There was no winner of the rainy Girls on the Run of Central New York 5K held Sunday near Cooperstown, but organizers said that was the point.
“Every girl has bib No. 1,” council director Jill Shea-Feury said. “We don’t have clips or ranking, because the idea is that it’s not a performance environment about who ran the hardest or who did more laps, but about mastery and personal goal-building, so that the girls realize they can feel success.”
The run caps a 10-week program held each spring in area schools, Shea-Feury said.
“For 10 weeks, we’ve been talking about setting personal goals and, from the very beginning of that, we express that the 5K is a team-wide and personal goal,” she said. “So this is really the culmination of being able to meet that goal. It’s a graduation run that they’ve been working toward.”
Roughly 440 runners participated Sunday, she said, representing 35 teams from 24 school districts in the council’s six-county area. GOTR of Central New York includes schools in Broome, Chenango, Delaware, Greene, Montgomery and Otsego counties, Shea-Feury said.
Local districts represented included Bainbridge-Guilford, Cooperstown, Delhi, Hancock, Milford, Morris, Oneonta, Schenevus, Stamford and Walton. Shea-Feury noted that participants, ranging from third- to eighth-graders, were joined by about 100 coaches and volunteers.
Though Sunday marked the council’s 17th 5K, Shea-Feury said, Girls on the Run operates nationally and began in 1996 in North Carolina. Planning for the 5K, she noted, starts each winter and is overseen by the council’s nine-member board.
Five-year Stamford GOTR coach Chelsea Wallace echoed Shea-Feury’s sentiments. The Stamford contingent, Wallace said, included seven GOTR runners and six from Heart & Sole, the program’s middle school affiliate.
“The girls get these character-building skills and learn about building community and dealing with conflicts,” Wallace said. “It just helps them be better girls.”
Cooperstown coach Jaime Burse said even Sunday’s wet weather didn’t dampen her runners’ spirits.
“This is the empowering culmination of everything,” she said. “There’s so much excitement and energy and the girls are feeling super-strong today. It’s cold and the adults might be miserable, but the kids aren’t letting it bother them and they can’t wait to run in the rain.”
Burse said the physical aspect of Sunday’s 5K reinforces the program’s mission.
“The workouts we do (leading up to this) are important,” she said, “but it’s more than just that; it’s about believing you’re stronger than you think.”
First-time GOTR parent Amanda Stamas of Oneonta said she appreciates what the program provided her 9-year-old daughter Carly.
“She’s been watching the other girls at Greater Plains for the last two years,” she said. “There’s the fitness aspect of it, but definitely she enjoys the camaraderie of all the girls.”
Shea-Feury said funds generated by public participation in the 5K benefit GOTR scholarships. Sixty percent of area participants, she noted, receive scholarship assistance.
“We don’t turn any girl away,” she said. “We’ll figure out a scholarship arrangement for any girl who wants to do the program.”
To learn more, visit girlsontheruncny.org.