I was an athlete growing up – though didn’t always think of it that way – but it wasn’t until post two knee surgeries that I realized that my athletic upbringing had shaped a lot of who I was. Between multiple moves to various corners of the country, I used sports of some kind to connect to new friends and colleagues. Running, as it turns out, is a great place to literally get out the door and meet new folks. Running also gave me a sense of peace about my life. Through the turmoils of a job search, the stress of conduct cases and difficult students, it was an escape and a chance to clear my head at the end of the day.
When I moved back to my hometown in California for the first time in ten years, I had a job, a partner, and a family, but I very quickly learned that I was still missing something. Whether in Texas or Georgia or Arizona, I had always had a community outside my work – the dog park, runners, trivia comrades. I spent a semester at my new job searching for what “it” was. Running. On a 100-mile round trip commute each day, it was hard to find the energy and motivation to rise at 4 am to get in a run before the drive to work, or the energy to do so after a 2-hour drive home.
And then I found Girls on the Run, an organization that focuses on girls in grades 3-5, athletes and non-athletes alike, and brings them together in an environment that gives them the courage, faith, and determination to achieve their dreams. In GotR’s case, it’s an end-of-the-season 5K, which they build up to throughout the ten weeks.
Weekly lessons are a blend of character building and personal empowerment, fused together with running workouts to build them up to being able to complete their first 5K race. There are cheers, chants, and praise given at each practice, big smiles when they realize they’ve run their first mile, and excitement when they go rushing back to their parent at the end, covered in star stickers and glitter from head to toe.
While my job as Coach Megan was to relay these lesson plans to our dozen girls, they in turn taught me even more. That, even if I do not get to run as much as I’d like, you can enjoy the mile or five with the biggest of grins. That it is okay to act yourself, whether with poise or your clumsy self (I very much fall to the latter) and that you are appreciated for who you are.
Our practices were at 3:30 on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. I was incredibly lucky to have a supervisor who recognized my need and excitement to be able to put a hobby to use and that Girls on the Run was just where I could do that. She let me commit fully to one practice a week (an expectation as an Assistant Coach), so long as my responsibilities were accomplished fully and I was managing my role with our student organizations.
For those of you reading who are looking for a place to begin your service journey, look to what you do already. I am lucky that my hobby very easily became a place where I got to give back and continue having a great time doing it. In turn, they gave me even more motivation and encouragement to fall back into my regimen and begin training again, too. You never know when you’ll find the inspiration you weren’t expecting.
This post is part of our #SAvolunteers series, which will explore volunteering in all its forms, for all its reasons. For those student affairs pros who log in more hours once they leave the office, without the monetary reward, this one’s for you! For more information on this series, please see Jessi Robinson’s intro post. Be sure to check out the other posts in this series!
> BONUS <
Podcast With Kristen Abell on Her Unconventional Path