Fleet Female Feet
Girls on the Run fosters confidence, athleticism
If you’ve ever trained for a 5K race, you know the “high” you get when you cross that finish line. Pre-teen girls like Madeline and Eva are learning about that power of running along with valuable life skills and more by committing to training two nights a week for 10 weeks during late winter and early spring through Girls on the Run of Eau Claire County. The organization is a local independent council of Girls on the Run International, which has a network of 200-plus locations across the United States and Canada.
“Girls on the Run has helped me meet other girls and helped me feel better about myself. … I like knowing that there are other girls wanting to achieve a goal of running in a 5K race, and the coaches have fun ways to exercise.” – Madeline, third grade, Locust Lane Elementary School, Eau ClaireAimed at preteen girls in the third through fifth grades, the program combines training for a 5 kilometer (3.1 mile) running event with 20 fun, experienced-based lessons that teach self-confidence, independence, and teamwork to small groups of 10 to 15 girls. Specially trained volunteer coaches who also have passed background checks lead the program. Girls on the Run of Eau Claire County’s eighth annual 5K race is set for 10am Saturday, May 9, at Owen Park.
Coaches usually get involved through their daughters, nieces, or students. “My greatest reward would be watching the girls finish the 5K at the end of the program,” shared Katie Albin, a teacher who is in her second year of coaching at Sherman Elementary School in Eau Claire. “The smiles on their faces after they cross the finish line are the best reward.”
“We set a goal for how long we can run, and then we see if we can exceed it. … It is fun. It helps girls do their best.”– Eva, third grade, Chippewa Valley Montessori School, Eau ClaireJanet Goodman, who is also in her second year of coaching at Osseo Elementary School and whose daughters participate in the program, loves the positive message that the program has for young girls. “It’s so much more than running,” she said. “The program gives girls the confidence and skills to make their bodies beautiful on the inside and out.”
Jessica Severson, a teacher and first-year coach at Lakeshore Elementary School in Eau Claire, began to take part because her niece was involved, and she ran the 5K with her. Severson shared that parents have commented on their daughters being much more willing to be active and “get off the couch.” But her best experience so far has been running alongside a former student and “listen(ing) to her pure joy and positive outlook on life,” she said. “To me, it was priceless.”
Girls on the Run of Eau Claire County currently serves elementary schools in Altoona (Pederson), Augusta, Eau Claire (Flynn, Lakeshore, Locust Lane, Meadowview, Montessori, Northwoods, Putnam Heights, Robbins, Roosevelt, and Sherman), Fairchild, Fall Creek, and Osseo, and has a waiting list.
Kim Gillett, Girls on the Run council director, got involved through her daughters at Fall Creek Elementary School. She also is always on the lookout for interested parents, schools, volunteers, and especially sponsors in the communities, and is excited that the organization is setting three new “personal records” in 2015:
1. Reaching its 1,000th participant since its founding in 2006 (the national organization established in 1996 just named its millionth participant);
2. Expanding into Chippewa Falls and thus beginning the process of rebranding itself as Girls on the Run of the Chippewa Valley; and
3. Just in time for its 5K race on May 9, distributing more than 250 free pairs of running shoes with neon-colored laces to interested participants at its first ever “If the Shoe Fits … Run” event held recently at the Eau Claire Sports Warehouse thanks to support from the Eau Claire Marathon, eBay Gives, Scheels, Charter Bank, and Youth Leadership of Eau Claire.