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With four Ironman triathlons behind her, Girls on the Run founder Molly Barker would like nothing better than to help young girls achieve greatness and self respect through running. Girls on the Run is a pioneering program Barker set up to help young girls age 8-13 cope with the stress of everyday life and school through running and fun activities while preparing for a 5K.

“The idea was brewing in my thoughts for many years,” explains Barker. “I know that running for me has provided many ‘a-ha’ moments. I wondered if perhaps providing that same running experience for girls…might help them through the mayhem of adolescence.”

Girls On the Run is now present in over 50 cities throughout the country and each has its own Girls on the Run 5K. The program is headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., where Barker lives and works.

The mission of Girls on the Run is to educate and prepare girls for a life time of self-respect and healthy living. Most of the organized events run through the program are about enjoying exercise and not about winning. The 5K is the culminating event for all of the girls in any given city to come together and celebrate what they have learned over the course of the 12 week program.”

“Every participant gets “1” on their bib number…and the awards we offer at the end are fun and non competitive,” says Barker.

Many of the awards include the “Sweat Goddess Award” and the “Biggest Smile to Cross the Finish Line Award.” With has its tenth year anniversary in September, Girls on the Run is now larger and stronger than ever before. While one of the main goals of Girls on the Run is fitness and the understanding of athleticism, Barker feels it is also critical for the girls to achieve social skills as well and to be prepared for many different situations. Barker enjoys spending time with the girls and enjoys provoking their conversation.

“I love listening to the wisdom of the girls in our program,” Barker says. “They haven’t gotten caught up in all the noise of the world.”

Barker has developed many innovative ways to get the girls excited about fitness and a healthy emotional well-being. For example, the girls work on their running skills while discussing how to properly deal with strong emotions such as anger, grief, and stress.

Over half of the girls who sign up for one 12-week session end up signing up again.

“I love being around the girls,” says Barker. “I get just as much out of the program as they do.”

Though the program lasts only twelve weeks, Barker believes the skills and confidence that Girls on the Run instills can last a lifetime.

“I’ve been a runner my whole life,” said Barker. “When I run, I am as close to center as a person can be. I hope that the program helps these girls find their own centered sense of self.”

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