Monday, April 27, 2015

Girls on the Run Atlanta 5K Recap

The opinions expressed here are solely my opinions and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Girls on the Run® International.

This past Saturday was the day that the Girls on the Run teams - my own and the others throughout Atlanta - had been working up towards for the past 10-12 weeks!  It was the day of the official Girls on the Run 5K!

I had marked this race on my calendar months and months ago and I was really excited for race day to finally arrive.

At the beginning of the week I began to get a bit nervous because the forecast for Saturday morning said a 100% chance of rain - even starting as early as Monday - the weather forecast was bad.  Our team had been going inside for any form of weather problem so I was nervous how the girls would handle running in the rain or what that would mean for race day.  I kept my fingers crossed all week hoping that the forecast would somehow differ and we would have a sunny and beautiful day for the race, but alas, on Saturday morning I woke up to downpouring rain.

I got over to Georgia Tech, where the race would start and finish, around 6:30 a.m.  I had invited members of the Movers + Pacers running group that I run with out to volunteer and I knew that some of the volunteers were there starting at 5:00 a.m.!  I was so impressed with that dedication and wanted to get there early even though I didn't necessarily need to be there that early.  I stopped to get coffee and brought some snacks as well and it was good to just hang out and chat, even though it was super early in the AM.

The rain turned into thunder and lightning as well and I got pretty nervous about what was going to happen at this point as they ushered all the volunteers and expo people into the Georgia Tech stadium for shelter.  However, instead of just canceling things, a notification was sent out via text message that there would be a one hour delay of the race and it would start at 9:00 a.m. rather than 8:00 a.m.

And I'll tell ya, whoever gave the Girls on the Run organizers advice on the weather did a really good job and should get a raise because right at 9:00 a.m. the rain stopped and the sky cleared up for the race!

We met up with my team and although the rain did scare a number of people away and cause us to not be able to quite find everyone right away, we did have a great group out.  It was awesome to meet more of the parents/running buddies that the girls have and introduce everyone to the friends that I had brought with us to run.

After lots of pictures, some pump up songs, introductions, and stretching, the race was underway.  It was a bit of an underwhelming start (and later finish) to the race as we just sort of all started running at one point.

There was quite a bit of weaving around at the beginning since a lot of people go out just to walk this race.  Before we started, one of the girls, A, asked if she could run with me.  I wasn't assigned a specific girl (they all have to have running buddies) so I of course said yes and the rest of the crew I was with all decided to stick with her as well.

The race itself was nice, we ran all around the Georgia Tech campus and all of the athletes from the various teams were all out cheering for the girls, which was so fun!  There were lots of high fives to get along the way and a great energy on the course.  A did so great, smiling the whole race, saying she was doing awesome every time I asked, and keeping her feet moving even though I could tell she was tired.  Our whole group encouraged her the whole way and I was so proud of how well she did!

I was really nervous about how the girls would do in the race since I didn't feel like we had trained as much as I would have liked. We had so many days where we had to go indoors and the most we probably ever did was 2 miles.

A remained so determined throughout the whole thing, even sprinting up some hills at the end, and cheering and smiling as we ran through the crowds and into the Georgia Tech stadium to finish on the football field.  It was an anti-climatic setup for the end of the race - no archway or finish line shoot or even line to cross.  To be honest, I couldn't tell you exactly where the race had even ended.

However, we made sure to have a big celebration for A and take lots of pictures to celebrate the occasion (this is how I roll, people!)

The stadium was pretty chaotic and we could barely keep track of the people that we were with, nonetheless find the rest of the team.  The water and refreshments were in the most obscure, hard to get to place, and it was a bit crazy so after a bit we ended up just leaving the field.  However, it was very cool to have the race finish on the football stadium. AND we SO lucked out with the weather.  After the crazy amounts it was raining and storming earlier, the day ended up being great with the sun coming out and lots of us shedding layers during the run.

Even within the stadium it was still crazy once we left the field area, so we just quickly grabbed our "Finisher" shirts and moved off to the side.  The race had medals for the girls running and also they had coach appreciation bags and free massages for the coaches, so of course, I had to partake in that!

I found a few more of my girls and asked how they did in the race, but to be honest the finish was just very anticlimactic.  I didn't get much time with the girls, didn't really know what to do, and sort of just ended up saying bye to the girls and coaches and left to go have breakfast with my friends.

I loved the race, running with A, and getting to cheer on the rest of the runners.  I think being a coach for this first time was a big learning experience for me and if I were to be a coach in the next season (which is this fall) there is a lot I had learned from this round.  I wish that we'd planned a better meeting point.  I wish we'd planned a post-race celebration or even just spot to go have breakfast.  I felt so proud of the team and wanted to hear all about the girls races, but I didn't even know where anyone was for the most part.  I have no idea if I will now see the girls again since the season is officially over!  The other thing that felt weird to me was the fact that I have been running with and training for the race with the girls for the past 10-12 weeks and then didn't really see them at race day as they all ran with a parent or running buddy/family friend (except for A, who asked to run with me and for which I was very grateful!)  It was a bit bizarre and I guess just a learning experience for next time around as to what to be aware of and how I could do things better and be a better coach.

Many of the girls I asked if they thought they improved from the beginning of the season and I think they did.  I hope that they had fun and that they took pride in running the 5K and the work that we put in leading up to the race.  I really enjoyed coaching the girls, getting them to run a bit further than they thought they could at times, and being surrounded by their young, positive energy for the past few weeks.  I also was SO appreciative of the Movers + Pacers crew who came out and ran with my team this weekend.  It meant so much to me to have them their supporting the group and the organization I have been a part of.  I know that they didn't do it for me, but for the organization as a whole, but it just meant a lot to have them be there.  Many of them posted some really nice things on Instagram afterwards as well and it just really meant a lot to me.

The next season for Girls on the Run is not until the fall so I have some time to determine what I am going to do, but it was a lot of fun and a rewarding experience to coach this year for Girls on the Run.  It is a great organization and I wish that I had learned about running at an earlier age!!!  Congratulations to all the girls who completed the 5K this past weekend on my team and on others!!!

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