When Life Imitates Racing with Daughter

When Life Imitates Racing with Daughter

When Life Imitates Racing:

the parenting lessons I learned from running with my daughter!

by Valerie Riley, GOTR Mom and Coach

I recently served as my daughter’s “running buddy” during her first Girls on the Run 5K race. I have been a runner for years, but we had never had a chance to run together until this day. It was a warm Friday evening with a festive atmosphere full of girl power. We were totally energized as we lined up next to each other at the starting line, flanked by a few hundred others. When the bull horn blew, we took off together and stayed astride for the first 200 yards or so.

Then, she started to pull away from me and I could not keep up. I was a little lonely, but I delighted in her speed and endurance. For the next two miles, I could always see her running up ahead, about 20 or so yards in front of me. Sometimes she ran with other girls, sometimes with coaches, sometimes with another mom and sometimes alone. I struggled to keep my pace up to stay within reach of her.

At the beginning of the third mile though, I quickly came upon her. She was walking…well, maybe even standing and picking at a bush. She said she was tired and didn’t think she could finish. I knew she had it in her, and that she just needed encouragement to continue. I pointed up ahead to a shady portion of the route. “Let’s stay together, and we’ll jog until we get in the shade,” I said. “It will be cooler there.” She agreed and so off we went. When we got to the shady section, it seemed everyone had the same idea and it was crowded. “Let’s keep running,” I said. “It makes me feel fast when I pass a lot of walkers.” So we did. When we pulled out of the shade, I showed her that around the next corner, there would be a water stop. “Let’s run to the water station so we can refresh there,” I said, and she agreed. I tried to talk and joke with her during that long stretch to distract her, and I think she was both amused and annoyed by it, but she kept going. When we arrived at the water stop, I grabbed a cup and dumped it on her head and she drank. She giggled at my playfulness. I turned her around and pointed in the distance. “See those colorful flags up there? That’s the finish line,” I said. She looked at me and smiled. “Let’s go,” she said.

A photographer captured the joy and triumph on her face as she crossed the finish line. I instantly loved that photo, but it wasn’t until a few weeks went by that I understood why.


That race was a representation for me of what it is like to raise a daughter. In the infant, toddler and preschool years, she was always by my side, just like the beginning of the race. Then, she pulled away from me, running in the company of others and striking out on her own. This is what it is like during the school and tween years. Sometimes, though, she hits a rough patch and she still needs me, like she did at the beginning of the third mile. I was there to encourage her, help her set goals and get through the tough part. And when she was victorious, I stepped back and watched her shine, silently reveling in her triumph.

I am so grateful to Girls on the Run for creating the opportunity to share this moment with my daughter and to help me continue to learn and grow as a parent.

My girl crossing the finish line at 27:44 (and her proud mom behind her!)

Love Letter To My Thighs

Love Letter To My Thighs


Dear Thighs,

I know you are strong for supporting 140 pounds of my frame, carrying me for four years around rubber-made surfaces, and ensuring my jeans never fit just right, but now that little bit of you that sits right below my bum seems tired and bored.

I know you were used to two workouts a day, constant squats, and bonds, so I’m sorry to let you down, thighs–my calling isn’t making you “perfect” anymore. Instead, I have cheated on you to make my mind expand and now hold it to a higher esteem because brain power is just as good, just as beneficial as you are.

Now, when I need a break from the mundane, I will take you for a jog around town, give you the attention you deserve, and I feel you tighten up in appreciation–when you’re strong so am I. If you think I’ve let you down, just recall how you supported those little girls at practice as they jumped on my back–you helped hold them up. Recall the power you gave me in my stride when I finished a race, or a sprint in the game tag–it was you who held the power.

So, Thighs, please don’t droop in dissatisfaction anymore, or become wrinkly in your ways, because I still see and know your strength when I walk past the hallway mirror, before I take a shower, and when I’m lacing up my shoes for another race with you.

Week 9 Lessons: Practice 5k!

Last week, we discussed what a bully is and how to respond to them. The second lesson was on the topic of friends and what the girls look for, such as characteristics, when choosing their own friends. I was impressed by the girls, as always, because each week they blow me away by how smart and mature they can be in their responses. They’re like little ladies and are already two steps ahead. So bravo, parents! You are raising bright, kind, and adjusted girls!

