Guest Essay: A Current Girl on the Run Tells Us What She’s Learned

As the grand finale of an incredible month celebrating Girls on the Run alumna, we decided to get the scoop from a current Girl on the Run so we could see the wonderful, empowering GOTR lessons in action. That is why we are so excited to introduce the supremely articulate, funny, and intelligent 13-year-old Ella Harlacher of Emerald Isle, North Carolina. Ella has five years of Girls on the Run experience under her belt and she strongly believes that she is all the better for it, and here is why!

I joined Girls on the Run in third grade and have participated ever since. I am now going into eighth grade. That’s five years, in case you didn’t already do the math! I know that I am only thirteen and just starting to learn about commitments, but this is probably the best commitment that I will make for awhile. I have older siblings, who constantly offer me advice, but sometimes they forget what I am faced with in elementary and now middle school. And that I am only thirteen!

During the ten weeks of GOTR we prepare ourselves for a 5K race that everyone, including the instructors, participates in. Not only do we prepare by running a couple of times a week, but we prepare ourselves mentally. After each physical task, the instructors choose a topic that we are going to focus on and we discuss it. Over the years of participating with GOTR and now Girls on Track (the middle school program), we have focused on how important it is to exercise and eat healthy, while also learning about body positivity, maintaining a positive attitude, dealing with bullies and being a good role model for our peers.

Here are some of the ways that GOTR has helped me navigate through middle school, friendships, and sport teams:

The thought of changing schools from elementary to middle school was very nerve-wracking for me. I was really freaking out and didn’t even want to go to school! I had heard rumors from all of my friends that middle school was big and scary: the kids were bigger and scarier, the building was bigger and scarier, and the teachers were bigger and scarier. Believe me, after hearing all of these terrible rumors, I really didn’t want to go! Since I had become really close to all of the GOTR girls before starting middle school, I knew that I could rely on them and they could rely on me during this new and difficult time. On the first day, I knew that I would at the least have them to sit with at lunch because we are always there to support and encourage each other.

The lessons I had learned from GOTR reminded me that I probably wasn’t the only one who was feeling nervous and dreading starting school. They taught me to have open communication with my friends and to let them know when I might be struggling with something. They taught me that by allowing myself to have a support system, I could give them better support when they needed it.

In GOTR many of our lessons focus on different types of confidence and how we can be confident in situations that we will face every single day and for the rest of our lives. This past school year, I was able to try-out and make the track team. We had our first race in the spring and I was running the mile. I was really nervous and excited for this race because we had been working so hard in practice and I was finally ready to compete.

I didn’t come in first place or even second or third, but I was so proud of what I accomplished.

First of all, I ran in my first middle school race! Second, I finished running a whole mile without walking…even though I am still just a kid, I think that is still an accomplishment to be proud of. And lastly, I knew that if I continued working hard, going to practice, eating well and believing in myself I would just get better and better.

I didn’t even realize that I had such a positive level of confidence until my older sister mentioned it and explained that her first sports experience had been so different. That’s when I realized that the positivity and confidence from GOTR was engrained in my mind forever and positively affected my normal outlook on things, which I am so grateful for on a daily basis!

+ Does what Ella shared resonate with you? Tell us what you think. We’re excited to hear your responses!
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