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Week One: The Starting Line

September 12, 2011

Introducing Guest Blogger and Girls on the Run of Atlanta Fall Intern  Shannon Foster

Shannon joins GOTR this Fall from Georgia Gwinnett College and will be shadowing three different GOTR schools. She started out at a Fulton County Elementary School. Thanks Shannon!

Week One: The Starting Line

The runners have signed in, and while the race hasn’t started, they’re approaching the starting line. These girls are not receiving a race number to set them apart though. They are putting on purple Girls on the Run shirts to unite them, for they are preparing not just for a three mile run but a 12-week journey.

Wednesday afternoon, 12 upper elementary girls sat in an empty classroom eagerly waiting to start. This is their first year with Girls on the Run and they had a frenzy of questions from “how long is a mile” to “who can run with us in the race” and “can I keep my water bottle.” While it’s the first year for most of the coaches as well, they were able to answer all of the questions, pass out t-shirts, and still gather the girls together to begin the lesson.

When asked why they decided to get involved with GOTR, one of the coaches, who was a part of the program last year, replied “I think we need to build self esteem in girls, and this club does that… I expect to see confidence grow in these girls. I saw that last year.” They all agreed that the program will help the girls learn to handle stress and develop socially, while also providing encouragement for them to become physically healthy. “It seems like such a good positive thing for them, and honest to goodness it seems like a good positive thing for us too,” one of the new coaches said.

After getting to know each other’s names and listening to Molly Barker’s message, the girls finished the introduction and were anxious to get outside.  The sky was overcast and it was a little cool for early September in Georgia, but that didn’t damper the girls’ spirits as they ran a little as part of an opening game.

Then came the challenge, the first lap around the track. Armed with encouraging words to say to her fellow runners, the girls took off around the first bend. As they passed the half way mark, many of them were already out of breath; nonetheless, they still panted words of encouragement as they passed one another. Most of them ardently agreed that the run was hard and they had lots of work to do before the 5K. Yet, when asked what they thought of GOTR so far, they admitted “It’s really fun. It’s awesome.”

Not only did the girls enjoy running with their friends, both new and old, they also learned “If someone makes fun of you when you want to run, it doesn’t matter,” as one girl said, which her two friends agreed that it was a lesson they could use in school as well. They learned that despite what other people say, it is okay to be who you are.

The running was challenging, and it will take all 12 weeks to prepare for the 5K; however, the lessons that will affect the girls’ everyday lives have already begun, and friendships are already being formed as these girls have started their race together. It is a race that will take them not only around the track, but on a spiritual and emotional journey as well, as it provides them a safe place to find themselves and become confident in who they are as girls.

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