On Nov. 20, Girls on the Run of NOVA will host nearly 2,000 runners with girls from 121 Northern Virginia schools completing the 3.1-mile run alongside family, friends, and the general public.
“Everyone is welcome to join us and cheer on our girls,” said Katey Comerford, executive director of Girls on the Run of Northern Virginia, one of the largest GOTR communities in the U.S. She adds there will be approximately another 1,000 spectators. “When [the runners] cross the finish line, it’s so remarkable. They’re so excited. You just know those feelings make up their confidence.”
GOTR, a non-profit organization, encourages independence, awareness, acceptance, empathy, and health. It also celebrates body image, life skills and peer differences. At the center of practices is the concept called “Girl Wheel,” which focuses on the whole girl and teaches skills the girls need to be strong, confident, and healthy women as it relates to components like sprit, body, heart, brain and social.
“It’s about where they are in the world,” said Theresa Urban, board chair and veteran GOTR coach. “We start by helping them get a better understanding of who they are and what’s important to them.”
GOTR NOVA is part of a network of more than 200 councils in the U.S. and Canada and serves approximately 5,000 girls a year from eight counties and cities throughout the region, both in Girls on the Run and Heart & Sole, their newly revamped program for middle school girls. At the end of the runners’ three-month program, they participate in a 5K run.
At Williamsburg Middle School in Arlington, a group of girls in Heart & Sole prepared for their November run, hoping to beat their personal bests. While being outdoors and healthy was a popular theme in this group, they also agreed that they look forward to spending time with the coaches, family and friends.
Clio Cartin in sixth grade is looking forward to spending time with family. “I’m running the race with my mom,” she said. “It’s a great way to meet new friends ... And it’s really good for the body. And socially healthy.”
Bianca Garcia, seventh grader, who’s joined on her first season said, “The coaches are more like friends. It’s nice to work with them.”
But achievement plays a big role too. Arnake Ruardij in sixth grade says running the 5K makes her feel like “I’ve achieved something and I’m capable of doing a lot of things.”
The girls at Heart & Sole Williamsburg Middle School are Addie Martin, Arnake Ruardij, Clio Cartin, Bianca Garcia, Alana Collins, Malaya Conell, and Abigail Fuller.
For more information about this run and the Woodbridge run, go to: www.gotrnova.org/5k.
Updated to remove a student's name and photo at request of parent.