Girls get ready for 5K for fitness, friendship
By Kelly Corbett
Published in News on April 26, 2012 1:46 PM
Celie Gross, from left, Samantha Grant, Jadyn Lucey, Natalia Hardin, Jillian Faust, Mara Rozzi and Katie Wink stretch Tuesday during their Girls on the Run meeting. The girls have run 205.5 miles since the program began in February.
This is the last week until fall that Samantha Grant, 9, will meet seven of her friends at the softball field on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The eight girls, third- to fifth-graders, are part of the first 10-week Girls on the Run program in Wayne County, which promotes healthy living and high self-esteem while preparing the girls for a 5K run.
Samantha's mom, Lisa, pushed for a local version of the national program, which began in February, and said she is excited to see that the program will expand to other locations in the fall.
Mrs. Grant said she is happy to now have her daughter as a running partner.
"I used to run marathons," she said. "My older daughter doesn't like to run. (Samantha) really enjoys it. She jogs with me now."
Samantha said she loves feeling the wind blow through her hair while she runs.
"It just feels like you want to do it your whole entire life," she said.
The Goldsboro Family YMCA agreed to help fund the program. Girls from the community can now join for a fee of $100 for non-members and $85 for members.
"We're kind of the guinea pigs," Mrs. Grant said.
She said she hopes to see the fees decrease as the program grows. Also, since the program is national, if any of the military girls move, they can get involved in the program at another location.
The Girls on the Run Council provides books to coaches, like Mrs. Grant, to guide them through the program.
"As long as you stick with it, your kids will be ready (for the 5K)," she said. "Anyone can do it. That's what it's about -- they are exercising without knowing it."
The two female coaches also have the help of Kyla Lucey, 13, who participated in Girls on the Run when she lived in northern Virginia.
"I did it in fifth and sixth grade, so for four seasons," Kyla said. "I've been helping out like running, helping out with the exercises."
Like many of the other girls, including her little sister, Jadyn, the seventh-grader said she likes running and hanging out with everyone.
"I like coming to see my friends," Celie Gross, 10, said. "When I'm running, I know I'm running a good exercise."
Celie said she also runs in school during physical education class and with her dad.
On Tuesday after school, each girl shouted out description words -- funny, nice, creative, fabulous -- to the girl sitting in the "friendship seat" as she ran a loop around her, unknowingly doing sprints.
Before they began their regular exercises, Mrs. Grant pulled out a long string of colorful bands tied together to show the girls their progress.
"You guys have run together 205.5 miles since February. You guys should be very impressed. Are you amazed or what?" she said to the girls, who looked in awe at the stretched-out length of the bands.
At the end of each lesson, the girls choose one girl for the day to receive an energy award to help bring them all together once again.
"They'll put that girl in the circle and they will do the cheer around her," said Lisa Weston, YMCA health enhancement director.
During the program, the girls also do a community service project. The girls wanted to help animals, so they chose Diamonds in the Ruff, a canine rescue group. They will collect dog and cat food and treats after the 6 p.m. race on Friday, which begins at the YMCA.
"They run every time we are together. Sometimes its just a game," Ms. Weston said. "They do not have to run. They can walk. The idea is to start something and to finish it."
She said the girls keep running longer and longer intervals as the weeks go by to prepare for the 3.1-mile run. Now, the training for the run is almost complete.
"Every girl has to have a buddy runner," Mrs. Grant said. "It keeps them safe."
The program is offered twice a year, in the spring and in the fall. Beginning this fall, the program will be offered at multiple sites, each site with between eight and 15 girls.
To get involved in the program, contact the Goldsboro YMCA at 919-778-8557 or local elementary schools to see if they are participating.