But, as much as I love running alone, what made today’s run EXTRA SPECIAL was the company. Today was the Girls on the Run Manhattan 5K, and I was privileged to be able to run as a Running Buddy alongside a very talented young runner, 9-year-old Makoyan. A very shy and modest little runner, Makoyan nearly left me in the dust as she completed the 5K at a pace remarkably fast for such a young runner. What impressed me even more was her modesty, determination and clear passion for running. The Girls on the Run 5K was by far one of my favorite races that I’ve ever run because I had the opportunity to see all of these young woman achieve a huge accomplishment: their first 5K.
The GOTR Manhattan 5K- Race Recap
A while ago, I mentioned the Girls on the Run 5K, in my post about Runpowerment. I shared what Runpowerment means to me and how special GOTR is because it introduces girls to Runpowerment at such a young age. And I gotta say, from the time I walked to the starting line, Runpowerment was everywhere!
I could just feel the excitement in the air as the girls ran around full of energy and spirit.
After fueling ourselves with a few of these babies, we were ready to go!
I was assigned to P.S. 154: Harriet Tubman school.
As soon as the girls arrived, their Running Coach asked which of the Running Buddies would be able to keep up a relatively fast past. Of course, I raised my hand. I’m always willing to go the extra mile I was paired with Makoyan, a quiet yet clearly determined little 9-year-old.
We were instant friends right away! Makoyan was a bit shy and clearly focused on the race ahead of her. Lucky for her, her Running Buddy was quite the talker! Accompanying Makoyan in her first 5K were her two older sisters.
I spoke with both of them a bit and learned that their family is originally from Africa’s Côte d’Ivoire and that they can all speak their country’s language fluently! While born in America, these girls have kept in touch with their heritage and lived in Africa for 3 months last summer! How cool!
After a quick stretch with all of the runners, we were ready to run!
Right off the bat, I could tell Makoyan was frustrated with all of the people in front of her and around her. It was clear that she wanted to run faster without having to weave in and out of people.
Nevertheless, I explained to her that if we were patient, the course would open up and we could run to our hearts content! Still, she took off a little too fast and within 20 seconds had tripped! I took one look at her knee and the overbearing/paranoid/ nurturing side of me wanted to tell her to quit! It was quite the fall!! But despite our concerns, Makoyan wanted to keep on truckin!
And, we were truckin’ at quite the fast pace! By the end of the first mile, little Makoyan had caused me to work up a quite a sweat on this mild summer day. She kept looking behind her for her classmates – I think she wanted to be first in her school :-). It was clear by her big smile that she was in her element, and even though I was a bit worried about her knee, she was in the zone.
About half-way through the race we slowed down a little bit and discussed the importance of pacing. Makoyan decided that when we said “pace yourself” we actually meant to skip. So she skip/ran the rest of the race! What a character!
She gave the crowd quite the show – there were many cheers when our little skipping speed demon ran by spectators. However, at the big finish, she got back in the zone and turned on the sprint.
So much so that I missed her crossing the finish line! Luckily, I snapped this photo of her giving a high five to her other running buddy.
From there, I hurried her over to the EMT. He was quite impressed with her tenacity as well. While, it was clear she was in a little pain, I think she was more proud of her “battle wound.”
After taking care of Makoyan’s injury, we watched all of her other classmates complete the race and cheered them on (Makoyan was one of the top finishers!)
Then, we posed for some pictures, signed some shirts and did some fun cheers!
Even though I only spent a few hours with these girls, it was very sad for me to say good-bye. I walked them as far as I possibly could until turning to go in the direction of my apartment. Their big hugs were my favorite part of a perfect morning.
When Winning Isn’t Everything
I have no idea how quickly we finished the 5K (although I DEFINITELY worked up a sweat) but, time wasn’t a factor in this race. The girls in this program have been training for months with GOTR, and I can only imagine the incredible sense of accomplishment they must have felt crossing the finish line. It didn’t matter if they finished first or last – they all won today. Running with these girls reminded me of why I love running so much: It makes me feel strong, powerful and unstoppable. I couldn’t believe how resilient Makoyan was after falling THREE times during the race. Now that’s what I call heart
Running is such a great sport, because a person can do it anywhere AND the only “equipment” required are shoes and determination. That is why GOTR is an essential organization. It shows young girls the way to a life-long passion. If you have a GOTR in your community, I’d strongly suggest getting involved. Next year, I’m hoping to be a coach, because I learned today that some programs meet at 7am (before work).
I can’t think of a better way to close out my weekend, and congratulations to all of the girls that completed today’s 5K. YOU ARE MY HEROES!
What’s your favorite thing about running? Have you ever been involved with organization like GOTR?