Although I wasn’t able to coach this season of Girls on the Run, I was more than excited to be a Running Buddy. The last two seasons that I coached I missed the 5k (once for Belize, one for the OC Marathon) and I was really looking forward to making it to this season’s race.
I registered to be a running buddy for the same group that I coached the last two season – Carmel Valley Girls on Track (the girls in Girls on Track are 11-13 compared to 8-10 in Girls on the Run). I was hoping that some of the girls from last season would be returning so I could see them again and although none did, I got paired with an incredible girl named Janell who made the race so fun. Our team wore matching tiger print bandannas to make it even more fun!
I had been told that Janell was quiet and a strong runner by the head coach of the team. It was funny because she was actually quite chatty! When I introduced myself she was friendly and not shy at all like I was expecting. I asked her if this was her first race and she said yes but that she had run 3 miles before. I told her I was impressed (because I was – I barely could run a mile in middle school!). After announcements and the warm-up, we started the race! I told Janell that the best way is to run the entire race at the same pace, and then to pick it up at the end. She nodded her head in agreement.
We started at the back of our wave and were barely trotting along in the beginning due to the congestion on the course. however, it started to clear up a bit and Janell and I were able to get our rhythm. Unexpectedly, she immediately began asking me questions – what I was doing for Christmas, if I had kids, and more! We got to know each other quickly and kept chatting. Although her breathing was natural and she could easily talk, she kept wanting to stop and walk. I would let her walk for a bit and then tried to encourage her to pick it up and jog a bit.
It was an absolutely gorgeous morning. Although cold it was still a sunny and clear day. The race start and finish is at San Diego Embarcadero South which is a little peninsula jetting off into San Diego Harbor. The route was essentially 100% along the water and you couldn’t ask for a more beautiful course! Janell was in a great mood despite needing to stop for walk breaks. I continued to encourage her to jog a little but that it was ok to take breaks. She was really happy when we reached the turn around point and even happier once we hit the 2 mile marker. I told her that I was training for a marathon and I explained how anyone can do it – you just start out running 3 miles and build your way up. She seemed to think that was pretty incredible!
The support on the course is really awesome. There were coaches, parents and community members all along the course with signs and bells and booming voices cheering us on. There is definitely plenty of motivation to get the girls through the race!
As we neared the turn to get back on the peninsula, I told Janell that we weren’t going to stop running once we got there. I told her we’d finish strong and sprint to the finish! And that is what we did – smiling the whole way. At one point she had mentioned that she ran the practice 5k in 45 minutes and she wanted to beat it (I liked her competitiveness, reminded me of myself!) and when we crossed the finish line she lit up w hen I told her not only did we beat it but we even broke 40 minutes, finishing in just over 39 minutes!
Girls on the Run is such an incredible organization. I am so proud to be a member of this inspiring community that encourages young girls to live not only an active life but also a benevolent one.