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Girls on the Run finish strong

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By Stevie Lowery

What do you like about yourself?
Have you ever asked yourself that question?
It’s not a question we ask ourselves very often, if ever.
Usually, we focus on the things we don’t like, especially us girls.
In fact, most of the time we are so focused on the things we don’t like that we lose sight of our positive qualities.
And, believe it or not, we all have positive attributes.
Last week, during the final Girls on the Run practice, I asked my girls at Lebanon Elementary School to write down at least one thing they liked about themselves. Here were their answers:
• My healthy body.
• I like that I can run really fast!
• I’m funny.
• I like my loyalty.
• My curly hair.
• I am trustworthy.
• I like that I can run a lot if I try.
• That I have a good heart.
• I am positive because of Girls on the Run.
• If my friend is being bullied I got their back.
• I like that I like art.
I couldn’t help but smile when I read their answers. And I was thrilled that each girl answered the question. They all had at least one thing in mind that they liked about themselves. Helping girls gain self-confidence is just one of the many things the Girls on the Run program strives to do. And, during the three years the program has been in Marion County, I have watched it do that and so much more.
In 2011, the program began locally with nine girls. This year, 54 girls from all four public elementary schools completed the program, which incorporates self-esteem enhancing workouts that help the girls train for a 5K. The program also helps teach girls how to be assertive and respond to peer pressure and bullying. They learn to stand up for what they believe in, and focus on their unique strengths and talents. The program also teaches girls that they can make a difference in their community by having the girls complete a community service project.
I asked the girls last week to tell me one thing they learned from Girls on the Run. This is what they said:
• I love to run.
• To be nice and positive.
• Not to bully.
• I learned to be true to myself.
• To be a friend and not a bully.
• Never bully anyone ever.
• I learned that you can run a lot if you try.
• That girls don’t have to have everything.
• Be positive.
• What I learned was that you shouldn’t talk behind other people’s backs.
• Never bully.
I desperately hope the girls will take what they have learned during the Girls on the Run program and use it in their everyday lives, especially when they face difficult situations involving peer pressure and bullying. I also hope they will continue to follow a healthy lifestyle and get plenty of exercise. Many of the girls admitted to me that they didn’t enjoy running when they began the Girls on the Run program. But, somewhere along the way, they discovered that they actually enjoyed it. Many of them even set goals for themselves, whether it be running a longer distance or running at a faster pace. They set these goals on their own, without any influence from me or any other adults. To see these eight, nine and 10-year-old girls set goals for themselves completely on their own impressed me to no end.
And, yes, believe it or not, most kids like to run! It’s true!
In fact, there were a few days that the weather didn’t cooperate and we weren’t able to run out on the track. I thought the girls would be happy and appreciate some time to rest. But, instead, they were very disappointed. “Practice is more fun when we run,” one of the girls said to me.
In addition to running, I asked the girls to tell me what they enjoyed most about Girls on the Run. They said:
• Having positive coaches.
• We cooperate and we run.
• That everyone is nice to me and the coaches are, too.
• All the coaches being very helpful.
• The energy awards.
• Spending time with everyone.
• Everything.
• I like the kindness.
• It was really fun because I was with my friends.
• I like it because people encourage me to finish STRONG!
The 12-week program officially ended Saturday, Nov. 23, when more than 600 Girls on the Run participants from across central Kentucky joined together and ran a 5K in Keeneland. The temps were bitter cold but I can assure you that everyone there had a big, warm smile on their face as they watched these amazing little girls pound the pavement and receive their medal at the finish line.
It’s really something special to witness.
To see these little girls, who once thought running one mile was impossible, finish 3.1 miles, is truly remarkable. It shows them that they are capable of doing so much more than they ever dreamed. It gives them a sense of confidence that, I hope, they will carry with them as they grow older. And, it’s an accomplishment that no one can ever take away. It is theirs, forever.
I am honored to continue this program in Marion County. Next year, I hope to bring the Girls on the Run program to St. Augustine Grade School, so that girls in all of Marion County’s elementary schools can experience this amazing program.
To learn more about Girls on the Run, visit www.girlsontherun.org.