Despite cold, Girls on the Run 5K draws 2,500 to New Garden Flying Field
● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
For the past several months, hundreds of local boy and girls had prepared hard for what awaited them at the tarmac and runway last Sunday morning at the New Garden Flying Field, and no amount of chilly weather was going to stop them now.
An overflow crowd of more than 2,500 that was made up of young girls from the YMCA Greater Brandywine Valley's Girls on the Run and Strides program and a small army of volunteers and parents braved an unseasonable cold to participate in the “Run the Runway” 5K race on June 3, on a course that navigated around the airport property.
The whipping winds were not the only mitigating factor at the event. The race, which was scheduled to begin at 9:05 a.m., was delayed for 35 minutes by a traffic overflow that extended for more than one mile in either direction from the entrance to the airport on Newark Road. Those who arrived early used the delay to dance to music that blasted from speakers, huddle in blankets, or grab a quick bite with their parents at the EAA Chapter 240's pancake breakfast being served up the hill from the runway. After a limbering up session and a playing of the “Star Spangled Banner,” the race got underway at 9:40 a.m.
Girls on the Run 5K organizer Kathryn Gute took a moment from her duties to admire the runners who were arriving after being delayed by the traffic.
“They're like, 'What's going to stop me? I'm going out in this wind today,'” Gute said. “I think it's awesome. This season, we've had over 900 girls and over 400 boys throughout Chester County participate in the Girls on the Run and Strides programs.”
The 10-week program, which is tailored to students from the third grade to the fifth grade, focuses on building self-esteem and improving emotional and physical health. While training for the June 3 event was key on the program's agenda, it also focused on developing the youngsters' sense of self-awareness, empowerment and a sense of achievement, that will help them become strong, content and self-confident men and women. The Greater Brandywine Valley's programs are part of the Girls on the Run network, which includes more than 200 locations across the U.S. and Canada.
“Each year, we get to see the kids continue to participate each year we begun to see them develop leadership skills, and they then become leaders in their own schools and teams,” Gute said. “Girls on the Run and the Strides program were developed for that age group, because at that age, they're ready developmentally for those kinds of lessons in self-confidence, making good decisions and being a good friend.”
Micki Tilley, who along with Natalie Ventura serves as a Girls on the Run volunteer coach, has locked in the 5K event on her yearly calendar with her daughter.
“We love running for the health benefits, but this program is about so much more than just running,” Tilley said. “It's about building these girls' confidence, giving them a sense of accomplishment and letting them know that they can overcome any obstacles they may encounter along the way.
“It's especially important at this age, because they're all about to enter middle school – which is when some girls begin changing and may be not be as nice to each other as they once were.”
For Ventura, an elementary school teacher, said that she begins to see the change in her students, even at that young age.
“It's no longer just playful fun with friends,” she said. “They begin to think about themselves and their self image. They start to recognize who they are as individuals, so at each practice we work through different scenarios, and give them skills they can use.”
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org.