Running group teaches girls life lessons

Girls on the Run teaches young girls life lessons through running.
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Every Monday and Wednesday a group of girls lace up their shoes at a Fishers park and get moving.

The group is called "Girls on the Run." It's a nationwide program for 8-, 9-, and 10-year olds that uses running or walking to teach a much larger lesson.

"We do use the joy of running to share lessons with the girls that involve self-confidence and peer pressure and health and fitness and bullying," said Girls on the Run Coach Katie Tarvin.

Board Member Kelley Stokesbary says the program is group centered while allowing the girls to like who they are in their own skin.

"Looking inside yourself and being comfortable with yourself and what makes you unique how are you different from your friends and to really celebrate that," said Stokesbary.

With constant displays of perfection on TV and in magazines, girls - even very young girls - begin to believe this is not the exception, it's reality.

"Really, starting at the end of 3rd grade, we're starting to see some issues with self-esteem, body image. Girls definitely are starting to have to deal with the pressures of the media much earlier," said Stokesbary.

Nine-year-old Riley Gearhart is in her second session of Girls on the Run. She says she has stopped comparing herself to other people thanks to the program.

"I've learned to feel confident in myself and not say bad things about myself," said Gearhart.

Girls are also learning to refrain from saying bad things about others.

"It just hurts peoples feelings and it's not nice," said nine-year-old Ranya Barhan.

One of the rewards of the program is, at the end, the girls run or walk a 5k race, letting them experience the joy of accomplishment.

"We are showing the girls that anything is possible if they believe in themselves," said Tarvin.

There are eight Girls On The Run councils in Indiana. In addition to the 3rd through 5th grade program, there is also a second session for 6th through 8th graders.

The 12-week program costs $125, but no girl will be turned away for not being able to pay.

Girls on the Run website