The Extra Mile

The Extra Mile: GOTR Program Draws Well

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Washington area is being overrun with thousands of excited girl tweens, and the Jonas Brothers have nothing to do with it.

Yesterday, some 5,000 runners -- 2,500 girls in grades 3 through 8 -- took part in the 3rd Girls on the Run Reindeer Romp 5K in Reston. Today, another 500 girls and their sponsors will run in the District; on Nov. 22, some 900 participated in the Montgomery County GOTR 5K.

The programs are all part of the burgeoning International Girls on the Run and its after-school training curriculum that encourages young girls to "discover the power of running while they learn about self esteem and strong values." The organization has more than 140 chapters in the United States and Canada.

"The goal is to develop mental, physical and social health," said Jenn Brown, executive director of the Northern Virginia council, the country's largest. "Running happens to be the vehicle we use to get there and is really just icing on the cake."

The Northern Virginia program lasts between 10 and 12 weeks and is located in 143 sites, each with a community volunteer coach who uses the GOTR curriculum as a guide. The 5K race is effectively the final exam to which girls bring a buddy runner, parent, friend or sponsor -- boys and men are welcome.

Initially, GOTR piggybacked onto existing 5K races, but geometric growth forced the organization to develop exclusive events; yesterday's Reston run reached capacity and closed this week. More than 4,000 runners took part in the Daisy Dash 5K last May and applications are being accepted for the spring 2009 program.

Noelle McDonald, 10, of Arlington was participating in her fourth GOTR 5K yesterday, and applied a bit of circular logic that seems appropriate for a running program. "I'm really excited because I get to see all my friends from Girls on the Run," Noelle said. "And that's really fun."

ยท LONDON CALLING: World record holder Paula Radcliffe and Martin Lel will each seek a fourth title at the London Marathon on April 26; both will be opposed by reigning Olympic gold medalists, Constantina Tomescu-Dita and Sammy Wanjiru.

-- Jim Hage

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