“Boing, boing, boing!” At the Girls on the Run 5K this spring, I was keeping pace (trying to keep up) with our fastest runner. She bounced off the curb. “Boing!” She did a flying leap. “Boing!” She ran a circle around me. “Boing!”
“Mrs. Sumner,” she said, “Do you know what an athlete is?”
“Yes,” I said, “What does that mean to you?”
“Well…” she paused. “I am an ATHLETE! And you. WE are athletes.”
This is just one of the many beautiful conversations that happened at our first season of Girls on the Run. Our 15 teammates and 7 coaches talked about freckles and hair. We talked about school, homework, and reading. We also talked about peer pressure and how to use I-statements when someone hurts our feelings. The girls loved learning about times the coaches needed to use I-statements and shared their own stories with others over and over again.
During our runs, we cheered for and supported each other. We worked together to “run for a cause” and then did it again the next week, completing even more laps together as a team. We talked about strategies for pacing and what to do if you got a side cramp. We learned that skipping might ACTUALLY be more difficult than running (shhhh!!!) but also more fun. We talked about how it is okay to breathe hard, sweat, and feel sore when you work out.
I didn’t have many of these conversations until I started running in college, and I’m so glad we are having them now with 3rd-5th grade girls in Harrisonville. Girls on the Run has helped me feel more connected to my students, their families, and the community where I work. Through conversations on the “run” (walk, hop, skip, jump, cartwheel…) we have all started to build positive lifelong relationships with ourselves and with each other.
And yes, we ARE athletes!