Saturday, May 7, 2016

Girls on the Run

Today, I did something I've never done before - I volunteered for a race!

When my alarm went off at 5:30 this morning, I briefly considered bailing out. This past week month has been emotionally turbulent (cue exhaustion). I wasn't going to know a single person where I was going (cue anxiety). And I was going to have to watch everyone else run a 5k while I continue to be sidelined due to my injury (cue envy).

So, yeah, sleep sounded way more appealing in those first few moments. But I remembered that people - whether I knew them or not - were relying on me to be there. And this wasn't just any 5k, but one that I selected to volunteer for specifically because I really care about the cause.

Girls on the Run is a national non-profit organization that teaches girls from 8 to 10 years old how to find their inner strength. Over the period of 10 weeks, girls are coached to build confidence, learn teamwork, and set personal goals. Running is a major component of the program because it encourages them to build healthy habits at a critical point in their lives (research shows girls tend to start dropping out of sports beginning at age 11). The culminating event is a 5k race that is more celebratory than competitive. 

I learned about the organization two years ago when I did the Perfect 10 women's race in New Jersey, and thought it would be cool to get involved... just never made time to do it. Through some prompting from my coach, I was reminded this was a group I wanted to volunteer with and started looking up information about the local chapter here in Florida. I had to go through a background check (important when you are volunteering with children), and was invited to volunteer for the race since the spring 10-week coaching season had already begun.

I showed up for my volunteer shift today early enough to catch the sunrise behind Raymond James stadium:

Not a great photo, I'm aware, but the only one I took for the day. Wouldn't be appropriate to take photos of children I don't know without their parents' permission.
I was given a yellow volunteer t-shirt (yay swag!) and asked to direct parking for the morning. Two hours alone with my thoughts in a parking lot is just fine and dandy for an introvert like me. And I did particularly enjoy all of the smiles and waves I got from little runners sitting in back seats of minivans. Adorbs.

Before the race started, runners were able to visit the race village and get their hair spray painted and sparklefied (#madeupword), slap on some temporary tattoos, and take pictures in a photo booth. Umm.. why don't they do these things at adult races???! So fun!

When I wrapped up parking duties, the volunteer coordinator changed my role to course marshal. I'm so glad I actually got to see the race! These girls had so much support - some had parents running with them, some had their GOTR coaches by their side, and some even held hands with Team RWB. If you aren't familiar, Team RWB is a running group made up of badass military veterans. Usually, they can be spotted carrying American flags, and today they donned sparkley capes. Way to play, boys.

Oh, and don't forget the runners had support from people like me who clapped and cheered nonstop for 60ish minutes until the last runner crossed the finish line. My hands are kind of sore.

Can't wait to do it again in the fall.

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