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Go Ask Mom

'Bonding for Life:' Finding joy, purpose with Girls on the Run

Posted May 7

Girls on the Run is a life skills program for girls ages 8 to 13.

Dona Aguayo ran a marathon 17 years ago - not because it was something she planned to do, but because her friend needed a buddy.

"Running intimidates me!," Aguayo tells me.

But, when she signed up to coach a Girls on the Run team, she knew it wasn't just about running. The program, for girls ages 8 to 13, teaches them life skills. Running a 5K at the end of each season is part of the ride - teaching girls important lessons about setting goals, working hard and building confidence.

"Running with the Girls on the Run program is a completely different experience," Aguayo says. "We aren't running for competition. We are bonding over life."

Here on Go Ask Mom, we've been sharing lots of great information from Girls on the Run during the last week. That includes a Q&A with coach and mom Pamela Howell-Davis and our post about boosting girls' confidence last week. Stay tuned for more Wednesday from Girls on the Run. And check Girls on the Run's website for more information about this great program. They currently are recruiting coaches for next fall and would love more local moms to sign on.

Read on to learn more about Aguayo's experience coaching. She's a mom of two in Durham and a residential real estate agent, helping buyers and sellers in the Triangle more than 12 years.

Go Ask Mom: Why did you get involved in Girls on the Run as a coach?

Dona Aguayo: I decided to coach Girls on the Run in honor of Carrie Gilmore who passed away on May 2, 2016 from breast cancer. Carrie's spirit was my motivating factor. I had many conversations with her about the program and knew that it was a special opportunity to honor her and feel connected. I am so glad I did because in true Carrie fashion, coaching was exactly what I needed to find a purpose and joy outside of my daily responsibilities.

GAM: So ... does every girl want to run? How do you encourage girls to go that extra mile - especially those who maybe haven't participated in a sport or activity liked this?

DA: Like most of us, not every girl wants to run every day; however, it's not just about running. Some days are simply about moving forward. We play a lot of games and even the smallest item, like a rubber band used as a lap counter, encourages the girls to do one more trip around the track when their motivation is running low.

GAM: Of course, GOTR isn't just about running. It's about teaching girls empowerment, responsibility, compassion and more. Why is that so important - especially for girls?

DA: The GOTR curriculum is an amazing tool to help girls develop a sense of self worth, respect, and tolerance for others. It is so important for girls to learn these skills, especially at this age when they are facing peer pressure, bullying, body changes, and more. There is so much pressure for girls to look a certain way and the pressure is real. It's in the media, in our schools, in their communities, and everywhere. The GOTR program helps the girls learn a new filter and tolerance. We are all different and that's what makes the world special.

GAM: How was it coaching your own daughter? Has there been anything that surprised you?

DA: Coaching my own daughter was an interesting experience because some days were fantastic and she was able to see me as a coach not just her mom, and other days were more challenging if she was tired or struggling with sharing my attention with the other girls on the team. Overall, it was a great bonding experience, and I am so proud her for being able to allow me to teach her coping skills and tactics to overcome insecurities.

GAM: What's it like watching the girls grow and learn over the course of the program?

DA: It is amazing to see both their physical progress and personal growth throughout the season. It brings tears to my eyes to see the girls grow from strangers to friends.

One girl was very shy in the beginning and it was priceless to hear her say that she loved the program because she came in as a stranger and is leaving with eight new friends. Wow! And, it is incredibly powerful to watch the girls go from barely running one lap to completing 15 laps during the mock 5K.

They work together. They cheer each other on and even run additional laps to make sure the girl that needs some encouragement isn't alone. This program creates a new level of responsibility and care in the girls, and it's so amazing to see it transform right before your eyes. The girls are wise beyond their years because of the GOTR program and it is visible in both their confidence and compassion.

Go Ask Mom features local moms every Monday.

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