Girls on the Run-Piedmont inspires through soles on the ground

Photo by Marshall Conner. ON THE RUN. Verdun Adventure Bound in Rixeyville plays host to the annual 5K race. This is the start of last year’s race.

This Saturday marks the third annual running of the Girls on the Run-Piedmont’s fall 5k, hosted by Verdun Adventure Bound in scenic Rixeyville. Pre-run activities start at 8 a.m. the 5K begins at 9:30 a.m.

Last year, organizers were delighted with the turnout and committed to expanding the Girls on the Run program.  Family, friends and supporters ran alongside the young ladies enrolled in the 10-week program.

“This year marks our third 5K run, we are excited to announce that it is an even bigger party than last year. We have added more activities for our girls, as well as the community at large.  Numerous community partners have added family friendly activities to our event, including Kid Central, S.A.F.E., Young Lives, Med-Express and others,” said Kathy Butler, council director of Girls on the Run-Piedmont.

Describing last year’s 5K as a “party” as well as an empowering athletic accomplishment certainly fits. There were cartwheels across the finish line, friends encouraging friends and runners carrying flowers. At one moment there were three generations of women crossing the finish line side-by-side.  After receiving a medal many runners danced, hugged and posed for a few congratulatory selfies.

One would be hard-pressed to find a more joyous group of runners as they traversed a substantial hill at the two-mile mark of last year’s run.  Observers could see the inner strength of each runner awakening and blossoming with each stride as they conquered hills with a confident and pounding heart.

Girls on the Run- Piedmont (GOTR), is a program that encourages young girls from 3rd-8th grade to build inner confidence, embrace the person they are, rise to any challenge and go out and change the world for the better. Over a period of 10 weeks, girls participate in an after-school program designed to allow every girl to recognize her inner strength, the GOTR curriculum asks girls to define their lives on their own terms, according to its mission statement.

The program uses running as a vehicle to inspire personal growth, build friendships and create teamwork. The 5K held at the program’s conclusion is the culmination of training to achieve a goal. Along this journey new friends are made, more confident girls emerge and runs became more fun.

Another essential element of the event’s success is the beautiful course offered by Verdun Adventure Bound, a proud supporter of the program.

“Verdun has been a great partner for GOTR Piedmont. They have graciously opened their facility to us not only for our 5K for the last 3 years, but this past summer we held our coach training session there as well,” said Butler. “Our growth has been astounding since last year.  We had 127 girls this season, compared to 73 last year and 43 girls during our first season.  We are at nine different sites in Culpeper and Fauquier County.  We also were able to launch our new middle school program, called Heart & Sole.  Our growth continues as we are looking to do our first ever spring season in 2017, with a pilot in two new counties Madison and Rappahannock.”

Each runner runs for personal goals, each one brings a unique and often inspiring story, according to organizers.

“I was really inspired this year to hear about a girl from one of our returning sites.  Last year, she mostly walked and wasn’t too eager to participate.  So, you wondered if she gained anything from the lessons,” explained Butler. “Our coaches reported that this year…not only is she still participating but she is eager and excited to work with the team. She is running constantly.  As a coach this can be challenging and it makes you wonder, but these girls hear everything and you never know when they will bloom and when it does, it is amazing.  It is really the heart of our program to be patient, all girls grow at their own pace and the lessons are rotated every year to help the girls that repeat the program to look at the lessons and ideas from a different angle.”

The growth of the program has challenged organizers to find more room for pre-race activities and add a few new features.

“The newest feature to our run includes changes to the 5K course due to the volume of girls and participants. We are expecting around 300 runners. Verdun no longer had enough indoor space for all our pre-race GOTR activities,” said Butler. “All the activities are outside this year and we will be at the amphitheater.  We are also excited to have representatives from Team Jordan and the Blue Ridge Orthopedic Foundation awarding the finisher medals to our GOTR and Heart & Sole participants.  These two foundations are major supporters of our program and we are thrilled to have them participate in this big day of celebration for our girls.”

Aside from creating women of power and grace there is an inspiring inter-generational aspect to the event—grandmothers, moms, dads and even little brothers running alongside GOTR participants. There is a tangible community surrounding each young runner.

“My life has been enriched in so many ways by being a part of this amazing organization. I am honored to sit on the Board of the Piedmont Council among some amazing women. As a coach of the Heart & Sole program this year, I have taken each lesson to heart and applied them into my life as they are just as important for Big Girls too,” commented  Julie Lohr, of Madison, a businesswomen, publisher of Inspire Magazine and local health advocate.  “I am most excited to be bringing this program to Madison County in the spring of 2017 in hopes of making a difference in young girls’ lives in my hometown so that they may truly believe in their limitless potential to change the world. GOTR is so much fun.”

Like most nonprofits there are challenges to generate funding and continue the positive work.

GOTR is a relatively young council and its entire staff is made up of volunteers. Its funding comes directly from the community.  The program is always looking for more volunteers, coaches and support.

To donate or find more information check out the program’s website or mail a check directly to Girls on the Run Piedmont, PO Box 245, Warrenton, VA 20188.


Photo by Marshall Conner. CELEBRATION TIME. Sydney Connors finishes last year’s Girls on the Run-Piedmont 5K race. Finishing is more than reaching the end, it’s the start of something new for all who participate when it comes to confidence building and self-esteem.
Photo by Marshall Conner. CELEBRATION TIME. Sydney Connors finishes last year’s Girls on the Run-Piedmont 5K race. Finishing is more than reaching the end, it’s the start of something new for all who participate when it comes to confidence building and self-esteem.