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Spring2014GOTRstartGirls On The Run NH Celebrates 15 Years

N. Eckerson     05/20/2016

When you think about how you feel when you run – strong, confident, fearless – it is no wonder that running can be the perfect platform to encourage young women to recognize their inner strengths and boldly pursue their dreams. Girls on the Run NH offers 10 week after-school programs for third through fifth graders and a new middle school program “Heart and Sole” for sixth through eighth grade girls. The programs encourage positive emotional, social, mental and physical development and at the end of the session, offered in the spring and fall, participants run a 5K.

Jen Hubbell is the Executive Director of Girls on the Run (GOTR) NH which is celebrating its 15th year andlogo_girlsontherun has been growing in leaps and bounds, with teams located throughout the state. Hubbell said the big reason for the program growth is that it is “accessible and appropriate for all girls at whatever physical capacity they are at.” She added that the program is “more about confidence and competence.” The NH program is an independent council of Girls on the Run International which has served one million girls across the U.S. in the past 19 years.

Hubbell, a runner since high school, was first a volunteer coach for GOTR when her daughter (now 21) was in the program and saw firsthand how the positive lessons helped to empower the girls as they also developed their physical capabilities. “The girls are eager to please and the youngest

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girls bring a sense of playfulness to the teams,” said Hubbell. The teams meet twice a week and lessons are meant to “put the tools in the girls’ toolboxes, the skills they need to be true to themselves”, said Hubbell. The current spring session has 88 teams and 1,220 girls participating.

With other girls sports such as field hockey and lacrosse growing and attracting participants Hubbell still sees strong growth in GOTR with new program sites starting up all over the state. Hubbell said that “running is an affordable sport, and if there are any runners in the family, the kids like to mimic their parents.” Volunteer coaches are the heart of the program and include parents and dedicated teachers. Coaches, like the girls, are of different backgrounds and abilities but all agree that “my mile is the same as your mile.”

GOTR NH is a non-profit but not without expenses and the girls pay a fee for each session. Scholarships are available to any family who asks for help, and the council fully funded three teams this session. The SoleMates program is the charity running leg of GOTR and anyone can participate and let their love of running make a difference in the life of a girl. An individual or team can run (or participate in a triathlon) any race and ask friends and family to donate on your behalf to GOTR.

GOTR NH is gearing up for the spring 5K to be held in Concord, NH on June 5 with over a thousand girls plus running buddies for each of the girls participating and 300 coaches making the close to 3,000 participants one of the largest 5Ks in NH. The non-competitive 5K has four waves to help space out the runners and relies on a huge cadre of volunteers to ensure a safe and happy environment for all participants. “Race day is very emotional,” said Hubbell who said she has heard some outstanding stories about what the program has meant to participants.

Many girls return to GOTR and complete multiple sessions for multiple years. The combination of positive, empowering lessons and running can be just the start of a lifelong love of the sport, a sport that runners know leads to friendships, endless adventures and lots of fun. On the day of the 5K it is fitting and appropriate that the girls and their running buddies cross the finish under an arch that reads “the finish line is just the beginning.”

Nancy Eckerson is an avid runner on both roads and trails. You can reach her at nerunner1@comcast.net.

Girls On The Run NH Celebrates 15 Years      N. Eckerson     05/20/2016

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