‘Girls on the Run’ Sees Record Number of Participants

DES MOINES, Iowa – More than 800 girls will participate in the 10th annual Girls on the Run 5K Thursday.

Forty-two school areas from across central Iowa with girls in third through eighth grade will either run or walk a 5K at Water Works Park.

The national program begins training 10 weeks prior to the event.

Counselor Director for Girls on the Run Christa Vander Leest said the program uses running and walking as a tool to teach girls the importance of a healthy lifestyle.

“The curriculum is based off of three different parts. The first is all about self-identity, so what makes the girl special, unique, how to have positive self-talk. The second part is all about building healthy relationships, so what does it mean to be on a team. How do we choose our friends, and how do we stand up for ourselves. The third part is an empowerment part, where they do a community impact project,” Vander Leest said.

Vander Leest said all the girls participate in a community service project where they raise money for a specific local organization.

Hillside Girls on the Run Coach April Fleischman said this is her sixth season training one girl's team.

“To watch her go from a third grader to a fifth grader and see her love of running and all of these girls love of running is a wonderful thing. I’ve had a love of running since I was their age, and to continue that on for those girls is pretty cool for me to see,” Fleischman said.

Vander Leest said each girl who is running is assigned a running buddy for support during the 5K.

An estimated 3,000 family members, runners, friends and volunteers will be at the event.

Pre-activities for the run begin at 5:15 p.m. There will be face painting, hair styling and more. The 5K begins at 6:30 p.m.

Girls on the Run 5K is located at Water Works Park, 2202 George Flagg Parkway, Des Moines.