Decked out in bright tutus, colorful shirts and rainbow-streaked hair, more than 1,200 men, women, boys and girls gathered under the sun this weekend to participate in the 12th Annual Girls on the Run 5K.
The positive, motivational atmosphere at the event, held at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown on Sunday, was uplifting and contagious, even if you weren’t running the race.
Shawn Brislin, of Oneonta, watched as his 5-year-old son, Dylan, and 10-year-old daughter, Caitlin, finished the race, dripping in sweat. The race was open to all ages. Brislin was one of many spectators waiting at the finish line.
“Both my wife and I think Girls on the Run is a great program to empower girls,” Brislin said.
The 5K drew a “record turnout” and was the culmination of the 10-week after-school program, which aims to help girls take charge of their lives and define the future on their own terms, according to Sally Trosset, council director of Girls on the Run of Central New York.
For the past ten weeks, area teams met twice a week to train for the 3.1-mile 5K and conducted meaningful discussions, which inspired the girls to become independent thinkers.
“Girls on the Run teaches girls life lessons while incorporating exercise activities,” Trosset said. “Each week, it’s a different lesson, like how to communicate effectively, how to be a good friend, anti-bullying information, dealing with peer pressure, community awareness ... anything that hits home with a pre-teen girl. By the end of the season, they are emotionally and physically stronger.”
Third through fifth-graders in 50 Girls on the Run teams from 30 different schools across central New York participated in Sunday’s race, Trosset said.
The national organization got its start locally in Cooperstown in 2002, Trosset said. Back then, there were only 21 girls involved. Now, there are more than 740 young women who participate, including those in Girls on Track, a version of the program for older girls in sixth through eighth grade.