My friend tagged me in a post on Facebook the other day, and I didn’t know if I should be proud or offended.
It was a meme of Dory from “Finding Nemo” and it said, “My plate is full, I can’t possibly take on anything else ... Oh look, a project!”
Yes, I take on a lot. Part of it is because apparently I am incapable of saying “no,” but I prefer to think of it as being passionate about a lot of things and optimistic that I can juggle all those things at once.
Last year I took on the role of Race Director for the Girls on the Run Northwest Illinois 5k, and it has proven to be the cherry on top of my full plate.
Despite having been involved with and coordinated several other 5k events, I entered into the first year of this event with some trepidation. I knew it was a different beast than the standard 5k events that I had worked on.
In the end, not only did I survive, but I also loved every minute of the experience. The energy was palpable and the sense of accomplishment as more a thousand girls crossed the finish line with their running buddies was incredible. Best of all, they asked me to come back and do it again. This year, I did not hesitate a moment when I officially accepted the role of Race Coordinator. I felt more confident having a year of experience under my belt and couldn’t wait to experience it all over again.
The group grew closer to my heart as my own daughter was now old enough to participate in the program at her school. As luck would have it, they were short a coach and needed someone to step up to help. I knew it would be challenging to throw into our already busy schedule, but I raised my hand anyway to see if there was some way I could help out. If becoming race coordinator was the cherry, this was the sprinkles so I dove in head first.
The girls are not all athletes. Some are shy, some are outgoing. Some are athletic and some are there to have fun and be with their friends. These 3rd-5th grade girls spend approximately 10 weeks attending practices twice a week and work hard not only to learn how to train for a 5k, but lessons about empowerment, responsibility, intentionality, diversity, connectedness, joy, optimism, gratitude, nurturing, health, open-heartedness and compassion.
We learned at our coaches’ training that this group isn’t just about running. This group could be called Girls on the Stage, Girls in the Library, Girls Doing Crafts. The focus is giving girls the confidence and guidance to work toward a common goal and accomplish something.
The Vision, according to GOTR International, “We envision a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams.”
I attended a luncheon to kick-off the season and was fortunate enough to meet the founder of GOTR, Molly Barker, and hear her speak. What resonated with me was that her purpose, despite her many running accomplishments, was not to share her running experience with girls across the country and around the world. Her purpose was to help girls find out who they are and feel comfortable in their own skin.
It became clear that I was exactly where I should be and this was the beginning of a unique journey where not only did I get to help young girls overcome a struggle with self-esteem, break free from stereotypes and pursue their dreams, but a chance for me to do the same.
For more information about Girls on the Run Northwest Illinois visit gotrnwil.org