Learning about life through running

Posted at 6:04 PM, Jun 03, 2016

Girls at Wolfe Street Academy in Baltimore don't need a track to run laps, instead they take over a sidewalk in the city twice a week for Girls on the Run, a 10-week after school program.

"Girls on the Run is a positive youth development program for third through eighth grade girls, and we use running to teach girls life skills and to help teach them self-confidence," said Susan Thaxton, the executive director of Girls on the Run of the Greater Chesapeake:

They start with a warm-up, go over the lesson for the day, then hit the pavement.

"It's not just about running, we get to have fun and they teach us a lot and I don't think I've ever been in a club like that," said Natalia Zuniga, a program participant.

ABC2 News will be airing live coverage of the Baltimore 10-miler race this Saturday, June 4th.

ABC2 News' Mallory Sofastaii will be running as a charity chaser. She'll start the race behind everyone else and for every runner she passes, Corrigan Sports will donate $1 to Girls on The Run of the Greater Chesapeake.

Follow Mallory Sofastaii on Twitter @MalloryABC2 and on Facebook @mallorysofastaii.

Lessons about having good relationships, giving back to the community, and how to stand up for themselves and others.

"We talked about what to do if you see someone getting bullied. They said you can be two things, a stand-byer or a bystander," said Claudia Doering, another program participant.

Many of the girls said they've already used the skills they've learned outside of the club and the classroom.

"It was not in school, but once I saw a kid getting bullied in a park, so I told that kid to not bully kids because that might happen to you," Zuniga said.

The program is being implemented across the country and in multiple counties in Maryland. Fifty-nine schools, including 10 in Maryland participated this last season.

Registration typically costs $150 per student but there are financial scholarships for those that need it. The fee is also automatically waived for every girl in Baltimore City.

"A lot of these kids can't get their hands on healthy eating, or they don't have time to go outside, I mean they don't have these beautiful yards that a lot of kids grow up in, so try to work with what we're given," said Kylee Wineberg, one of the Girls on the Run Coach at Wolfe Street Academy.

Every week the girls run a little farther, so that they're prepared for the end of the season celebratory 5k.

"The girls are all excited, they're like 'we're going to do a 5k, we're going to run 5 miles,' and I'm like 3 miles but we got it eventually," Wineberg said.

More than 1700 runners participated in the 5k at Druid Hill Park several weeks ago. Thaxton said it's thrilling as a coach to see how much the girls grow over the 10 weeks and how accomplished they feel after finishing the race.

"It's just been so exciting because I know it's worth it, I know we're making a difference, not just with these girls but with their families, and in their schools, and in our communities and that we're really as we say, we're trying to make the world a better place one girl at a time," Thaxton said.

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