Aly T. and Running Buddy Mom (Brandi Thynes) in the 5k practice run. Photo courtesy of Joyce Burk-Biggs

Aly T. and Running Buddy Mom (Brandi Thynes) in the 5k practice run. Photo courtesy of Joyce Burk-Biggs

“Girls on the Run” is a national program designed to teach girls life skills. In Petersburg, it’s been available for girls third through fifth grade for the last two years. The program is about far more than just running.
This fall, a small group of girls have been meeting at the Rae C Stedman Elementary School every Tuesday and Thursday after school. They spend part of the time running outside through parts of town.

Mackenzie Larson is A 9-year-old in the program.

“It helps your body be healthy,” Larson says.

Mackenzie Hayes is also 9:

“Um, I like about running is that, you can run all the time to get your nerves down and just think about maybe if you’re not feeling very well, you can run and think about, think about it and calm down,” Hayes says. “And I also like running is because, well, I just like running.”

Bergen Kludt-Painter is a 10-year-old in the program.

“We run laps for stickers and it’s pretty fun,” Kludt-Painter says. “What I like about Girls on the Run, and running in particular is it’s not just about running because they teach you different skills and they talk to you about different subjects about being a girl on the run and being positive and negative. We learn about something new every session.”

Aly Thomassen, Alexus Sakamoto-Quezon , Atiana Wasilausky, in a group activity for girls on the run. Photo courtesy of Joyce Burk-Biggs

Aly Thomassen, Alexus Sakamoto-Quezon , Atiana Wasilausky, in a group activity for girls on the run. Photo courtesy of Joyce Burk-Biggs

Through games, the girls learn life skills. Joyce Burk-Biggs is the program liaison in Petersburg:

“It is a program to help them with healthy living, self-esteem, self-respect, working with themselves and others,” Burk-Biggs says.

Mackenzie Hayes explains it to me this way.

Mackenzie: “They teach you about keeping a steady pace, about your inner voice, and how to handle things if someone is bullying you.
Angela: “And when you said listening to your inner voice, what do you mean by that?”
Mackenzie: “Well, there’s this voice inside of you that tells you what’s wrong, you can feel it, what’s wrong or what’s not wrong, sometimes you can follow it if you want to.”
Angela: “Can you give me an example like when that might help or when you might hear that voice or when you could use that voice?”
Mackenzie: “You could use it IF somebody’s being mean to you or if you want to help your friends if they’re getting bullied or…”
Angela: “So, like a voice, kind of an intuition that’s saying, you know, this is the right thing to do or this is the wrong thing that’s happening?”
Mackenzie: “Yes.”

A form of bullying that the girls have learned about is cyber bullying through computers and cell phones. And the girls have learned how to feel better if they’re having a bad day. Kludt-Painter shares this tip:

“This gives me a feeling all the time. . . if I don’t tell my mom something,” Kludt-Painter says, “it’s kind of nice to be able to be telling your parents or…tell them about how you’re feeling because I’m pretty sure that anybody’s parents will be able to help them with that situation.”

To finish up their season this year, the Girls on the Run is hosting a 5K run and walk on Saturday, December 6th. It starts at 10 a.m. at the Rae C. Stedman Elementary School. Registration begins at 9 a.m. It’s $10 per person or $20 for families. Profits go to holding the Girls on the Run program in the future.