Girls on the Run: More than running

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (NEWSPLEX) -- Girls on the Run is a national non-profit organization and 5K teaching girls about more than just running.

"We like to refer to ourselves as a program that uses running as a tool to teach young girls, third fourth and fifth grade, sixth, seventh and eighth, life management skills,” said Council Director for Girls on the Run of Central Virginia, Mary Hansen.

"I think so much of running is mental and believing you can do it and pushing yourself,” said 5k coordinator and coach, Megan Grant.

Girls on the Run was Established in 1996 and Saturday, April 7th marks the third season the race has been here in Charlottesville.

"We found out about the program in our area in 2006 and worked to bring it to the great Lynchburg region first. Once we saw how powerful the program was we just decided to take it to as many girls as we could,” Hansen said.

"It's super, super fun because it's just something to get away from school and you can just have fun and you can be yourself. Nobody is going to judge you,” said a sixth grade student from Saint Anne’s-Belfield school, Vaya Chhabra.

For this group of eight to 13-year-old girls it's not about who comes in first, second or third but it's about finishing that race that they've been preparing for, for the past 12 weeks.

"We use running not in a competitive sense but just like pushing the girls to do their best and to finish. It's just so inspiring to be able to watch them finish. It's just the best,” Grant said.

"It was amazing because it’s just that feeling of exhilaration. It’s just amazing to feel,” said a fourth grade student from Saint Anne’s-Belfield, Caroline Coors.

"It makes me feel really happy actually because everyone is coming together and nobody is like ‘oh this person is better than this person.’ We're all equal,” Chhabra said.

The program aims to inspire girls to be healthy and confident at a young age in hopes that it will carry on with them the rest of their lives.

"I think especially for the third and fourth grade age group, you know before they really get into middle school, to build their self-esteem. I just see such a difference in their confidence and in their ability to problem solve,” Grant said.

"I just love being part of a big running family. It’s a good experience and you become stronger and more powerful and it's good for life lessons and later in life,” Chhabra said.

"If you haven't done girls on the run as a third of fourth grader you should really do it, it's an amazing opportunity,” said Coors.