Getting out of the Girl Box
Girls on the Run


Molly Barker was stuck in “the girl box.”

A lifelong runner since the age of 15, she began to question her self-worth and self-image, worrying that she was transforming not into who she truly was, but what others around her thought she should be. After years of fruitlessly trying to figure out who she wanted to be, Molly went on a sunset run during 1993 and was struck with the inspiration for what would eventually blossom into Girls on the Run.

In 1996, Molly piloted the earliest version of GOTR with 13 girls in Charlotte, NC. The program grew quickly.  Today, GOTR is a 501c3 organization with chapters in 220 cities across North America, and has impacted hundreds of thousands of young girls’ lives. It teaches girls that they can “take charge of their lives and define the future on their own terms.”

Photo courtesy of Girls on the Run

Photo courtesy of Girls on the Run

The website quotes one young runner:  “I learned that I am the boss of my own brain.”

GOTR, which serves girls in 3rd - 8th grade, “operates as a transformational, physical activity-based positive youth program that teaches life skills through interactive lessons and running,” according to the website.

The curriculum is divided in three parts: Helping girls get a better understanding of who they are and what’s important to them, the role of teams and healthy relationships, and how girls can positively connect with and shape the world around them.

Over the course of 10-12 weeks, girls meet with their coaches twice a week to receive and discuss the day’s lesson — and to go for a run. Running is incorporated into the curriculum as a framework for goal setting, as well as a way to build a lifelong love of physical activity: to prove to girls that their bodies are capable of achieving great things. Each season culminates in a 5K that celebrates both the physical and personal achievements each girl has made over the course of the season.

Photo courtesy of Girls on the Run

Photo courtesy of Girls on the Run

In DC, GOTR is committed to serving girls across all eight wards of The District — each participates in the same program, strengthening community bonds and creating connections across socio-economic lines.  GOTR-DC offers a unifying program that focuses on both fitness and is mentor-based—something that is critical in a city where 30 percent of children are considered poor.

Want to get involved? Wonder what it’s like to be a volunteer? Check out GOTR’s website or some of our Q&A for more details! 

About the Author: While a student at The College of William and Mary, Marisa Weidner volunteered at a school in Belize. A DC newcomer, she blogs about her explorations of the city at The Curated City


                                                                                                                 Girls on the Run: Coach Says