I didn’t start running until I was 38 years old. Truthfully, I didn’t get into fitness period until I had Erin at age 30 and was tired of going up sizes when I went shopping. But running has been different than just working out for me.
I started running because of Girls on the Run. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s an organization that was started as a character development to empower girls in grades 3-5 to be healthy and strong. As they say, it’s so much more than a running program. For ten weeks, we have lessons that cover topics from healthy choices with our food to bullies and being assertive. Our team does a community service project each season (our school participates in both the spring and fall seasons). I cannot say enough good things about this national program, and I give total credit to becoming a runner to Girls on the Run. Even if I’m kind of old to be called a “girl”, I think I have gotten as much out of this program as the girls do. After all, who can’t hear enough that being assertive and standing up for yourself is wonderful?
The very first 5K I ran was with Girls on the Run, and I’d never participated in any organized run before. That first one I will never forget—I felt like I’d just done something tremendous and I was so proud of our little team. That was five years ago, when we scraped together enough girls to have a full team of eight girls. Now we have over 30 girls each season. The atmosphere at a Girls on the Run race is very party-like and fun. Now that I’ve run a lot of organized races, I realize that it’s pretty unique in the tremendous amount of positive vibes that are just out there at that event. Truly amazing.
This past fall, I became acquainted with another organization that makes my running more meaningful. It’s called Who I Run 4. It was started when the founder, Tim Boyle, promised to run for a friend who was battling bilateral hip dyspasia—a friend who COULDN’T run. The concept is simple, yet so powerful. Runners sign up to be matched with a buddy. Buddies can be newborn babies to adults who physically are unable to run. Runners dedicate their miles to their buddy. You connect on Facebook and a lot of the pairs actually meet eventually. The relationships that develop are such a beautiful thing.
My buddy is a little boy named Niko. He isn’t even a year old, and has many health issues. First, I have to say, he is absolutely adorable and has the most beautiful, happy smile. He has a very rare syndrome called 2Q37 Deletion—most babies with this syndrome don’t survive the pregnancy. But his mom, Briane, who I keep in touch with, is an amazing mom. Her posts are so full of hope and love for her baby. I really do think about Niko and his family every time I’m running and they inspire me to be a more grateful person. Whenever I want to be reassured that there are loving, caring people in the world, I just read through the posts on Facebook for our group.
Running has become so much more than the physical activity of turning over my legs. It represents me when I’m being my best self—okay, maybe not my messy hair or my smelly sweat—but the me that strives for more and is willing to work for it. I realize that it’s in part due to the endorphins, but when I run I’m reminded of the many joys in my life. And they are something to celebrate.
For more information on Girls on the Run see www.girlsontherun.org
For more information on Who I Run 4 see http://www.whoirun4.com