It was a blustery day for a run, but 19 Payson-area girls crossed the finish line in Flagstaff Saturday, capping off a 12-week program designed to boost their confidence and learn healthy lifestyle habits.
At a wintry 40 degrees, it was a cold start for the Fourth Annual Girls on the Run New Balance 5K run in Buffalo Park, however, thanks to an exorbitant amount of exuberance coming from more than 400 participants and several hundred more supporters, the air was warm with smiles and laughter.
Outfitted in Girls on the Run (GOTR) T-shirts, bedazzled zebra print bandanas and several more layers for warmth, participants and their respective “running buddy” took off just after 10 a.m.
Girls were paired up with a family member or a female community member who ran beside them and encouraged them to complete the run at their own pace, said Amity Justice, area GOTR coordinator.
Running buddies from Payson included Holly Crump, Sue Becker, Suzy Tubbs and Alexis Bechman.
Although not a timed event, each girl sped from the starting line, leaving a cloud of glitter and spray hair dye in her wake.
Girls from other county GOTR programs wore tutus, paper tails, vibrant socks and all wore a bib with the No. 1.
“They all wore bib No. 1 to represent every girl’s individual accomplishment in the program,” Justice said.
The 3.1-mile non-competitive run was the culmination of a 12-week after-school program designed to inspire girls ages 8-13 to be joyful, healthy and confident, Justice said. More than 400 girls from Gila, Coconino, Yavapai, Apache and Navajo counties participated.
At the end of the run, each Payson girl was given a medal by one of four volunteer coaches from the Rim Country, including Brianne DeWitte, Jasmine Vela, Casandra Stouder and Brandi Waugh. Bobbie Doss was also a coach but could not attend the event.
During the after-school part of the program, girls met once a week at Payson High School’s track. Coaches followed a fun, experience-based curriculum that creatively integrated running, Justice said.
This is the first year for GOTR in Payson.
Holly Crump, network director for the Arizona Rural Women’s Health Network, brought the program to Payson after researching its success in other rural areas. Realizing how it could help Payson girls, she launched the program with Justice, her daughter.
Find out more about Girls on the Run in Northern Arizona at www.gotrna.org.