by Madison V. Fisler
Aug. 26, 2013. With reports of bullying plastered all over the news, increasing pressure in school and countless other factors, girls in grades 3-8 have a lot on their plate. One organization in the High Country is working toward ensuring that young girls are instilled with self confidence, life lessons and much more, all through running.
Girls on the Run of the High Country (GOTR) was started in 2009 in Watauga County when a group of parents and Appalachian State University students were interested in starting it up to help girls throughout the High Country.
“One thing we like to say is that we are changing the world one girl at a time,” said Mary Sheryl Horine, council director for Girls on the Run of the High Country.
“We are trying to inspire them to become self-confident as they grow into their middle school years. We want them to learn important essential life skills to be able to lead healthy lives and have a community of girls to support them as they move through high school and beyond. The girls take pride in creating positive energy both in their small groups and in communities.”
The organization, which itself started in 1996 in Charlotte, focuses on instilling lifelong lessons through running. The program is a 12-week program that meets twice a week after school for about an hour and fifteen minutes. During the 12 weeks, each session will include topics for the day which are incorporated into discussions, group building and physical activities and workouts to inspire the girls to achieve their goals.
“I don’t consider it a running program,” Horine said. “We use running as a vehicle to talk about goals, team spirit, friendship and self accomplishment.”
The High Country branch of Girls on the Run covers girls in grades 3-8 in Watauga, Avery and Wilkes counties. At the end of the 12-week sessions, the girls have a 5K run where they have the opportunity to run with a “running buddy.”
“A lot of these girls have never run before, or are not athletes,” said Talia Freeman, who is on the board of directors and also serves as a coach for Girls on the Run.
“The main focus is to embrace who you are and to have a healthy lifestyle. It’s so cool to see these girls grow over 12 weeks and watch them run the 5K together at the end. Usually the girls bring a family member to run with them and its hard to tell who is more proud, the girls or their families.”
Not only do the girls have a great time with this program, but they are also learning valuable lifelong lessons to carry with them after the program ends.
“It is such a unique way to really inspire and instill confidence in young girls and I think health, fitness, nutrition and mental wellness are so important for these girls,” Freeman said.
“It’s amazing to see how these girls grow so much in just 12 weeks, and its pretty great to see them transform as individuals.”
Registration for Girls on the Run is offered online here starting Aug. 26. The session start date is Sept. 9.