A Girl on Track

Posted on April 20, 2012. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

I am blessed to be involved with a life-changing organization.  Girls on the Run© is an empowerment program for girls in 3rd through 8th grade.  Its purpose is to show girls that they don’t have to conform to the stereotypes society would impose upon them. They don’t have to give in to pressure—from family, their peers, society.  They can choose to be themselves, they can choose to be strong.

They can choose.

You would think by the name that this is a running program.  It’s not. Our mission has a much greater scope than to teach girls how to run.  They’re kids. They already know how, even if they don’t yet know it, even if they choose not to.

But running, as runners know, is a great tool.  Once you learn that you can do it—that you can reach what seem like impossible goals and that your body can do remarkable things—you learn that you can do anything.

You develop confidence.  A healthy respect for your body.

I have been blessed to see this becoming (I sometimes don’t really know what else to call it) in many girls, and I have seen the struggle to become in many others.  The becoming is beautiful.  The struggle is agonizing.  I have been watching it in one particular girl this season.

“Eloise” was one of mine 3 seasons ago, when I was her coach in Girls on Track, the program for 6th through 8th graders.  You can see in her eyes that she has greatness in her. She is smart, creative, strong. And you can see in the twist of her lips and the tilt of her head the pull from her peers to be something she is not.  Dumb.  Aloof.  Too cool to participate, especially when the boys hang around.

Her coaches this season tell me of the ongoing battle of wills between them and her.  She skips the lessons, ignores the coaches, smirks defiantly.  They tell her that they want her there but, as with most things, it is her choice to participate or not.  Sometimes she chooses not.

But a curious girl, this Eloise. For all her defiance and playing at aloofness, for all her hiding out behind playground equipment and around corners, she keeps showing up.  This is, in fact, her third season.  And more than anything else she chooses to do or not do, she chooses to run.

Our season ends with a 5K race. The girls train for it during their 10 to 12 weeks of learning to be ok with themselves, and, we hope, learning that they are an important and irreplaceable piece in the puzzle of the world.  Many of them do not believe when the season begins that they have it in them to run that far.  All of them who come, finish.

In December, Eloise showed up to our 5K race.  To get to the starting line, I recently discovered, she walked, alone, 2.42 miles, from her home.  I know this, because when I found out, I mapped it.

Our spring season 5K is on Saturday, April 21.  The battle of wills between Eloise and her coaches wages on.  I think, however, that running will win, and Eloise will be there again.  I believe that running gives her a glimmer of her potential.  I’ve seen her face when she runs.  All the tension disappears and is replaced with determination, joy.

I don’t know for sure if this is how she feels, but if she shows up, I will ask her.  I want her to know, again, that she’s on the right track.

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3 Responses to “A Girl on Track”

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Great post. I looked up this organization when I discovered your blog months ago – an amazing thing they (and you) are doing!

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Thanks! It’s an amazing thing to see how running can impact so many young girls. Gives them a sense of themselves. I love it!

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That’s a beautiful story – I hope she shows up 🙂

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