In two weeks, after everyone returns from spring break, things will be a little different because we will have our practice 5k! There won’t be any particular topics and/or lessons, but we will try to make the practice run fun and as motivating as possible. There should be music, great snacks, and lots of water to go around to ensure the girls feel good and hydrated before and after the practice 5k.

The second day of practice we will discuss how everyone is feeling and what they thought about the practice 5k. The girls might be a little sore, which is to be expected, so the second practice will be something fun and off the beaten path, so to speak, and the girls can decide as a group what they want to do–they get to call the shots for a day!

We’re all looking forward to a more relaxed week and it will fit in perfectly since your girls will just be getting back from spring break. If they can find a way to get moving while they’re on break, that would be great! Just something to give their muscles a reminder that they are strong, capable Girls on the Run!

I hope everyone has a safe and wonderful break!

Week 7 Lessons: Bullying and Choosing Friends

The month of March is flying by, which means we’re getting that much closer to our 5k on April 11! Are your girls getting excited and feeling pumped about running with their friends in a few more weeks? I know we are!

As we near the end of the program curriculum, we will be discussing with the girls the topics of bullying, choosing friends, the power of community and a good support system, to name a few. Start talking with your children about a few of these topics, specifically bullying since we will be discussing that next week, and the way to handle bullies and how to recognize what true bullying is and how to respond. Today, the term “bully” can be loosely tossed around and has such a negative and detrimental connotation, so it’s imperative we teach the girls what is really means.

Cheers to a great weekend and up-and-coming week!

Week 5 Lessons: Body Image & Cooperation

This week we discussed the importance of always trying to show gratitude in situations that may arise in life. We also mediated and enjoyed a silent run to show the girls it’s necessary to take time for yourself to reflect and think without any distractions. Running can be a source of confidence and a time to heal and think if/when we allow for it to happen; the girls seemed to realize this from our lessons and discussions.

Next week we will focus on the importance of a positive body image. We will explore the definition of “beauty” and how the girls define beauty within themselves as well as others. Ultimately, we want the girls to be reinforced with the notion that the only definition of beauty that truly matters is the one we personally use to describe who we are as individuals.

The second lesson for the week aims to teach cooperation and ways to help the girls become more cooperative as  friends, classmates, teammates, etc. Some of these lessons seem complicated and abstract, but once we begin a dialogue with the girls it’s always eye-opening to hear how aware they are and willing to do the necessary things to enhance their greatness and individual strength. We have some tough, open-minded, and intelligent young ladies among us!

Get your girls to start thinking about cooperation and body image, so they are more comfortable and prepared for what next week has to offer. We know these lessons will make a huge impact and we’re ready to see the good work your girls are going to continue to do.

Have a great week!

Week 4 Lessons: Gratitude & Centering

Week 4 Lessons: Gratitude & Centering

practice at PK Yonge

practice at PK Yonge

Last week’s lessons discussed emotional and physical health which will help prepare the girls for the curriculum to come this week. Our mental health is sometimes overlooked and can take a back seat to the hectic schedules we all seem to live out day-today. Even your children may not be exempt from learning how to juggle and master multiple things at once with school, sports, and academic clubs to dedicate their time to. So, it seems the lessons on centering and gratitude have come at a perfect time.

Teaching the girls to seek and strive for gratitude in all circumstances will help them understand that even if something is out of their control, they can still have control over how they react to it. In turn, the next time something disappointing or aggravating happens, they will gain a new perspective and be better able to manage whatever isn’t going their way. And, if we know anything about life, it is that most things do not go our way and how we react to those situations can make a world of difference.

The second lesson will discuss centering–the importance of slowing down–and I’m personally excited about this topic and ready to witness how the girls will react to the notion of taking a minute to be reflective. The workout will involve the girls running silently by themselves for a change with ample time to think and be introspective. Afterward, we will have a discussion to see how the girls felt about the workout this week and what benefits, or struggles, they experienced in having to spend some time with themselves.

Hope everyone has a great week and takes some time to center and reflect on all that is good!

Week 2: Emotional & Physical Well Being

This week, we discussed with the girls the numerous ways we can be positive as Girls on the Run. We also did running activities that explained the differences between positive and negative self-talk and why the former is much more beneficial for ourselves and others. Ask your “energetic,” “vibrant,” and “kind” girls the adjectives we [the coaches] used to describe them at practice this week, and I know that their faces will light up. It made me feel so wonderful to be able to engage with your girls on the importance of positive self-talk and in return I learned just as much from them.

