I arrived early to my running site and met Caity, one of the GOTR coaches, and her rambunctious, but loveable dog, Sadie, who was eager to get things started. It wasn’t long until the girls and the other Running Buddies arrived and I was introduced to my girl buddy. I was paired with Audrey, an adorable, almost-10-year-old. There were 13 girl participants in all and our practice 5k started with a group icebreaker and a little stretching. After receiving the course instructions, we were off.
The route consisted of seven loops around part of the school and playground. Audrey and I ran every loop, stopping only to be misted with water by one of the coach’s young son. It was a hot evening and our flushed faces needed it—we earned it. Truth be told, after three loops, I thought there’s no way this little girl could keep going without walking, but she was determined to run every loop. And she did. I worked hard to keep up with her, and I might even go as far as to say that it felt like a speed workout at times.
It was clear from the first loop the magic of this special program. The GOTR coaches made signs with each girl’s name to encourage her on throughout the many loops. Positive messages were also written in chalk along the course to provide additional motivation. I used this as an opportunity to share with Audrey the importance of celebrating and encouraging our fellow runners—both those who pass us and those who may struggle behind us. It was rewarding to hear Audrey offer words of support to her peers as she went around the schoolyard.
During our run, we talked about our favorite foods, other sports we enjoy, and our summer plans. I asked her about her favorite subjects in school and she asked me about my job. I learned that math is one of her favorite subjects and that she has a guinea pig! She was curious to find out the longest distance I’ve run. And we giggled like schoolgirls at times and I loved it.
I signed up to be a Running Buddy because I love to run. But more importantly, I love what I get out of running. When we run, we tend to get a sense of who we really are or who we want to be, and running provides me with a perspective that I can’t get from anything or anywhere else. As a long-time runner, I wanted to share my passion for running with a girl with the hopes that she too will see that running is so much more than putting two feet in front of the other. I know that I’m happier, healthier, and more confident because I run.
Running or walking—all 13 of the girls worked incredibly hard and had a blast doing it—and they all completed the seven loops with great pride and big smiles. As Running Buddies, our job for the evening was to serve as cheerleader and friend, and share in the excitement of the experience along the way.
Next up is the Celebratory 5k on May 30—traditionally it has been held in conjunction with Portland’s historic Starlight Run; however, this year GOTR of Portland is hosting its first ever 5k and I cannot wait to be inspired by the team camaraderie and Audrey’s incredible determination.
Have you volunteered with GOTR? What’s your favorite memory?