Girls on the Run expands and hosts 5K fundraiser
Winchester — Allison Major has her sights set on getting more girls than ever to tie on a pair of running shoes and get moving.
The council director of the newly expanded Girls on the Run of Shenandoah Valley has 112 girls in the after-school program this season, all of whom are expected to reach the finish line Saturday in the fall 5K.
But with a new name to reflect a larger geographic area — it used to be Girls on the Run of Winchester — and a planned expansion next season beyond its initial areas of Winchester and Frederick and Clarke counties, Major is excited about what the future will bring for the program.
Starting in the spring, the program will also be available in Page, Warren and Shenandoah counties in Virginia and Berkeley and Jefferson counties in West Virginia, she said. New teams will be dependent on getting enough girls and coaches.
“If someone in those areas wants Girls on the Run, I wanted us able to bring it to them,” she said. “Now any school, community center, or whatever can put in a site application to request a team in those areas.”
There wasn’t enough time to incorporate the new area for the fall season, so the girls running Saturday all come from eight local teams, Major said.
The race will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday at Jim Barnett Park. Preregistration and packet pickup will begin at 7:30 a.m. at the Fireman’s Shelter.
The co-ed race is open to the public. Race entry is $20 for adults in advance and $25 on race day, $10 for ages 13 to 18, and $5 for under 12.
The two 5Ks are annual fundraisers for the local program as well as giving the girls participating a goal to work toward, Major said. They tend to raise $2,000 to $3,000.
The cost of the program is $150, which helps cover training for the coaches, program and race day T-shirts for the girls, and supplies and snacks for their training sessions, she said.
Proceeds from the race help fund income-based scholarships for girls who want to participate in the program but cannot afford the fee, Major said. About half of the girls are on a full or partial scholarship.
This season, eight teams at seven locations started the program in September, she said.
Girls on the Run is not just a running program, said Annoica Ingram, program coach for the Virginia Avenue Charlotte DeHart Elementary School team. In addition to training, the girls play games and talk about a range of topics, including bullying, gossip and peer pressure.
“I think it helps the kids realize they are in charge of their own bodies, thoughts, and feelings and how to deal with them,” she said. “They are going through a lot of transitions and changes at this age.”
Lessons give the girls methods to help solve their problems, said Payton Craig, 8, a third-grader at Virginia Avenue. The daughter of Whitney and Johnny Craig of Winchester talked about one method the girls learn when confronted with something that upsets them.
“When someone is being really mean to you, it is a way to be calm,” she said. “If someone really stresses you out, you have to stop, take a deep breath, listen to what they are saying to you, and respond.”
For Payton, who said she is “all about running,” the program is also a way to make new friends and people she can rely on for help. “When I meet new people, it means more people care about me. When I need help with something, there will be more people to help me.”
Ariana Perez, 8, also a Virginia Avenue third-grader, said she didn’t run much before the program, but she likes it now. She said she knows it is making her healthier and “you are proud of yourself because you try your best.”
The fall 5k will be held rain or shine.
Girls on the Run of the Shenandoah Valley Fall 5K will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday at Jim Barnett Park. Preregistration and packet pickup will begin at 7:30 a.m. at the Fireman’s Shelter. Race entry is $20 for adults in advance and $25 on race day, $10 for ages 13 to 18, and $5 for under 12.
— Contact Laura McFarland at email@example.com