A Girl’S Gotta Run!

Payson teens have trained for weeks for Girls On The Run 5K in Flagstaff


The Girls On The Run program puts young girls through 10 to 12 weeks of preparation to participate in a 5K. In the process, coaches encourage the girls to reach their full potential.

The Girls On The Run program puts young girls through 10 to 12 weeks of preparation to participate in a 5K. In the process, coaches encourage the girls to reach their full potential.

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Ten Payson girls will don brightly colored T-shirts, running shoes and probably a warm hat to run the Nov. 10 Girls On The Run (GOTR) 5K race in Flagstaff.

The race is the culmination of weeks of practice, but it’s not solely a physical race.

“So many people think the program is just about the 5K. It’s about so much more,” said Amity Justice, the coordinator of the Payson GOTR program.

The girls, from the third, fourth, and fifth grades worked on the social and emotional challenges teens face while training for the 5K.

The GOTR program was inspired during a 1993 sunset run by Molly Barker. Tired of feeling unworthy by allowing others to define her, Barker decided to create a program to help girls realize their full potential.

She based a 10- to 12-week 5K race preparation on rap sessions about body image, friendship, dating, and what contributions the girls could do to make the world a better place.

Said one GOTR participant on its Web site, “GOTR let me be myself and gave me a chance to be healthy, make responsible choices and to stand up for others. I loved the coaches because they filled my heart with positiveness and believed in me. I will always be a girl on the run for as long as I live.”

Justice said the girls in this year’s group are great.

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Answering a question about yourself is always an ice-breaker, especially for younger kids and Girls On The Run helps young ladies open up and relax.

“The girls are energetic and open,” she said. “There were a couple of girls who returned from last year. One was a little sister of the former GOTR group.”

This is the second year for the Payson GOTR program. Justice said she and the coaches are having more fun with the program because they know it better.

Justice gives a lot of credit to her coaches Casandra Stouder and Cami White.

“They are wonderful women with whole fitness ideals,” said Justice.

Stouder calls herself, “Payson’s hometown fitness trainer, volunteer, health advocate and family-oriented community member.” Justice said she works for the Tonto Apache Tribe as a diabetes coordinator and as a personal fitness trainer.

Stouder was a GOTR coach last year and had this to say about it:

“The program is designed to enrich our young girls’ bodies and minds with strength and positive empowerment,” wrote Stouder in statement for their brochure. “I am truly fascinated by the curriculum’s astounding integrity in which I’ve witnessed each of the girls illustrate through their own actions!”

White is a mother of three children, ranging in ages from 1 to 6. She has a bachelor’s in science from B.Y.U. in exercise science and is a spin/fitness instructor at Club U.S.A.

She wrote of her interest in being a GOTR coach, “To pass on my love for fitness with these cute girls. It is something that makes me very happy and I would love to see more happy, confident girls out there living life!”

The program stretches the girls to explore beyond their typical physical, mental and emotional boundaries, but Justice said the results are impressive.

“If it was easy, it wouldn’t mean anything,” said Justice. “The whole point is that it something unattainable and they attain it.”

The GOTR girls will register and sign in for their 5K race on Friday evening, Nov. 9 in Flagstaff at the Healthy Living Expo in the YMCA from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The girls will run their race on Saturday, Nov. 10 at Buffalo Park in Flagstaff at 10 a.m.

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