Girls on the Run 5k event slated for Sunday
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By Kaydon Coburn  April 26, 2013 12:00 am


“When some of them (runners) started, they hadn’t even run around the block,” says Shelli Main, Girls of the Run Sonoma County Race Director.

Main refers to the upcoming Girls on the Run Sonoma County 5k Family Fun Run/Walk event on April 28th.

The young girls are previously enrolled in the 12-week, afterschool Girls on the Run program, and are mentored by certified, female volunteer coaches. The curriculum lessons revolve around topics such as nutrition, gossip, media, social skills, and bullying. 

Exercise part of curriculum

Main says the girls train two times a week with their coaches. “We integrate and weave exercise into that (curriculum),” states Main. “It (program) gets the children talking and asking lots of questions about girl things. We have found that many of them then go home and have open conversations with their parents about things they may not otherwise have. It (program) has gotten the parents more involved in exercise and some end up being running buddies with their girls.”

Main feels strongly about the overall benefit of the experiential program. “The sense of accomplishment. The sense that if they work hard and put their minds to something, they can do it,” she said.

Overall goals of Girls on the Run are to: develop a strong sense of identity; give and receive support from a group; stand up for themselves in a healthy manner; have a healthy body image; understand the importance of their community; and complete a 5K run/walk event. 

Building self-esteem

These objectives then hopefully build self-esteem and improve emotional and physical health. All of this is accomplished through an active collaboration with girls and their parents, volunteers, staff, and the community according to the organization.

“I really liked the idea of it based around fitness and healthy living…that you had  an adult run the 5K with you at the end of the season,“ said Jill Finnerty, who has participated with her 9-year-old daughter Haley. “It was very positive. It focused on finding your running pace and setting individual goals. I would recommend it to a friend.”


Seventh year for Girls on the Run

Girls on the Run, in its seventh year in Sonoma County, is designed to be a life-changing, non-profit prevention program for girls in the 3rd through 8th grades. The program’s mission is to educate and prepare girls for a lifetime of self-respect and healthy living. The young girls are enrolled at selected qualifying sites throughout Sonoma County.

“The 5K is a culmination of the season’s training,” said executive director Catrina Dierke.  Many girls who were not able to run or walk one lap at the beginning of the 12-week season are well prepared to complete a 5K (3.1-mile) event at the end of the season.  The girls are overwhelmed with pride and joy – you can see it on all of their faces when they cross the finish line”.

Help from the community

Main would like to acknowledge all of the program and 5K sponsors, including Sonoma State University sponsor organizations Gamma Phi Beta Sorority, who will be supplying more than 100 student volunteers, the JUMP (Join Us Making Progress) program volunteers, and RP Councilwoman Gina Belforte, who will be commencing the race with a welcome speech.

“Fun, wonderful stuff (activities) goes on throughout the day to celebrate these girls,” Main said.

Proceeds from the Girls on the Run Sonoma County 5K will provide program and shoe scholarships to financially deserving participants and expand teams into new locations throughout Sonoma County. Girls on the Run Sonoma County is an independent council of Girls on the Run International, which has a network of more than 200 locations across the United States and Canada. Ironman triathlete and author Molly Barker founded Girls on the Run in Charlotte, N.C. in 1996.

The Girls on the Run 5k Family-Fun run/walk begins at 9 a.m. at the Rohnert Park Community Center at  5401 Snyder Lane rain or shine. Register to run prior to the race at Fleet Feet Sports or on race day. Registration fees are $35 before race day for those 18 and older, $40 the day of the race, $25 for those under 18 before race day and $30 for those 18 and under on race day. 

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