A few years ago, I was looking for a 5k to run with a few friends. I wanted something post-marathon, so I’d have a reason to get moving again and not turn into a couch potato after marathon season ended. We signed up for the Girls on the Run – Chicago 5k mostly because it fit into our schedule. I thought it was like any other 5k, just focused on girls or something. I could not have been more wrong.
We showed up on race day to a sea of pink, tiaras, and smiling faces. There were women leading perky warm-ups, girls beaming with pride, and a whole lot of fun going on. The race wasn’t about coming in first place or setting a personal record – it was about finishing and having a good time with friends. I loved the carefree atmosphere. I found myself wishing that someone had told my eight-year-old self, “Lauren, running doesn’t have to be about time. It can be about feeling happy and feeling good about yourself. Forward is a pace.”
I got home and researched Girls on the Run. What I found out made me even more excited. Girls on the Run is so much more than a running program. Each fall and spring, sites around the country get third through eighth grade girls together to celebrate their uniqueness, learn about making good choices, and yes, train for a 5k race. Training for the 5k teaches them that they can set a big goal and reach it. It seems impossible for many of the girls, but at the end of twelve weeks, they make it across the finish line – whether it be running, skipping, dancing, or walking.
At the end of the race, each everyone gets a medal that says, “I have the power to believe in myself. To stand up for who I am. To say ‘yes’ to a challenge. To cheer on new friends. To grow up strong.” What a powerful sentiment for girls to grow up believing.
I am not a great runner. I’ll probably never win a race, qualify for the Boston Marathon, or even place in my age group. But those things don’t matter to me. Running makes me feel strong, beautiful, and empowered. It’s a place I can go with no makeup on and feel like a million bucks. In many ways, I am like the girls I coach.
This year, I’m signing up for my first half ironman race to raise money and awareness for Girls on the Run. When I’m not training, you’ll find me here or at Outside the Girl Box, filling you in on how my journey is teaching me to be a powerful woman. Here’s hoping!