My friend Liz is the executive director, founder and head mentor for her organization, Girls With Sole (GWS). I try to support her any way I can because what she is doing means so much to some deserving girls. There are also many great groups, companies and individuals who have partnered with GWS. Many I know including Coach Angela, Grunt Girl Racing (Aimee is a Grunt Girl), Coca Crossfit (Killer Kate), and Hoban Pest Control (Tina is a dear friend of ours) to name a few.
With my knee still recovering I reached out to Liz and asked how I could help. I offered to be the lead bike for the 5k run. She took me up on the offer and I was set to go. Aimee signed up for the race along with many of our friends.
I rode the course to get familiar with the turns and helped the race crew get the corners ready and mark some potentially hazardous holes. When I made it back to the event area I chatted with some friends and listened to Liz give her pre-race speech.
The awards were hand painted by one of the girls in the GWS program. Below is Liz with one of the age group winners with her custom award.
At the beginning of each GWS session Liz has the girls say the program creed to remember why they are there. One of the program girls recited the creed.
We're strong and proud you can't stop our groove
We know who we are and who we want to be
We sail through life with resiliency
At Girls With Sole we set goals and believe
If we keep lacing up - we will always achieve.
Then one of the girls also sang a song that meant a lot to her. She followed that up with a wonderful National Anthem.
Everyone made their way to the start line for a nice 5k through the lakeside streets of Rocky River. One of our young Snakebite racers was in the crowd. Josh is a little fireball of a runner. He is 14 and running sub 18 for a 5k. I figured he would be top ten at this race. As I was leading the front runners I was constantly looking back to make sure I wasn't too far ahead or too close to the runners. Each time I looked back I could see Josh in fourth place.
I took the leader into the finish area and watched the runners stream in while chatting with and cheering for friends. Sure enough Josh finished fourth overall and won his age group.
But my day wasn't over. One of the race crew asked me to lead the 1 mile walk. With the incoming runners it would be too hard to have a car on the street. So with the ringing of the bell the one mile walk started. I had been joking with two guys about going slow enough for the walkers. They said I would probably tip over. But I didn't have to worry about that.
After I made the first turn I looked back and there was a little girl running after me. She couldn't have been more than 6 years old. I saw her mom and little brother not far behind her so I stayed with her the entire time. I kept her close to the curb providing a rolling barrier as she continued to run.
We made it to the turn around and now she was with the runners of the 5k. I watched as she weaved her way in and out of the runners much older than her. I kept encouraging her and stayed close to this precious little runner. I told her that she didn't have much more to go. The final straight away starts with a right hand turn the goes uphill immediately. Some of the 5k runners were walking and I thought the maybe she would also...but she didn't. She powered up that hill and kept on going to the finish.
As we entered the parking lot she had another 100 yards to go. All of a sudden I saw this little body rocket past me. She saw the finish line and took of like it was the START of the mile. I yelled for her to keep going. Her mom and little brother passed by 30 seconds later and I told her she finished great.
I went back to the event site and started talking with as many friends as I could find. So many of my running, cycling and tri friends were there. It was good to catch up and get some nice sweaty hugs.
I was talking with a friend when I noticed a little body hovering behind his legs. I finally looked down and saw my little runner girl starting to walk away. Her mom said, "He sees you." She turned around....I bent down to her level.......she looked at me and said....."Thank You."
I told her welcome and said what an awesome job she did. She ran the entire mile. She never complained. She never wavered. I honestly think she was smiling the entire time.
I pray that this little girl continues to run, play, grow, compete into the strong woman she can be. This is the essence of Girls With Sole. And this day quite possibly has set in motion a long fulfilling life. I know it has made my life more fulfilling because of this little runner girl.