Girls on the Run
"Adelaide" is the symbol of Girls on the Run.
|Legal status||Non-profit corporation umbrella, with separate non-profit chapters|
|Purpose||well-being of preteen girls|
|Headquarters||Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S.A.|
|United States, Canada|
|Board of Directors|
Girls on the Run is a North American non-profit program that works to encourage pre-teen girls to develop self-respect and healthy lifestyles through dynamic, interactive lessons and running games, culminating in a celebratory 5k run. The organization’s curricula seek to address all aspects of the girls’ development to enhance their physical, emotional, mental, social, and spiritual well-being while establishing a lifetime appreciation of health and fitness.
Local chapters (called "councils") operate under an umbrella organization, Girls on the Run International, which develops curricula and provides support to the local councils while encouraging the formation of additional councils in areas not yet served by the program.
The organization describes its mission as follows: “We inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running.” It further describes a vision: “We envision a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams.” It accomplishes these goals by combining training for a running race with lessons to enhance the participants' social, physical, and mental health.
Girls on the Run was established in 1996 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Program founder Mary W. ("Molly") Barker (featured in the movie "Apple Pie") struggled in her own life, including a bout with alcoholism, and came to the realization that a running program gave her "respect for my body and all the things it can do." She founded Girls on the Run with an initial group of 13 girls. The next season, there were 26, and the season after that, 75. In 2000, Girls on the Run International was recognized as a non-profit charitable organization. The program has grown to the point that in fiscal 2013, 212 local councils served 138,776 girls. As of spring of 2015, the program reported that it had served its one millionth girl overall.
Girls on the Run operates two programs for its participants, to keep the lessons age-appropriate. “Girls on the Run” is for 3rd–6th graders (approximately 8 through 12 years old). “Heart & Sole" is directed to 7th–8th graders (12 through 14 years old).
Meeting twice a week in small teams of 8-20 girls, the program teaches life skills through fun, engaging lessons that celebrate the joy of movement. The 24-lesson curriculum is taught by certified coaches and includes three parts: understanding ourselves, valuing relationships and teamwork, and understanding how we connect with and shape the world at large. Over the course of the program, participants develop and improve competence, feel confidence in who they are, develop strength of character, respond to others and themselves with care and compassion, create positive connections with peers and adults, and make a meaningful contribution to community and society.
Girls on the Run
Over a period of 10–12 weeks, girls in the 3rd through 5th grade participate in an after-school program designed to allow every girl to recognize her inner strength. The Girls on the Run curriculum inspires girls to define their lives on their own terms. Throughout the season, the girls make new friends, build their confidence and celebrate all that makes them unique.
The Girls on the Run lessons encourage positive emotional, social, mental and physical development. The Girls on the Run program uses the tenants of sports-based youth development to determine program activities, curricula, staff training, and guiding principles. Participants explore and discuss their own beliefs around experiences and challenges girls face at this age. They also develop strategies and skills to help them navigate life experiences. The program starts with helping the girls get a better understanding of who they are and what is important to them. Then, participants look at the importance of teamwork and healthy relationships. Finally, the girls explore how they can positively connect with and shape the world.
Physical activity is woven into the program to inspire an appreciation of fitness and to build habits that lead to a lifetime of health. At the end of each three-month session, the girls participate in a Girls on the Run 5k event, which involves other Girls on the Run teams from the community and possibly other councils. This celebratory, non-competitive event is the culminating experience of the curriculum. Coaches, parents, and community members participate, cheer, and celebrate.
Heart & Sole
Middle-school girls face many challenges that can affect their emotional and physical well-being, and which are different from those faced by younger girls. The Heart & Sole curriculum is designed to address these challenges by empowering participants to make thoughtful and healthy decisions. Like Girls on the Run, the Heart & Sole curriculum is delivered over the course of 10 to 12 weeks and addresses the societal, mental, and emotional challenges peculiar to that age.
Like the curriculum for younger girls, Heart & Sole begins by encouraging the participants to examine and better understand who they are and what is important to them. Once they have a deeper awareness of their individual values, they look at the role of teams and healthy relationships. Lastly, the girls explore how they can positively connect with and shape the world.
The curriculum allows for more mature handling of such topics as eating disorders, internet safety, relationships, cyber-bullying and tobacco and alcohol use. Participants discuss these subjects on an in-depth level and use their personal experiences to shape thought-provoking interaction. The Heart & Sole curriculum is designed to provide each girl with "the skills to shut out the noise of the external world that is attempting to limit who she is and to instead listen to her individual truth – the one that will lead her toward an enriching and contented life."
As might be expected, running is a significant part of the curriculum. Heart & Sole uses physical activity to inspire and motivate girls throughout the program, to encourage lifelong health and fitness, and most importantly, to build confidence through accomplishment. At the end of each season (fall and spring), the girls and their running buddies complete in the semiannual 5k running event, which gives the girls a tangible sense of achievement as well as a framework for setting and achieving life goals.
- Girls On the Run International, 2013 Annual Report.
- Girls on the Run International, "". Accessed 2013.06.25.
- Startup Princess, "Living The American Dream: Molly Barker, Founder of Girls on The Run". July 1, 2007.
- Apple Pie: Raising Champions. Accessed 2010.04.16.
- Vicky Hallett, "Getting on Track in Life", (Washington, D.C.) Express, April 13, 2010, p. 21.
- Girls on the Run International, "Our Founder". Accessed 2010.04.16.
- Girls on the Run International, "Our History".
- Home Page, Girls on the Run International; accessed 2015.06.26.
- "". Accessed 2013.06.25.
- Girls on the Run International, "What We Do".
- 3rd-5th Grade Program, Girls on the Run; accessed 2014.03.18.
- 6th-8th Grade Program, Girls on the Run; accessed 2014.03.18.