Yesterday I participated in the Girls on the Run 5K in Bidwell Park as a running buddy to an 8 year old little girl named Avery. The Girls on the Run 5K is different from most of the races that we see in Chico, and the first difference may be the fact that it isn’t a race at all. This run focuses on finishing, not on the time you finish in. Another major difference may be the fact that this run features a higher percentage of girls between the ages of 8 and 13 than your average 5K. It also showcases a lot more pink and glitter than the general Bidwell Park run. All of these factors can be accredited to the fact that the Girls on the Run 5K is a graduation run for the hundreds of girls who recently completed the 12 week long Girls on the Run program, an after school program that combines training for a 5K with life lessons on self confidence, compassion, and a sense of community and belonging along with many other tools that girls need to navigate the complications of adolescence.
At the graduation run, each girl gets to run with a “Running Buddy”; an adult in their life or a member of our community who runs the entire way with them, helping them pace and encouraging them to reach the finish line. With the accomplishment of the run comes a valuable lesson – the fact that they can do anything they put their minds to. The entire experience is truly empowering.
I participated yesterday as a community member and it was amazing to see the final product after watching my mom, the executive director of the program in Butte County, spend months of her time organizing the entire event and program.
I ran with a girl from Citrus who wasn’t able to find anyone in her family who could run the race with her. We ran almost the entire way hand in hand and it was amazing to listen to her bright little mind open up and share so much with me. I heard about her jokes and her school, I learned how you purify water (she learned that one from Man vs. Wild) and she informed me as to why streams have currents in them. She talked about so many different aspects of her life that it became clear that being a running buddy wasn’t just about helping her cross the finish line, it was about being there to listen to all she had to say.
It was a truly rewarding experience to run for somebody else rather than myself. The expectations of a good time or successful finish were alleviated because I was able to put all of my energy into focusing on making it a run for Avery, instead of a race for me.