This past fall, I led a double shift of JLMer’s for the Girls on the Run fall 5k event. It was a beautiful, crisp fall day. We volunteered at the registration table, were part of a cheer squad out on the race course, and helped with some very demanding post-race clean up. Girls on the Run is an AMAZING organization whose mission is: “[To] We inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running”. I can promise a morning of inspiration and joy.
I grew up with a dad who was a marathoner, so the whole idea of going to such an event with a parent is deeply nostalgic. I love it. I am firm believer in using physical challenges – such as accomplishing a fitness goal – to grow self-esteem.
I LOVED seeing all the participation at this event, there were “Sparkle Coaches”, parents, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles from every ethnicity imaginable represented. Little girls and mothers running in beautiful and colorful headscarves. I should mention that there were many girls at this event who did NOT have parents or family their supporting them. These kids were assigned a “Sparkle Coach” to complete the race with. My heart felt tender towards these kids, as perhaps they were missing that familial support at the event.
Everyone took to the course. I felt proud to be an American and a Minnesotan as the starting gun went off. Racers, volunteers and spectators were all FREE – regardless of race, ethnicity or sexual orientation – without fear. Free to run YOUR race. I loved it. There were signs up everywhere encouraging female strength and highlighting positive personality characteristics. Being in that environment was like taking a bath in pool of all things affirming of a powerful woman. Such a much-needed-hiatus from the corporate world I spend so much of life inhabiting.
Out on the course, I posted our JLM team to stand at the top of a hill. The kids all started walking at the bottom of the hill, but I noticed that when I held out my hand to get a high five from the runners – the kids ran towards my hand. It was a great way to get them to run up the hill. Sometimes all we need is a little high five (please consider this in work team situations).
After a while, the running pack started to thin out, and the runners who would be finishing with longer times started shuffling by. I have been in this pack of runners at races – it is “no fun”. There was a girl who was struggling and clearly got separated from her Sparkle Coach.
“Where’s your Coach, Kiddo?”
“I don’t know.”
“Do you mind if I run with you for a while?”
“How’s it going?”
“Awful – I hate every minute of this – everything hurts. I hate running!”
I looked down at her shoes – which were several years old, ripped, and were so small for her feet that they couldn’t even lace up all the way. There was barely enough shoe lace left over to tie at the top. Also, this girl was struggling to walk, talk and breath, as she was carrying extra weight. I perceived that this event may be extremely challenging for her – pure torture even.
“But I WON’T give up! I will persevere!”
I saw this opening as an opportunity. “Oh yeah, why won’t you give up?”
“Because I’m not a quitter and I can do ANYTHING I put my mind to.”
Feeling emotional, and in-spite-of the tightness in my throat, I said, “Do you ABSOLUTELY promise me that you are never going to forget that? Promise me right now. You CAN do anything you put your mind to, and with that attitude you are going to accomplish great things.”
By this point, her coach had caught up with us and I said good-bye. And a prayer of gratitude. I used to be that little seven year old girl with so much determination – and – as a result of that interaction, I realized she had gone missing for a bit. I realized that – I had actually been showing up as a “quitter” in a couple of areas in my own life over the last few months. As is absolutely true in 100% of the times that I volunteer with JLM, I benefit more than what I contribute. This synergy is why I chose to spend my free time supporting the JLM.
Her determination inspired me to lace up my running shoes the next morning (I hadn’t been running in months) and hit the trails at Lebanon Hills. I can’t wait to volunteer with the JLM at the Girls on the Run 5K this June!
JLM Advocacy: Providing education to inspire members to action