CINCINNATI -- Charlotte Logan participated in Oakdale Elementary School's Girls on the Run program for two years back when she was a student there, and she liked lots about it.
"I liked that most of the people I knew," said Charlotte, who is now 11. "And I wasn't pressured into running really fast."
Another bonus: Her mom ran with her in the program's 5K celebration during Charlotte's second year.
"It was my first time running the 5K, and we were both setting goals for ourselves and each other," Brooke Logan said. "Charlotte is one of six kids, so it's something I could do special with her."
The Logans aren't alone. Hundreds of moms and daughters across Greater Cincinnati participate in Girls on the Run together each year. The program's season-ending celebratory 5K is held around Mother's Day each year, too. This year, the event will be Saturday, May 13.
"It's very common," said Regina Rankin, program manager for the Girls on the Run Cincinnati Council. "We have a lot of mother coaches, a lot of mothers who want to join this program. How often do I hear, 'I wish this program was around when I was a preteen or a teenager.'"
That's because Girls on the Run is about more than exercise. Launched in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1996, the program aims to teach girls confidence before they realize they don't have it, Rankin said. The Cincinnati council started in 2004, and Girls on the Run of Greater Cincinnati has served about 12,000 girls in the region since then.
"The vision is to provide girls the opportunity to learn their potential," Rankin said.
The teams meet after school twice a week throughout the season, and the girls learn life lessons in addition to training for the 5K and finding out how much they can accomplish on their own. They also complete a community service project as part of the program.
All that comes in handy after the girls outgrow Girls on the Run and move on to middle school where the social and peer pressure is often much more intense.
"It taught a lot about how you shouldn't focus on the negative stuff people say and just focus on the positive," said Abby Bush, who is now a 14-year-old eighth-grader. She was part of Girls on the Run from fourth through sixth grades. Her mom, Colleen Bush, used to help coach the Oakdale Elementary team, too.
Learning to take a breather
Abby's younger sister, Katie, who is now a 12-year-old sixth-grader, was on the team from third through fifth grades.
"We were strongly encouraged by our mom," Abby said with a smile. "But after I started to do it, it was pretty fun."
Like the other girls who talked to WCPO about the program, Abby said she liked the encouragement she got from the other girls and her coaches. And she liked the fact that she could run at her own pace.
The girls also all agreed that the lessons on how to be a good friend, how to support other friends and how to deal with conflict and bullying were important in middle school, too.
Lucy Rankin, Regina Rankin's 11-year-old daughter, rattled off some of the phrases she learned in the program to express her feelings during a disagreement, such as "I feel this when you do that because" or "I would like for you to…."
"The idea is to stop and take a breather," Regina Rankin said. "The 'I feel' statement is to help stand up for yourself and to be a 'stand byer' instead of a bystander in a bullying situation."
The girls who talked with WCPO about Girls on the Run are still experiencing middle school. The moms remember all too well how difficult those hormone-filled years can be to navigate.
That's why Rankin and Bush wanted to help coach the group and encouraged their daughters to be part of it, too.
Lucy Rankin said she's glad she participated.
Lucy used to be kind of shy, she said. But when her mom offered to coach Oakdale Elementary's Girls on the Run group, she decided to give the program a try.
"It was fun," said Lucy, who is now 11 and in sixth grade. "It was easier to make friends. I knew most of the people in it, and I met some new friends, too."
This year Lucy's little sister, Maggie, has been part of the group for the first time. Maggie is a 9-year-old third-grader at Oakdale and couldn't wait to participate, her mom said.
As most moms of daughters will attest, it's important to seize those times when girls can't get enough of their moms because that desire for togetherness can change quickly.
Often it happens right around middle school.
That's when daughters who took part in Girls on the Run can lean on the lessons they learned in the program -- even if they become less receptive to their moms' advice.
Girls on the Run of Greater Cincinnati will host its end-of-season 5K May 13, the day before Mother's Day, at Paul Brown Stadium. Pre-event celebrations and activities begin at 2 p.m. The 5K begins at 4 p.m. Packet pick-up takes place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday May 12 in Hyde Park. For more information or to register for the event, click here.
Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. To read more stories by Lucy, go to www.wcpo.com/may. To reach her, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.