This morning we culminated 8 weeks of running with the girls at Fairmeadows Elementary School. I know I’ve said it before- after each Girls on the Run 5K that I’ve had the priveledge to coach, but I honestly could not be more proud of these girls! They all showed up excited, full of hugs for me and faces lit up with huge smiles. I love race mornings!
We pinned on our bibs and matched the girls up with their running buddies and lined up. Standing in line I was close to several of the girls from our program who were about to run their very first 5k! One of the girls, Taylor, shouted in excitement “I’m going to run the WHOLE time!” I high-fived her and told her she could do it and turned around to high-five Sophie, who was looking a little more nervous. Tawnie and I got into our place in line and soon we were off! Tawnie shot out, wanting to weave around other runners and sprint. I held her back and reminded her to save energy for the finish. There was no doubt about it, she was excited and it was contagious. As we reached the half mile point, I told Tawnie if we kept up this pace, she would set a PR! She asked what that meant and I explained that she would finish in her best time yet! Megan and her mom, Lisa, who I run with regularly came up beside us then and we chatted a little bit before they scooted on ahead of us. We were reaching the 1 mile point and Tawnie was looking for some water on the trail. She said when we got to the water, she was going to walk. I didn’t protest, walking through a water stop is great race strategy :). However, we passed the 1 mile mark and didn’t find any water. Tawnie started to complain that it hurt to breathe and she couldn’t go on. She stopped running and started to walk. I slowed and jogged beside her as I encouraged her to keep going. I reminded her how she just blew through the Color Run 5K just a few weeks ago without stopping. I reminded her of how hot the Weimer-runner 5k in June and how hard it was to breathe that day. Today was not a hard race- we had perfect running conditions! She started to jog again and pressed on. I decided she needed a distraction, to focus her attention on anything but her breathing and running, so I asked her what she wanted for Christmas. Who DOESN’T love to talk about their Christmas wish list?? I do and I’m in my 30’s :). That got her excited and we ran the next 2 miles chatting away. Once we could see the finish line around the lake, I pointed it out and told her where we would start to sprint it in. She complained that this time, she didn’t have the energy to sprint today. I laughed and told her I’d caught on to her game, she wanted me to believe that so that she could pull out all the stops and leave me in the dust, unable to keep up :). She saw my mom and picked up her step. From there, I picked up the pace and hoped she’d keep up. When she started falling behind, I slowed down and told her to get in front of me so that she would cross the finish line first. Once she was in front, I followed close taunting her that I was going to catch her :). It worked. She sprinted into the finish line at a 7:40 pace and set a PR finishing in 33 minutes! She has shaved 15 minutes off of her very first 5k time! She said later that she felt like could puke. I think she’s heard me say that before, so I smiled and congratulated her on running a great race and pointed out that feeling like you could puke is a sign that you ran it well.
Once Tawnie had gotten some water (finally! there wasn’t any water on the course and she was “dying” to have some 🙂 ), I parked her next to my dad and walked up to where my mom was cheering on runners to find our neighbor girl, Maddi, who was walking most of the 5k- her very first one! We saw her coming up and I jumped in with her and her running buddy. She asked where Tawnie was and I told her she was down by the finish line to cheer her on and she was with Maddi’s mom! Maddi’s entire face lit up when she heard her mom was there and she picked up the pace. Her running buddy and I told her to set the pace and we’d keep up and encouraged her to run the rest of the way into the finish. When we got to where her mom was waiting to cheer her on, she veered off course, not realizing she wasn’t finished :). We yelled that she had to keep on going and she hopped back onto the course and caught up with us again. She stopped to walk and catch her breath (poor girl has a horrible cough this week!) and we set a point ahead where we would run it into the finish. And she did. We cheered her in to the finish from behind.
The girls received special GOTR finishers medals and we had a small post-race celebration with everyone. All of the girls seemed happy and excited and tired. The younger girls, most who just ran their first race ever, came up with wide eyes and big grins- they had done it! Such an accomplishment and I feel so priviledged to have been able to experience this with them. Girls on the Run is such an inspiring program- and the girls inspire me.