Girls on the Run of Southern Oklahoma is looking for a few good women (or men) to pick up the mantle of role model and coach a team of young girls this season.
The program began in 2013 and since then has served 400 young women, providing confidence and mentoring in addition to fitness.
The program is divided into two seasons with a 5K run serving as the completion of each season. The spring season ends with the Girls on the Run 5K and one-mile run during the Corporate Fitness Challenge. The fall season wraps up with a 5K run in the Chigger Chase. But for the organization, it is about the journey as much as the destination.
“I wish this was something we had when I was a girl,” Dee Boyt, a coach and pastor of Church of the Nazarene, said. “It provides skills to interact with other people. We are preparing them to finish a 5K by the end of the season but there is so much more than that.”
Boyt said the coping skills and self-esteem provided by the program would have benefited her when she was a girl.
“I just didn’t have the coping skills to cope with what was going on inside,” she said.
Boyt arrived in Ardmore four years ago and joined Girls on the Run two years ago. Prior to moving to Ardmore, she had not heard of the program. She was introduced to it by a board member.
“Everywhere I have been, I try to give back to the community,” Boyt said. “I was looking for something to be involved in.
“I met with Erica Gay and she worked her magic. It’s a very professional organization.”
Gay developed the program in this area and has watched it grow to 10 sites with the addition of Thackerville and Ardmore middle schools. The program calls for two coaches for every 15 runners and the program expects 150 students this season. The biggest need for coaches is at Lincoln Elementary, Oak Hall and Plainview Middle School.
“You are training with the girls and you don’t have to be a runner,” Gay said. “The other part of the program and most important is to teach them life skills and empower each other. We want them to have a heart for the girls. You don’t need a heart for running. Running is just the vehicle to work with the girls.”
But the exercise can be beneficial. Since joining the program as a coach, fitness has become a focal point for Boyt, who has run more than a mile for 250 straight days.
“I’m training for the A2A marathon and have dropped about 35 pounds this past year,” she said. “I am feeling pretty good.”
The improved well-being extends to the mental aspect as well, particularly in service of others. Boyt is a coach for Charles Evans Elementary based on its location close to the Church of the Nazarene. Each season, the teams perform community projects and for Charles Evans, it was raising funds for a new chair for a student with cerebral palsy. That student has been included in the Girls on the Run activities, crossing the finish line with Boyt pushing her.
“We did a fundraiser for her to buy her a chair, which we call a chariot,” Boyt said. “As a team, we ran over 350 laps. Now, she will be able to be in Girls on the Run without a problem.
“It’s a worthwhile investment of your time and it doesn’t take up much of your time.”