Routt, Garfield, Moffat County runners make strides in Girls on the Run 5K
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A pack of runners layered in jackets, leggings and tutus lined up at Steamboat Springs Middle School on Saturday to take part in the Girls on the Run 5K.
Girls on the Run is a nationwide 501(c)(3) nonprofit that helps inspire girls in third through eighth grade to develop life skills and establish a lifetime appreciation for fitness. The program consists of a 10-week training program that culminates with a 5K race.
“Girls On The Run gives the girls better awareness of themselves, their emotions, and it increases their confidence to make good choices both in their own lives and when dealing with others,” Alissa Merage said, one of the Steamboat Springs Girls on the Run coaches. “The girls develop life skills that can be transferred from the Girls On the Run lessons to real-life scenarios, such as remaining calm when a sibling frustrates them, dealing with bullies at school or supporting your friends in an unpopular situation.”
While the program is all over Western Colorado, there are five locations to run the 5K: Montrose, Fruita, Durango, Frisco and Steamboat Springs.
Steamboat Springs started its Girls on the Run program eight years ago, adding the 5K race six years ago.
“We didn’t have a race originally in Steamboat,” Western Colorado 5K director Megan Lancaster said over the phone on Wednesday, Nov. 7. “Now, there will be 16 teams from Routt, Moffat and Garfield county that go to that race, and we are expecting 500 participants: 350 girls, 80 coaches, the rest are community runners.”
In the past, Steamboat Springs also hosted Frisco runners, but the program grew enough for the town to host its own race. Steamboat Springs’ central location and growth has enabled it to be an ideal host. The program has 42 coaches with about 15 or more girls to a coach.
“Exercise and running is incorporated into each of the 20 lessons as we train for the 5K, but the focus is on being healthy, having fun and supporting each other,” Merage said. “With this focus, the girls are encouraged to see exercise as a fun and social lifelong habit.”
The 5K is open to anyone, so girls ran with their families and friends to show how much they have accomplished through the program. Others stood through the 25-degree weather holding signs with the girls’ names on them or the words “girl power.”
The first runner to cross the finish was Abigail DuFon, 12, finishing with a time of 23 minutes and 13 seconds. But runners continued to finish over the next 20 minutes because it wasn’t about the time — but having the confidence to go to the distance, even if it meant walking.
“Everybody can do it. Doesn’t matter if you walk or you run, everybody is special,” DuFon said. “I have a lot of running buddies, so it’s fun.”
While DuFon aspires to be a competitive runner, she likes the inclusiveness of the program and how it taught her that it’s ok to be yourself. She turned to watch the second runner finish, clapping, then waiting for others. Runners piled in, sometimes hand-in-hand, others sprinting towards the finish. Every participant received a medal.
Claire Booth, a Steamboat Springs Girls on the Run coach, said that the energy at the 5K was uplifting despite the low temperatures. She was happy to see the community running alongside the girls. Booth grew up running in both high school and college and moved to Steamboat Springs from Golden this year. She pushed her 3-year-old daughter in a stroller for the 5K.
“It was also cool to see all the girls cheer on the other girls from other schools,” Booth said. “It’s an interesting age because they form bonds and cliques. Last week, we had a practice 5K, and the curriculum they give the coaches has that built in. At least, they weren’t going into this blind. They seemed to do well. It’s helpful for me to know what girls go through this day and age.”
The program costs $55, including two free t-shirts and entry into the 5K, but if families are unable to pay for the cost, they can call the office to waive the fee.
For some, the most rewarding part is watching the girls they’ve gotten to know through coaching complete the race, embracing them as they cross the finish.
“Some of these girls could hardly run once around the soccer fields when we started back in August,” Merage said. “What an amazing confidence builder for them to complete the 5K and a great lesson that they can accomplish anything they set their mind to in life.”
A learn-by-doing methodology was on display Friday at the Loudy-Simpson Park pond as Moffat County High School science students learned quickly whether or not they had a future in engineering.