Next week, our curriculum will based on what it takes to maintain a health mind & body in terms of our emotional and physical well-being. We’ll discuss:

1.The importance of health nutrition, habits, and regular physical activity.

2.To explore the concept of maintaining balance in our lives

3. Learning the importance of “pacing” when we run.

4. Ways to explore uncomfortable emotions, such as anger, sorrow, and frustration.

5. The importance of identifying our emotions and dealing with them.

I’m excited to see where the lessons take us next week and how they’ll impact the girls. In your spare time, while riding in the car with your girls, or baking Valentine’s Day treats, bring up some of these topics to get them thinking and feeling a bit more comfortable talking about these subjects in preparation for next week.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

What’s In A Selfie?

I don’t know if the term “selfie” has infiltrated its way into your homes yet via your girls, but if it hasn’t, get ready. As the newest Dove Campaign showed,  selfies were used at a high school to showcase and start a dialogue on the notion of our beauty and how we see…ourselfies.

What does it mean to be “beautiful”? If you look to the Oxford Dictionary, it defines beauty as being, “A combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form that pleasures the aesthetic senses, especially sight.” If you look to television and the media, however, beauty is defined by societies standards–celebrities and models–that look nothing like the majority of us. So, our girls, and women, then think that the latter definition is right and strive for a false sense of perfection. What about the beautiful combinations of shapes, colors, and forms? I think that’s what we need to pay more attention to; the beauty in all of our unique qualities.

Girls on the Run strives to teach our girls about inner beauty and strength; to be joyful and healthy and confident. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like the type of beautiful I want to be and it has nothing to do with how a person’s body looks.

As the Dove Campaign suggested, we define our beauty and should always strive to accept our imperfections because they make up who we are and our unique qualities. Furthermore, the very things we are most uncomfortable with seem to be the characteristics that other’s love about us.

So, take a ‘selfie’ of yourself and encourage your girls to do the same. Let’s all take the time to marvel at our beauty every once in a while and to appreciate all that we are on the inside and out. {Homework: Share your selfie with us on Instagram or Facebook with #gotracselfie}

*For a closer look at beauty and the power in selfies, feel free to visit my master’s project blog: http://www.pieceofcakepieceoffruit.com/

Choosing To Be A Girl On The Run

Choosing To Be A Girl On The Run

Last week, our curriculum covered team-building activities that helped introduce the girls and coaches. Everyone gathered around in a circle and participated in sharing their name and one adjective that described themselves. Everyone then took turns writing each team member’s name on name tags and we played a fun running game that involved matching each name tag to the correct person. The girls seemed to really enjoy the chance to run around without having to focus and think, “I’m working out,” and it took the pressure off the running–the part of the program a few were nervous about. Ultimately, many of the girls had memorized each other’s names in less than an hour and were able to name everyone in the entire group! Our girls sure are smart, friendly, and fun. We also focused on “plugging in” and the ways visualization and imagination can improve the way we do things. It also can help us achieve what we never thought we could, or things we were simply hesitant about initially.

This week’s curriculum for the girls will focus on accountability and ways to keep not only ourselves accountable, but our teammates and friends as well. The learning goals for this week are:

1.To choose attitudes and actions that will help our GOTR team’s work well together.

2. Explore the importance of holding ourselves and our teammates accountable to these choices.

3. Increase awareness around the concept of “living with intention,” or in other words, to live purposefully.

To help prepare, your girl(s) can start brainstorming what they think it means to be accountable for the people we care about and what it means to be a Girl on the Run.

What if your daughters did THIS to your house?

We live in a world where girls are inundated with ads and images of what a girl and woman should be. While some seem less dangerous than others (for example, frilly tu-tu’s may not be as scary as too-skinny models) the message is clear: girls are still today put into a box and given a glass ceiling of achievement for what their dreams can become. Dolls and tea parties aren’t the enemy, and it’s completely okay if that’s what your daughter enjoys. But, it doesn’t have to be the only thing she enjoys.

GoldieBlox is working to change the stereotype that smart is boring. Check out his awesome video and see what a little innovation and outside the box thinking could do for your daughter. Let’s discuss: what would YOU do if your daughter turned your house into this?


For a behind-the-scenes peek, check out this video, too.