I have always had faith in the power of running. It is a way to relax and reflect. A place to think and be thankful. A time to challenge and push yourself. And while running can be an incredible way to grow athletically and mentally as an individual, my time with Girls on the Run San Diego has taught me that running is much more powerful when you do it alongside someone else.
As a coach for a Girls on the Run (3rd-6th grade) team, I was given the opportunity to mentor a team of 12 enthusiastic and energetic girls. I went into the season hoping to motivate and inspire my girls in big and small ways. After speaking with my Head Coach about the transformative curriculum, I made it my goal to make sure these girls felt confident in their mind, body and spirit by the end of the season.
At the first few practices, each girl was focused on achieving her own individual lap goal. But as the season progressed, we focused less about the number of laps and more about running the laps with a buddy. I watched as Kailey reached out to Sophia and asked her to be her running buddy for the day. I smiled when Stella, after running a few laps on her own, stopped to ask Gracie to run their last lap together. I was so proud when Lola gave Zoe an energy award for making her feel included and asking her to do the workout together. They had so much star power inside of them and they didn’t just need me and my fellow coaches to bring that out, they needed each other.
This joyful camaraderie was ever present on the day of the end-of-season 5k. Grey skies and rain clouds didn’t stop the GOTR community from coming out for this incredible event. As both a coach and a shoe fairy, I saw many familiar faces dancing around, decked out in their colorful tutus, sparkly wings and hair ribbons.
With Katy Perry booming in the background, the countdown started and the 5k was off!! Two girls on my team, Zoe and Sophia, became each other’s running buddies from the moment the race began. They started picking landmarks on the course that they could run to in order to motivate themselves.
Near the end of the race, Zoe doubted herself, “I don’t think I can go any more Coach Regan!!” I took her hand and said, “Zoe, you have all the star power inside you and we will finish this race together.” With her little hand grasped tight to mine, we ran the last 300 yards together.
For the last rainy stretch, supporters lined the sidewalk, cheering and hollering for each girl who crossed the finish line. I saw my Gamma Phi Beta sisters, high fiving each girl who ran past. I saw coaches I’d met at coach training, volunteers with whom I had sorted t-shirts and GOTR staff members who mentored me all season. I saw the medal distributors movin’ and groovin’ to a playlist of pump-it-up tunes. I saw proud guardians hugging their girls. I saw that the power of running had brought all these people together.
I am truly thankful for my time as a coach for GOTRSD. While the program is designed to motivate and inspire young girls to lead active and healthy lifestyles, I leave this season feeling freshly motivated and inspired myself. Each practice filled me with a little more star power. Each snack time reminded me how much the girls LOVE Capri Sun. Each lap completed with smiles and collaboration reminded me how important it is to be there for our friends. And the 5k reminded me of the power of community. So thank you, GOTRSD - thank you for reminding me why I run.