Inner: How long have you been a runner?
Me: I used to run years ago, doing 5Ks and 10Ks, then some trail running, but I gave it up because it didn't really suit me.
Inner: And tell me about your involvement with kids.
Me: well, I was a kid once, long ago. And a have a nephew, who is 4 and lives far away.
So let me get this straight... you no longer run and you are not a "kid person", yet you are volunteering with an organization that connects girls with running?
I know it sounds like a stretch, but I really wanted to get involved with young people and this opportunity popped up. The girl I run with is 9 years old, so she's still a beginner in running and we mix in walking with running. And running is something anyone can do, without specialized equipment.
Yes, I gave it a shot. I was nervous, both about the running and about being with a young girl. My friend, Julie, who volunteers as a coach, prepped me on the details of what to expect. The school who was hosting the program was in Sea-Tac, a community that has some socio-economic challenges, as well as some crime and drug use. This program also exists in homogenous areas like Queen Anne and Greenlake, but those kids don't face the same challenges in their everyday existence. The girl I was paired with was the only girl in a household with boys, plus their mom. Although she didn't mention this, my friend told me that they had recently taken in a girl whose mother had taken a vacation from parenting for a while.
In addition to running, the coaches teach the girls about self esteem and being kind to one another and standing up to bullies. I got a chance to drive home the self-esteem issue while we were running: at one point, she looked back and, seeing no one, declared we were at the back of the group and would finish last. I reminded her of all the people we had passed and told her about my policy of never looking back, as it only makes you feel slower. When we finished, she could see that we were about in the middle of the pack and was very happy with herself.
I'm looking forward to the big event on Saturday, December 3 at Seward Park. There will be 400 girls (and their buddies), from programs all around the Seattle area, running in a 5K.
This small way of giving back comes at a time of the year when we think of what we are thankful for. Participating in the program makes me realize all I have to be thankful for, plus gives me a chance to make a difference in someone's life.
Happy Thanksgiving, all!