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Girls on the Run shows the power of fitness, friendship

Lots of kids play team sports: soccer, baseball, lacrosse. But some kids don’t like being on a team. It’s hard to make a perfect pass in basketball and watch your teammate miss the layup.

Some kids prefer individual sports such as golf, tennis and swimming. In those sports, if you do well, you get all the glory. Of course, if you don’t do well, you have no one to blame but yourself.

Another terrific individual sport for kids is running. It’s about as simple as a sport can be. All you need is a good pair of sneakers and somewhere to run. It’s also fun if you have some running buddies. Almost anyone can be a runner, and you can be a runner for a long time.

Girls on the Run, a national running program, believes that too. It’s District of Columbia Council is sponsoring a five-kilometer run (that’s little more than three miles) at American University on Sunday at 10 a.m.

Although Girls on the Run is for girls in third through eighth grades, anyone — even boys! — can run in Sunday’s race. But you do have to sign up and pay an entry fee. Don’t worry if you are not an Olympic-caliber runner: The 5K run is not super competitive. It’s just a great way to have fun and learn more about Girls on the Run.

The District’s Girls on the Run program has more than 100 teams with more than 1,200 girls running all over the city. The girls practice with volunteer coaches after school twice a week for 12 weeks during the fall and spring. They usually run together or play running games. As I said, it’s always more fun to have running buddies.

During practice, the girls and their coaches discuss such serious subjects as making good choices, setting goals and what it means to be a good friend. But mostly, Girls on the Run is about having fun. Volunteer coach Julie MacKinnon calls it “a great way to dip your toe in the water” and see if you like the sport of running.

So check out the 5K run on Sunday. If you think it would be fun to have your own Girls on the Run team, have your mom or dad talk to the people at your school or contact the folks at Girls on the Run. There are Girls on the Run groups in Maryland and Virginia, too.

Maybe it’s time to grab your sneakers and start running.

Fred Bowen writes the KidsPost sports column and has written 16 books for kids.

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