Whoa Mama

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Girls on the Run is so much FUN

My dad was a runner. He ran in all weather. In the Buffalo winters, he scraped icicles of his mustache. He ran races in exotic locales, like Lewiston. We had Runner's World lying around in stacks. We all knew Zola Budd was to blame. He made time for routine 5 milers despite two job and three kids.

I remember the first time I was "allowed" to run with my dad. I was stoked. I was finally going to find out  what was so awesome about jogging, as I thought of it. Well. I did not make it past the sled hill (less than 1/3 of a mile for those of you not in the know) before things were cramping and pinching and hurting and I was thinking "what in the hell do you do this for?!?!?"

That was the end of my running career for a very long time. As a young adult, I started to run again. 2 miles was it. It was hard every time but I felt good each time. I ran Main Street of Aurora, an occasional treadmill and even hit the park that scarred me at a tender age. I went to France and ran around the hill that looked like this:

I went to Texas and ran in 105 degree weather. I have run in 3 layers in the middle of WNY winters. I ran while working out stress from working with mentally ill adults, graduate school, the daily grind, life with a newborn, life with a toddler, life with 2 toddlers and a newborn. I have run a half marathon. I have been injured and recovered. I have had surgery and recovered. I like to run. I don't run fast. Unless I'm really working at it, I don't run far.  I did run a 1/2 Marathon and supported Roswell Park Cancer Institute in the process. I think I've got one more 1/2 in me. Once more I'd like to hit the last 100 yards with those wings on my feet. After that, I imagine I'll run that Buffalo YMCA Turkey Trot, the Shamrock Run and lots of 3-4 milers. Regardless of the distance, the sheer act seems to make my blood pressure and my ass thank me because I run.

Almost 4 years ago, I was walking my favorite ring road with my mom, who does not run. We had just moved back to the area. I was just finding my footing and figuring out what life was going to look like for my family and for me personally. We were on the backside of the park, when a lithe runner was coming up on us and said, "Leah?".  I, of course said, "yes". She said, "Kelly!". I nearly fell over. My best friend until fourth grade had recognized me 25 + years later. We chatted for a minute and breezily agreed to catch up.

Well, we did. We ran that summer and part of the following summer early in the a.m. before work. I found that one of my favorite people at age 10 was again one of my favorite people at nearly 40. We run and chat and sometimes just chat and chat, but I credit the running with our ability to really reconnect.

Armed with this life bettered from running plus free afternoons on Tuesdays and Thursday, I jumped at the chance to be a co-coach for Girls on the Run. GOTR is a program designed for elementary and middle school aged girls to learn to run over a 10-12 week period culminating in a 5k race. [http://www.girlsontherun.org/] Their tagline is : Educating and preparing girls for a lifetime of self-respect and healthy living. Gratefully, another mom had more time than I do to champion the organizing and was looking for another warm body. I felt like it was kismet.

We've had a group of 13 girls between the ages of 8 and 10 with varying experience with running, but collectively bringing unbridled enthusiasm. It has been a terrific experience for me, the mother of exactly zero girl-brand children. These girls have shown amazing character and strength in their achievement over these 10 weeks and I am honored to have been a part of it. Our fall program culminates on Saturday. Today, as if they knew they were supposed to get something bigger from it, groups of unlikely combinations of girls ran together with encouragement, challenge and, ultimately, success. We saw girls push each other, pull each other and, literally, hold hands in solidarity. 

This made me think of my lifelong friend and running partner. 

As these little powerhouses cross over their 5k finish line on Saturday, many for the first time, I hope that running gives them each in their own way something of the fitness, fortitude and friendship afforded to me over the years.


At 6:27 AM , Blogger Kelly said...

OMG, Partner! I love this... sniff, sniff. Great way to start the weekend :)


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