“We’re girls, we know it, we’re happy and we show it! GIRLS ON THE RUN IS SO MUCH FUN!”
I throw my hand up in the air to conclude the team’s exuberant pre-race cheer, beaming at the circle of nervous 4th grade girls in their hazard orange racing t-shirts. After months of hard work, the launch of the culminating Girls on the Run Twin Cities 5k race in Minneapolis was mere moments away. When the starting gun went off, we lunged forward as a team, falling into an even pace amongst the sound of each other’s footsteps.
Girls on the Run (GOTR), an official partner of Girl Up, is a nonprofit organization that uses running as a tool to empower girls and spark conversations on topics ranging from healthy eating to body image to bullying. GOTR has chapters across the nation, most of which are connected with elementary or middle schools and led by community volunteers.
I knew volunteering with GOTR would be a great way for me to extend my work with Girl Up by continuing to create community partnerships and help girls on a personal level. As a Junior Coach for a GOTR chapter in Minnesota, I have seen firsthand how running can be used as a tool of empowerment for girls. Not only does it teach skills such as work ethic, goal-setting, dedication, and healthy living, but in my opinion there is no better way to build a cohesive community than pushing oneself to the point of near exhaustion, together.
I was on the home stretch of the 5k race when a girl up ahead stopped running altogether. Her stomach hurt and she didn’t think she could go on. One by one the rest of the team came sprinting up from behind and we all gathered around the struggling girl offering her words of encouragement. After a few minutes, we grabbed each other’s hands and continued down the path together, finally crossing the finish line with a triumphant fist pump and hugs all around.
As a Girl Up Teen Advisor, I am continually inspired by these types of connections that I get to witness on a regular basis – whether it is helping girls come together to finish a 5k in my community, collaborating with Girl Up clubs across the nation for advice on fundraising, or hearing the story of friends in Ethiopia who pass around a solar lamp every evening to take turns finishing their homework assignments.
Because truly, “Alone we are strong, but together we are stronger.”