5K run aims to improve self-esteem time
Flagstaff hosted its semi-annual New Balance Girls on the Run 5K marathon at Buffalo Park on Nov. 20. This season, more than 140 young women and volunteers participated in the event, which aimed to provide elementary school girls with a positive self-image. This is the third time the event has been held in Flagstaff, and it is the largest event the organization has held in northern Arizona.
The Girls on the Run (GOTR) organization is an entirely volunteer-directed program, created in 1996 by Molly Barker in Charlotte, N.C. GOTR was designed with the vision “to provide life-changing, high-quality programs for girls; to provide life-changing, high quality experiences to the women delivering the programs; to promote and provide an environment that allows all girls and women to reach their full potential; to positively transform how girls and women perceive themselves and their place in society,” according to the program’s website.
The organization now has more than 150 councils across the nation, including three councils in Arizona. The northern Arizona council was founded in 2008 and encompasses the Coconino, Yavapai, Apache, Navajo and Gila counties, making it the largest council in the state. Volunteer members on the GOTR governing board, advisory committee, and planning teams work year-round to plan each run and spread the word around the community.
Elizabeth Vogler, a member of the GOTR 5K planning team, said she was passionate about the event and really enjoyed volunteering for it.
“I love to run, and the program [GOTR] is such a great organization,” Vogler said. “All of the people involved are volunteers; all of these volunteers reach out to help the girls develop positive images of themselves.”
The program begins each season by reaching out to elementary schools in the county to recruit third- through fifth-grade girls interested in joining the 12-week program. Each team has a volunteer coach, a high-school-age junior coach and a volunteer running-buddy to practice with until the day of the event. First-time participant Abby Conn, 9, said she was happy to be doing the run.
“This is my first time doing GOTR,” Conn said. “I have done a couple other runs, but this one was fun.”
The running buddies are with the girls while they train with their coaches and
provide support for the girls throughout the program, all the way up to the finish line. Jennifer Lund, a first-time running buddy and mother of two participants, said her twin daughters really enjoyed the program.
“I think it’s a great program to build self-esteem,” Lund said. “My girls always come home after practice with great stories.”
The day of the run, check-in and pre-run activities began at 8:30 a.m. Volunteers from NAU and greater Flagstaff made sure each participant received a bag of supplies, a New Balance number badge with the number “1” on it and a free T-shirt. Volunteers had set up a stand where girls, running buddies and fans could get in the spirit with GOTR face paint, tattoos and hair dye; in addition, volunteers were stationed throughout the 3.1-mile course with water and music to cheer on the girls.
When the run began, families and friends lined the course cheering on the girls with signs and air horns. Erica Dunteman, a senior hotel and restaurant management major and a running buddy, said she loved finishing the run with her buddy.
“The best part of finishing the run was all the cheers Sophie got, and the smile it put on her face knowing she completed her 5K,” Dunteman said.