Erika Cooke, GOTR Southeast Tennessee executive director, said the Cleveland and Bradley County community is welcome to join for the run and festivities.
The concept behind GOTR is simple without losing its effectiveness.
Girls train both their bodies and minds for 12 weeks in 24 sessions. A portion of each session is dedicated to discussing issues like peer pressure and self-image. Students jog their mileage to allow for exercise and self-reflection. Cooldown is a time to discuss any insights the elementary school girls have.
“We talk about bullying, self-esteem and problems with self-image,” Cooke said. “We are not competitive whatsoever. We have very athletic girls and we have girls who do not feel very athletic.”
“By the end of the season, they are all running without worrying about it.”
There are currently six sites as part of the GOTR group in Bradley County and Cleveland. Each site has a head coach and one team. Teams may have up to 12 girls. Cooke said the local Girls on the Run chapter has only had two seasons. Growth can be met by increased sites and multiple teams at one site.
“There is no pressure to compete. We are all equal and none of our activities focus on finishing first, or even running the entire distance without walking. Our only rule is to keep on moving forward, whether that be by running, walking or skipping,” Cooke said. “As the girls realize this, they begin to join in on the activities fearlessly, and are able to open up in our group discussions.”
Cooke described the program as positive for both volunteers and students involved.
“Volunteers in our program have the opportunity to work with our amazing young girls and to help them realize how special they are and how much potential they have,” Cooke said. “It is an uplifting experience to watch the girls as they grow more confident through our program.”
She shared her favorite part of the 5K is seeing the look on the girls’ faces as they cross the finish line.
“At the end, we see the girls who weren’t really sure they wanted to run at all sprint across the finish line beaming with pride. We see smiles and even sad faces, when the program has come to an end,” Cooke said. “And then sometimes they even come back for a second season.”
Continued Cooke, “I know many of these girls have developed friendships they never would have if not given this opportunity.”
She said anyone interested in running in the 5-kilometer race or volunteering for a cheer section is more than welcome to join Sunday. The last day for preregistration is today, April 24. Registration can be completed at the program’s website, www.girlsontherunsetn.org. Costs before Thursday, April 25 are $20 for the 5K and $10 for the 1-mile fun run.
Registration costs will go up the day of the event by $5. Those interested may show up in front of Lee University’s Conn Center on Church street at 1:30 on Sunday. Shirts will be given out on a first-come, first-served basis.
“We are going to have a Zumba warm-up, then we will have our 5K and fun run,” Cooke said. “Then we will have Five Points yoga do a yoga cooldown for us.”