A Difference in the Lives of Girls

I started running when I was in the seventh grade at the suggestion of my history teacher who was also the track coach. I had been running for months on my own before he actually believed I’d been running at all. At the time, I was thin. Puberty hit me very late so my skinny, undeveloped body moved pretty fast (not win-track-meets fast, but faster than I was after puberty).

I didn’t have many friends. I had a huge crush on a boy named Ray who didn’t know I existed. I spent a lot of time studying and writing in my journal. I was a prototypical introverted, awkward junior high kid with really bad hair. Running was my escape. It was something that gave me pride. Whenever I ran up that hill on Montclair Dive in Jackson, TN, I had faith in myself.

Running gave me a new set of friends. It brought me out of my shell.It gave me some well-needed self-confidence. And given that I grew up in a single-parent household, running was an activity that easily fit our lifestyle and schedule. Running made a difference in my life that is hard to describe today – but by all my posts on marathons, you’ve probably guessed that it is still an important part of who I am. I believe in programs like Girls on the Run – which strive to build the self-esteem of 3rd– 5th graders through experiential learning programs and running. I hope the program can positively influence the lives of young girls in our community – like running did once for me. Last weekend, 400 Treasure Valley Girls on the Run participants ran in a 5K event in Boise. Not only was I truly inspired by my 10-year old running partner who gave her all as she stepped into Bronco stadium, but based on what I heard from fellow board members, I think the mission of the organization is working.

“The little girl with whom I ended up being a “buddy” was EXACTLY the kind of girl that I hope gets something out of this program and why I am so committed to what we do.

At first, she was very shy (she said she didn’t want to talk much because she was saving her breath so she could run at the end), but then she started opening up about how her mom had to borrow a car to get her to the event because theirs wasn’t working…and her parents were divorced…and her 18-year-old sister just had a baby.  And, of course, along the way, her legs hurt, she thought she broke her ankle (she didn’t) she couldn’t catch her breath (she ended up getting it) BUT – when we came close to the stadium, she decided wanted to run and was thrilled to pieces to finish in BSU stadium.  She said that she didn’t think her sister had ever run a day in her life and that she was going to be SO jealous when she told her what she had accomplished.

I ran with a girl who told me her dad thought she would have quit the program by now. She was proving him wrong. She was very excited that he had taken the day off from work to watch her run. She had quite an assortment of siblings, half siblings and steps. She was going to have a great weekend because after the run, her 21 year old sister and 5 year old son were coming in to town from Vegas to celebrate his birthday. Also, her uncle is getting out of jail this week. What is even more amazing is that she held my hand the entire way. I am so thrilled to be a part of this program and know that it makes a difference in the lives of girls in the area.”

“I have a very similar story – bringing up the rear certainly gave me an opportunity of a lifetime and hopefully made a difference in the life of not just the GOTR participant, but her mom, too. Neither had ever walked 3 miles and it took a lot of encouragement to get her to the finish line. She wanted to stop and quit many times. She is one of six kids, and from what I could tell, had not participated in much of anything active before.

I challenged her to run through the finish line and she said that she did not think she could do it. Alas, as soon as she saw the line, she took off running (I could not keep up with her at this point!) and she made it. Needless to say I had more tears of joy than she did!!

Her mom had worked two back-to-back shifts in order to be there that morning. She had worked till 4 am, drove back home to pick up her daughter and then make it in time for the event. She walked the 5K in jeans and crocs – and I think and hope it inspired her, too! What a commitment.”

Melinda Hinson