About a year and a half ago, my daughter asked if she could join our local chapter of Girls on the Run (GOTR).
What is Girls on the Run, you ask? GOTR is a fantastic organization, and if you haven’t heard of it, here is a quick down and dirty right from the website: Girls on the Run® is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to creating a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams. In other words, an awesome program that helps girls build character and confidence, culminating with running a 5K.
So, as I said, she asked me if she could join this great program.
My brain froze. “How is she going to do this with Type 1 Diabetes. I can’t run with her, how will I know she is ok? She’s only in the 4th grade, I can’t expect her to take care of this on her own.”
Then the voice of reason reminded me of something our endocrinologist always says, “What would you do in this situation if she didn’t have type 1? Whatever that answer is, that is what you should do.” I took a deep breath and realized that if it weren’t for type 1, I wouldn’t have hesitated. What gave me the final boost is that a friend who also has type 1 was a coach.
My daughter loved the feeling of freedom she gained from GOTR. She loved running. She loved being with her friends without me lurking in the background.
Fast forward a few weeks. My daughter asked me to be her running buddy for the 5K. My brain froze. “I don’t run. My daughter runs, I have friends who run. I don’t run.” My best friend (a runner) offered to run for me, but when I sat down and really thought about it, I reasoned with myself. “I should run with my daughter. What a great bonding experience. How hard can it be, I mean she’s only in 4th grade.”
We had a practice 5K. My daughter left me in the dust, but I was able to slowly jog about half of it and walked the rest. The real GOTR 5K was next, and I was so inspired by GOTR that half way through the run I committed to coach the next season. (The endorphins made me do it!)
Last fall I helped coach my daughter’s GOTR team, and what a great experience that was. We started as a group of girls and women who may or may not have known each other. We had some girls who had never run any distance before. We had girls who were shy or maybe had only a few friends. We had girls who had no confidence in their ability to run 3.1 miles. Over the ten weeks we became a group of friends. A group of girls and women who supported and cheered for one another. A group of girls who, no matter what age or grade they were, had something in common with one another.
Our fall practice run was on a crisp autumn afternoon. We had some veterans on the crew, some 4th or 5th graders who knew what to expect, but we also had girls who had never run as far as we were about to. We set off and what a sight to behold, girls who had just weeks before, never run more than across a playground, were completing their goal of running a 5K. One by one they crossed the finish line, breathing hard but with smiles on their faces. They had done it.
Days later, we completed the GOTR fall run, and those darn endorphins took over again. I volunteered to be the head coach for our GOTR chapter for the spring session.
Yep, you heard that right. By the time the race was over, I was convinced I had what it takes. I still couldn’t run an entire 5K, but somehow I felt moved to be a bigger part of this organization.
I never regretted that decision. It was a little bit of extra work, and a little bit of extra worry for all those girls, but what I got back was something so fulfilling. I felt like maybe I’ve made a difference in even one of those girls lives. I like to think that the support that I gave helped them in some way. And I hope that my involvement made my daughter proud.
I was my daughter’s running buddy again last Saturday, and again she left me in the dust. But you know what is cool? My son was inspired by all this running, and he entered the run too. He’s nine years old, but that day he was my support system, my running buddy. He kept me running, he kept himself running, and the three of us all reached our goal. We all were able to run the entire 5K without any walking, some of us slower than others, but we ran. I am so proud of both of my children, and I am proud of me.
Nevertheless, the time has come to hang up my coaching sneakers, as my daughter has come to the end of her GOTR career. I will always look back fondly to the miles I shared with her and all the girls on our team.