Sweet Briar College will host the Girls on the Run of Central Virginia Spring Celebration 5K at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 5 on campus. The Lynchburg-based Girls on the Run council has already held one race at Sweet Briar since the two women’s organizations announced a partnership in August 2011.
Formerly known as Girls on the Run of Greater Lynchburg, the chapter’s new name reflects its growth and positive impact on its participants across the region. The program serves girls ages 8 to 13. The Central Virginia council holds spring and fall races, which are culminating events at the end of its 12-week programs.
Sweet Briar is proud to be part of that growth and looks forward to continuing its support of the organization’s mission, which is so similar to its own — empowering girls and young women and educating them for success and well-being. It also provides opportunities for Sweet Briar students to volunteer, mentor the younger girls and share some of the benefits they’ve experienced in an all-women’s educational environment.
“I think it’s awesome that we are having this event at Sweet Briar, because we share several of the same values that Girls on the Run does,” says first-year Celia Lee. “Our institution stands behind a strong foundation of people who believe that women can do incredible things when we have the proper support and a strong group of friends who are working right alongside of us.”
Lee was a “running buddy” in the first race in November. Her job was to motivate the girls who were slowing down or walking during the more difficult parts of the race course along Sweet Briar’s hilly Dairy Loop.
Senior Stephanie Prato, also a running buddy, helped a girl named Emily tackle those hills. “We struggled a bit, but didn’t give up. When we rounded the corner and began to run down Quad Road to the finish line, Emily picked up her pace and finished strong.”
About 300 girls will run in the spring race and both Prato and Lee will be back as volunteers. They believe in the Girls on the Run program, which teaches life skills along with physical fitness.
“Showing the girls that they can exercise with their friends and even run a 5k at such a young age gives them the confidence to succeed in other areas of their lives, and to know that they are capable of doing anything they set their minds to,” Lee says.
Girls on the Run has chapters all over the United States and in Canada. Locally, teams meet for lessons at schools and community centers throughout the Central Virginia council’s 23 counties and cities.
Mary Hansen, director and co-founder of the local council, says partnering with Sweet Briar and holding the races on campus are both good moves, so far.
“The College has graciously opened its campus to hundreds of runners, volunteers and spectators while providing additional student, staff and faculty volunteers, security and other amenities to enhance our time on campus,” she says.
“The Dairy Loop provides a safe and scenic run for our young participants and their coaches. This is no easy run, however, and the girls come away with an even greater sense of satisfaction as they navigate the hills and gravel roads.”
It also takes them past the College’s riding center. In the fall, a few of the horses raced alongside the runners until they ran out of pasture — a thrilling distraction for the girls, but a challenge for the coaches to keep the excited youngsters pointed toward the finish line, Hansen says.
The pre-race activities are also popular with the girls. Student volunteers will work at face painting and “happy hair” tables before the 9 a.m. start, which definitely adds to the color and excitement of the day.
For more information, go to girlsontheruncenva.org or call (434) 607-2024.
Contact: Jennifer McManamay