You go girl! Girls on the Run 12-week program inspires young runners mentally, physically

CINCINNATI - “How many people put selfies on Instagram?”

This isn’t how you’d expect training for a 5k to begin. But for the Mt. Auburn International Academy girls, that’s exactly how they kicked off their Girls on the Run lesson on April 14.

The eighth graders are fast approaching their first 5k run/walk on May 10. For most of the young runners involved in the program, it’s the longest distance they will have tackled. And coaches want to make sure they’re ready, both mentally and physically.

What is Girls on the Run?

Girls on the Run is a international non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of young girls through programs and activities that encourage them to challenge themselves, reach their full potential, and set and achieve bold dreams.

Girls on the Run serves girls from the third through eighth grades, offering a unique after-school program that focuses on self, team and community development and education while integrating physical movement and exercise. The training program is 12 weeks, with 24 lessons--two lessons a week.

For the past 10 years, the Cincinnati-area chapter has worked with girls in nine counties in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. On May 10,, Girls on the Run Cincinnati will celebrate its 10th anniversary and the culmination of the girls’ 12-week training program with their spring 5k at Paul Brown Stadium.

Total Training Time

So, why were they talking about selfies during the April 14 lesson? Because Girls on the Run focuses on challenging girls mentally, spiritually, and physically. Noting the increased role social media plays in relationships, self-esteem, social awareness, and peer pressure, coaches led the Mt. Auburn girls in a robust discussion about social media safety, appropriate and inappropriate posts, and “netiquette” – how to use social media to inspire positive change in their schools and neighborhoods, rather than to engage in destructive behavior.

Coaches – teachers and faculty at participating schools – are given all the tools they need to execute the program. From index cards to markers to a training manual, hundreds of boxes are stuffed and distributed by Girls on the Run volunteers. In fact, a majority of involvement with Girls on the Run is volunteer-based.

“We definitely need volunteers. In fact, we’re still looking for volunteers for our May 10 5k,” Girls on the Run Cincinnati Senior Program Director Mary Gaertner told me.

The SoleMates Hit the Streets

The Girls on the Run participants come from varying socioeconomic statuses, which is why program leaders are committed to ensuring no girl misses out on this opportunity or struggles financially to experience this transformative program.

“The cost per girl is about $150,” Gaertner said. This is where the SoleMates swoop in. In addition to relying on help from volunteers, continued success of Girls on the Run programs rely on these athletes. SoleMates are adult runners who pledge to raise money for Girls on the Run while training for their own races, from a 10k to a full marathon. The money the SoleMates raise ensure that no girl in the community is left behind and helps offset the costs for needy participants.

Strap on those racing shoes…

With the May 10 Girls on the Run spring 5k on the horizon, girls like the eighth graders at Mt. Auburn Academy are wrapping up their 12-week training and preparing themselves totally to take on their first big race. If local runners are interested in participating, there’s still time to sign up! Runners can sign up for the run/walk here ; and interested volunteers can find more information about assisting with the 10th anniversary event here .

#9Fitness is proud to partner with Girls on the Run to help shape young lives, build self-esteem and a healthy body image, and teaching girls the tools they need to grow into confident women. Our team will be participating in the May 10 5k, and we’d love to see you! Connect with me on Twitter, @jennyfromthebak, and let me know if you’re also running!

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