Run like a girl

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Running program offered more than just exercise

By Stevie Lowery

"Running is like celebrating your soul. There's so much it can teach us in life."


- Molly Barker, founder and executive director of Girls on the Run


Every time I step on the pavement in my running shoes, I make new observations of how life and running are so very similar.

Life is hard. So is running.

Both take dedication, heart, endurance, guts, strength and humility.

Sometimes we feel as if we can't take another step, but we dig down deep and we take one step, then two, then three until we're running again. We push through the pain. Sometimes, we even become delirious.

But, we keep moving.

Sure, sometimes we have to make pit stops. Other times we have to completely stop and catch our breath. But, after taking a breather or two, we move ahead to the next challenge. Because, like running, life is full of challenges.

And, sometimes, we must challenge ourselves or life gets awfully boring. The same thing can be said for running. After competing in a few 5Ks, it's time to advance, maybe try a 10K, and then maybe a half-marathon. It's so important to challenge ourselves and take time to celebrate the small victories. Because, in life and in running, it's all about the small victories. Whether it's a job promotion or placing third in your age division in a race (or simply finishing a race), small victories are worth celebrating, enjoying and relishing.

Life is unpredictable. So is running.

You can prepare and train for months for a big race, but sometimes injuries occur, the unexpected happens, and you have to walk to the finish line. You feel defeated, lost, depressed, and hopeless. But, you eventually take that next step. You keep moving forward. And you get back into a rhythm, the rhythm of life.

For me, running gives me rhythm.

I can run off the petty stresses that come with everyday life. It's the best way for me to clear my mind. Recently, I was having an "I feel sorry for myself" afternoon. It was raining, my son wasn't around to cheer me up and I was feeling low. I couldn't run outside because of the weather, so I stepped on my treadmill. I ran as far as the treadmill would let me, which was 10 miles. And, I swear, I could have kept going. It was therapeutic. Every drop of sweat helped cleanse me of all the negative thoughts that had been invading my mind. I felt like a new person.

Running makes me feel more alive.

Running makes me feel stronger, and in more control of my life. Nothing and no one can get me down when I'm running... except for myself. I can be my own worst enemy when I'm out there pounding the pavement. The same goes in life. I can be my biggest cheerleader or my worst critic. These days, I'm trying to be more of a cheerleader. And, I can credit nine new running buddies for helping me change my attitude (which continues to be a work in progress).

During the past 12 weeks, I have been blessed to coach nine Girls On The Run participants. They are Marion County's inaugural class of Girls On The Run and I'm so very proud of them and their accomplishments. They ran not one but two 5K races, an accomplishment very few, if any, of them ever dreamed they would ever achieve.

But, what they accomplished goes far beyond running 3.1 miles.

They learned what it means to stay plugged into the "Girls On The Run" chord and to surround themselves with positive influences and positive people. They learned how to be assertive and how to respond to peer pressure and bullies. They learned how to challenge themselves. And, they experienced, firsthand, how good it feels to reach a goal.

But, in the process, my Girls On The Run taught me a few things, too.

They taught me to not take myself so seriously. They taught me to take time to simply have fun and be silly. They helped me see the positive in myself again. In a world full of people that want to knock you down, these girls picked me up. On the afternoons when I would meet them for practice, all nine girls would run and greet me with a hug. On some days I was almost tackled by little girls with outstretched arms. They will never know what those hugs did for me.

They brought me so much joy.

They recharged my spirit.

 They helped me move forward in this race we call life.