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Super, super girl power

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Girls on the Run program empowers girls to reach their limitless potential

By Stevie Lowery

Runner’s high: a feeling of euphoria that is experienced by some individuals engaged in strenuous running, which is associated with the release of endorphins by the brain.

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I’ve experienced the “runner’s high” more times than I can count. 

It’s real. And it’s fantastic.

But, it doesn’t compare to the euphoric feeling I have each year when I run the Girls on the Run 5K, which was held Saturday at Keeneland in Lexington. More than 700 Girls on the Run from across central Kentucky, and their running buddies, participated this year. The atmosphere was electric. My running buddy, Maggie Jo Benningfield, ran her heart out, and all of the Girls on the Run showed what girl power is truly all about. 

There were tutus. There were painted faces. There were multi-colored ponytails swinging from side to side as they ran the course. And, of course, there were more smiling faces than you could count. And, to top it all off, there was a rainbow near the finish line, which was very fitting for such a positive, uplifting event.

The Girls on the Run 5k is one of the highlights of the year for me. The Girls on the Run program itself is a cause near and dear to my heart. The program began in Marion County in 2011 with nine girls at Glasscock Elementary. This year, 81 girls from all four public elementary schools and St. Augustine Grade School 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. 

Last week, during one of our final practices, I asked Lebanon Elementary School’s Girls on the Run to tell me at least one of their favorite things about the program. Here were some of their responses:

• We get exercise and life lessons.

• Teamwork and encouragement.

• Running and being with all of the Girls on the Run.

• Running and playing games together.

• We train and run races and some boys can’t do that.

• We are more of a family than just friends.

• The snacks.

• I get to be part of a team.

• Knowing people who are confident in you.

• Meeting all of these wonderful girls.

I also asked the girls to describe the Girls on the Run program in one word. This was very hard for some of them, especially for the girls who REALLY like to talk and use LOTS of words. But, here is what they came up with: Awesome, unique, amazing, inspiring, challenging, fantastic, adventurous, shine, intelligent, cool, confident, passionate, powerful and fun.

I think it’s obvious from their responses that this program has a very positive impact on them. They learn so much during our 12 weeks together. Not only do they learn how to deal with the pressures of being a young girl in our society today, but they also learn so much about themselves and how truly strong and beautiful they are in their own unique ways.

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.

Last week, one of the Girls on the Run at Lebanon Elementary wrote me a letter. Her words took me by surprise, to be honest, and were proof to me that this program is worth every single penny and ounce of energy that we put into it each year. Her letter said, “Thank you for helping me when I needed it the most. I’m giving you this card because I care about you. I hope my letter makes your day.”

Her letter made my year.

I am honored to continue this program in Marion County. I plan to see that it continues for many more years to come.

To learn more about Girls on the Run, visit www.girlsontherun.org.