Journey To the Finish Line

PR's, 4 children, hopes and dreams; I'm always running after something


Girls with Sole

Finding Your Sole

(I started this post over a week ago and time got away from me to sit down and finish it..)

Last night I was finally able to meet the members of the Girls With Sole program. I wrote about this program while training for Disney, having dedicated that race to help raise money to fund the first program here in Charleston.

Unfortunately for my schedule, the program runs Monday afternoons when I am at work. I took a day off yesterday so that I could at least participate in one of the sessions. Assuming each session is run similarly (and I’m pretty sure they are), the girls meet and sit at a big table where they have a snack before heading outside. Today, the workout was a few soccer drills and a half mile run, split into eighths (slow, fast, slow, fast etc). The three coaches (myself and two others runners) each took a small group of similarly paced girls. Afterwards, we all meet back inside for a final activity – this time it was to talk about role models and the qualities the girls see in those they look up to.

Before the program began, the director was explaining the plan for the day and how we were going to split up into groups. She admitted she has had some difficulty getting the girls motivated to run, as many of them either aren’t particularly interested, or are easy to say that they are done once the tire, as they haven’t yet learned to pace themselves. She also mentioned that there is hope to start another program closer to my area, if it would be something Id be interested in.

The three girls I ran with ran pretty well, and I think a couple, if not all of them could be good runners. I hit a 6:10 pace at one point, and although it was only for about a tenth of a mile, two of them kept up with me. I thought most of that hour and a half, and since then, though, if I were to be a more frequent coach in this program, what could I say to help these girls like running? What could I do to encourage them to keep trying?

Girls in this program are here because they are either at risk for or have already experienced abuse or neglect sometime in their lives. They have already had a rough road. Some like running, some don’t, but all at least seemed to enjoy the physical activity. Fifth grade seems like such a long time ago that  I find it hard to come up with a way to relate to girls who are ten and eleven years old.

I do remember that I didn’t always like running. I ran down baselines and across a soccer field, but to run for no other reason than to run made no sense to me. Track seemed silly, cross country even crazier. Although I was active I wasn’t a runner until college, when I often felt overwhelmed (for lack of a better word). I’ll never forget the first step I took out the door, across the quad, and about a halfway down the street. I’d bet I only ran a quarter mile total before I was completely out of breath. Physically tired, but emotionally better, even in that short distance. I feel like I can understand these girls in the sense that they need an outlet for these feelings they are experiencing, but can’t understand what it is like to live in their shoes and their homes. I have written often about the reasons why I run, and many of them surround things like sanity and the ability to deal with hard issues and feelings.

But how do I make it relatable?

I Run For

A year or so ago, I signed up to be put on the waiting list on the Facebook group I Run 4 Michael. Created by Timothy Boyle, the group pairs runners with someone who is unable to run. The runner keeps in contact with his/her buddy and dedicates races and daily workouts. I was finally matched in April and what a cool and interesting experience it has been. I have dedicated a few running races and this years’ three triathlons to him, and we’ve developed a really cool relationship that I hope will continue as long as possible. We were matched around the time I registered for the Disney Marathon and I was excited to have a series of training runs and a race this length to run for him.

In the meantime, a few local runners have gotten together in hopes to open up a Girls With Sole chapter here in Charleston. This program started not too far from my hometown in Ohio, and its goal is to offer girls who have experienced or who are at risk of abuse the opportunity to participate in athletics. According to a PSA Keep Her In the Game, girls drop out of sports at 2x the rate of boys. A few facts from the GWS website:

  • Regular exercise improves overall quality of life.
  • Girls and women who play sports have a more positive body image than girls and women who do not participate.
  • Women who are active in sports and recreational activities as girls feel greater confidence in their physical and social selves than those who were sedentary as kids.
  • Research suggests that girls who participate in sports are more likely to experience academic success and graduate from high school than those who do not play sports

I am fortunate in that I have never suffered abuse nor was I at a particularly high risk for it, however, I can definitively speak about exercises’ benefits towards mental health. Running helped me through a tough relationship, a divorce, depression, anxiety, and the trials of new motherhood. It has taught me confidence and shown me that I am more capable than I thought, and there is simply no reason why every girl out there can’t reap the same benefits.

So this race I am sharing my dedication. I will not only be running for my I run 4 buddy, I will be running for Girls With Sole, and hope that by doing so I can help get the program started here in Charleston. If you are interested in donating, you can do so here. Where it says “dedicate your donation”, if you’d like to choose a runner (ME!), you can type her name in the box. 100$ covers the cost for the entire 12 week program for one girl. You can donate any flat amount or pledge an amount per mile.

These girls need the confidence, friendship and achievement that comes with running, and we can help make that happen.

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