Hundreds of girls, their friends and their family members took part Saturday in the Girls on the Run 5-kilometer run in Steamboat Springs. The event capped off 10 weeks of classes and meetings meant to help the elementary and middle school-aged girls develop healthy habits emotionally, mentally and physically.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Hundreds of girls, their friends and their family members took part Saturday in the Girls on the Run 5-kilometer run in Steamboat Springs. The event capped off 10 weeks of classes and meetings meant to help the elementary and middle school-aged girls develop healthy habits emotionally, mentally and physically.

Lots and lots of Girls on the Run on Saturday

— Here’s one thing that stood out about Saturday’s Girls on the Run 5-kilometer run: No one ran alone.

Sure, people running as a group is a staple of any such massive road race event, but there always are solo artists, the fastest runners who break way out in front of the pack, a few in the middle who labor along by themselves and always some stragglers who come in, one by one.

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There were some distractions on the course for the Girls on the Run event in Steamboat Springs, namely a pair of horses that enthralled the passers-by and even brought a few of them to drop from the event and watch the horses gallop around a meadow.

2013-14 Winter Running Series schedule

The fastest two runners Saturday, however, matched each other stride for stride. The girls — nearly 600 — ran in groups big and small. Mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters accompanied them, and even when friends did split up, one small group at times would stop and wait for another, even in the finishing chute, clogging up the proceedings but underscoring them all the same.

As they ran all 5 kilometers from Steamboat Springs Middle School out into Strawberry Park and back, they reinforced everything Girls on the Run is about. The program is nationwide, and Saturday’s event was a coming together of participants from Eagle, Summit, Moffat, Routt and eastern Garfield counties.

The goal is to help the next generation of girls develop healthily in all ways, emotionally, socially, mentally and physically.

“We learned how to handle bullying and that you should just be yourself and that it doesn’t really matter what others think of you,” said Kendra Sollars, a Strawberry Park Elementary School fifth-grader.

The field of runners, nearly 1,000 in all, told the story of the program as it swarmed down the road.

One young girl breathed deeply as she worked her way through the final kilometer, the finish line looming in the distance but still on the other side of the course’s most prominent hill.

“Let’s get to the top of the hill,” an adult running with her urged. “Just remember, you’re stronger than you think.”

A family ran by several minutes later.

“Let’s do it together,” an adult beckoned.

“You can do it,” another offered to a pack of young girls. “Let me show you.”

As they crested that hill — the hardest part of the day, according to many runners — the finish line was deceptively close in the middle school parking lot. The course, however, wrapped around, then down the hill via the school’s driveway, then into the lot, an extra 200 meters that, at the end, seemed like 2 more miles.

“No way,” a mother advised a daughter, contemplating a quick jaunt down the hill through the grass. “Don’t cut corners.”

Fast or slow, in groups of two or 12, they had fun.

One runner, Strawberry Park fourth-grader Lauren Mueller, tried to explain.

“My favorite part was, well,” she said, then paused. “I had a lot of favorite parts.”

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

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