This past weekend was the culmination of the Girls on the Run Spring Session. It is bitter-sweet to see the season end, but what the girls accomplished through completing the 5K Friday night well, they accomplished the seemingly unachievable.
I have said in the past that I feel like I gain more from coaching these girls than they do. This season was no exception.
We had our biggest group to date! Not just at the school I coached at, but in the entire County! We had a total of 350 girls from 17 schools. It’s incredible to see this program taking off!
For our community project, the girls voted and decided to decorate cookies for their teachers. They worked hard to make the cookies “just right” to give away and then my co-coach and I surprised them with a cookie they could decorate and eat for themselves! They were ecstatic!
And last Friday night, we all got together for our very own Girls on the Run 5K at Raccoon River Park in West Des Moines! I had planned to run with my niece Tawnie, who is “aging” out of the program and this was her last GOTR 5K. For the first time, every girl had their own running buddy, which meant there were about 700 runners total! It was great! We had hair glitter and face paint for the girls pre-race and I led a quick warm up for the runners before we got started.
Once the gun went off, Tawnie took off! We were about middle of the pack and it was crowded! I thought we were going to run with 2 of her friends, but not even a half mile in, Tawnie was wanting to run ahead. I told their running buddies we were going to pick up the pace a little and then we were off. A mile in, she was still strong and not complaining! About a mile and a quarter, we stopped for a quick walk break and then got started again. We were seeing other girls from our program and encouraging them along the way. About a mile and half in, we came across one of Tawnie’s friends, Amy, who was running by herself. It was odd that she wasn’t with her running buddy and I knew it was her very first 5k. I slowed to run beside her and encourage her on. She said she was struggling to run and that she didn’t know how she was going to finish. At that point, Tawnie looked back at us, giving me a look that said “come on!” I knew I couldn’t leave Amy alone and asked Tawnie if she was ok to run on ahead alone. With that, Tawnie took off! Amy slowed to a walk and a whine. She was in full panic. She asked how long we’d been running and I informed her 21 minutes. She had a minor breakdown when she heard that and informed me she thought she’d be done running by then! I had to choke back a giggle when I told her I had only run a 5k that fast once in my life and that it was ok it was going to take us a little while longer to finish. I’m not going to lie. Running with her was a struggle. I was trying my best to motivate her but she was melting right before my eyes. She was near tears, her legs hurt, and there was no way she believed she could finish this race. I coached her to breathe through it. I tried to get her to focus on other things. But she was stuck. She was consumed with how she felt in the moment. At one point, she even told me if I kept making her run she would need to be taken to the hospital, and who, who was going to pay for hospital costs?? I just kept a smile on my face and kept telling her how amazing she was and that I knew she had it in her to finish. When the finish line came into sight, it came at just the right time! I was pulling out all the stops to get her across it! And she did it!
I heard that Tawnie did amazing, coming across the finish line strong and sprinting it in!
Of course, her first question was when I’m going to bake her a chocolate cake- bribery to works very well with that kid to get her to finish before me! 🙂
Once again, I’m blessed to have had this experience with my amazing co-coach and we had a running buddy join us this year to help motivate the girls during practice too!
And my amazing husband, who cheered all of us on.
After the 5K, Amy’s mom came up and thanked me and told me that Amy shared with her she wouldn’t have finished if it weren’t for my encouragement. In that moment, it hit me. This is why I do it. Yes, it was a struggle to find the right words and to stay positive during the run. But to know that I helped 1 girl accomplish something that seemed unachievable, well that in itself is indescribable. It’s why I will be back again next fall.