Donning colorful tutus and capes on the Brotherhood Bridge trail Saturday afternoon, Juneau’s Girls on the Run club ran its season-ending 5K showered by positive vibes and 75-degree sunny weather.
Almost all of the club’s 85 elementary and middle school participants reached their goal of completing the 5K after 12 weeks of practice. Girls from Harborview, Gastineau, Mendenhall River, Glacier Valley, Floyd Dryden and Dzantik’i Heeni schools held clubs in the spring season.
“It’s not only fun, but it’s a good way to express yourself,” 5th grade student Elise Duran said. “Maybe if you’re having a bad day and you go to Girls on the Run it just makes you feel like people are supporting you and you’re important, like you’re special.”
The 5K started at Riverbend Elementary where girls visited face-painting, poster-making and hairspray booths before gathering on the outdoor basketball court.
Volunteers and parents ran with the girls during the 5K to encourage them. Community members held posters and rang cowbells along the trail to spur on the runners.
Girls on the Run teaches girls to be joyful, healthy and confident through exercise, camaraderie and a curriculum covering bullying, media awareness, peer-pressure and self-esteem issues.
Three girls from Mendenhall River Elementary school described a typical practice.
“We support each other and say what the good things we did during the day were,” 3rd grader Brielle Duran explained. “We also give out energy awards. We make up awards and give them to each other. There’s the extra tough award,” she said before stomping her feet twice, pointing at her teammate and saying, “you’re extra tough.”
“We also have the ‘pop up girl,’” 4th grader Neeva Cole added. “Where the coaches pick the girl who ran really hard, or if she was feeling sick, she still participated. They go in the middle, and all the girls put their hands on top and go, ‘Girls on the Run is so much fun.’
“When I have a headache and I go to Girls on the Run, it disappears,” Cole said.
Juneau’s Girls on the Run started in 2008 as a part of AWARE’s violence prevention program. Within a year, the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault expanded the program in partnership with groups in Ketchikan and Sitka.
In 2014 Girls on the Run Southeast became Girls on the Run of Greater Alaska, serving all of Alaska outside of the Anchorage and Mat Su area, with 247 girls across the state participating this spring.