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Race is an event geared toward the whole family
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Runners line up above for a previous Girls on the Run 5K in Martinsville. The April 20 Girls on the Run race isn’t just for girls. The run is geared toward all genders and is “a very family-friendly, family-oriented running event,” said Becky Forestier, assistant director of the Martinsville/Henry County YMCA. Girls on the Run is a program to help girls make positive life choices, as well as to have good self-esteem and self-respect. (Bulletin photo)

Monday, March 11, 2013

By BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Don’t let the name fool you; the April 20 Girls on the Run 5K is open to everyone.

“It’s a common misconception,” said Becky Forestier, assistant director of the Martinsville/Henry County YMCA. “People see ‘Girls on the Run’ and automatically assume you have to be a girl to participate ... (but) it’s open to anyone. It is a very family-friendly, family-oriented running event.”

Men have participated in the two previous Girls on the Run 5Ks, Forestier said, and the event is open to runners of all skill levels.

“We have our serious, elite runners that come and participate, and then we have plenty of people that have never participated in any running event before,” she said.

The Girls on the Run 5K is a “celebration” of the YMCA’s Girls on the Run program, Forestier said.

Girls who participate in the program leading up to the 5K are asked to have a running partner for the 5K, Forestier said. This partner often is a parent, but it can be a guardian, relative or friend aged 16 or older.

Brad Kinkema, CEO and executive director of the Martinsville/Henry County YMCA, runs the 5K with his two daughters, Logan, who is in fifth grade, and Zoe, who is in third grade. His son Connor, a seventh grader, also participates to support his sisters.

“It’s a misnomer that it’s just for girls,” Kinkema said. “I’ve got two girls, and it’s a great way for me to share time with them and support them.”

Kinkema said that aside from the 5K, the program itself has been beneficial for his daughters.

“It’s been a real boost,” Kinkema said. “They talk about a lot of different things that girls need to hear.”

“Girls on the Run is a positive youth development program,” Forestier explained. “Using a curriculum in running, we strive to inspire these girls to have self-respect, positive self-esteem, to make positive choices and to live a healthy lifestyle.”

The program is divided into two parts. Girls on the Run is for girls in third through fifth grade, while Girls on Track is for girls in sixth through eighth grade.

The program is open twice a year, in the spring and fall. Girls who enroll in the program meet for 90 minutes twice a week for 10 weeks. The sessions are designed to focus on the girls’ “emotional, mental and social well-being,” Forestier said.

Each session features a running-based workout, along with lessons on such topics as making healthy choices, showing gratitude and learning to cooperate.

For example, Forestier said a recent session featured a workout centered on cooperation. Forestier gave each girl a random number of rubber bracelets. Some girls received as few as three, while other girls received many more.

The girls were challenged to run laps for 35 minutes. As each girl completed a lap, she was to give one bracelet back to Forestier. Girls with more bracelets gave some to girls with fewer, so none ran out too quickly before the 35 minutes ended.

Because the girls all were running at different skill levels, the challenge was for them to trade bracelets with each other while running, so that each girl ran the number of laps with which they were comfortable.

“As a matter of fact,” Forestier said, “they were able to give me all the bands back and still had time to keep running.”

The program also requires the participants to complete a community service project that is “100 percent chosen, planned and implemented by the girls,” Forestier said. Coaches are not allowed to help, only supervise.

Last fall, the girls held a bake sale at the Collinsville YMCA. They made signs advertising the sale, baked and sold the goods and chose how the proceeds would be spent. They decided to use the funds to buy books for a children’s hospital.

When the program began in 2011, Forestier said, the Girls on the Run program received the Martinsville Area Community Foundation Women in Philanthropy’s $20,000 grant. That allowed the YMCA to offer the Girls on the Run program free of charge in the spring and fall of 2012.

For the 2013 spring session, the YMCA has had to institute a $50 program fee, though Forestier pointed out that, as with all YMCA programs, financial assistance is available.

“We don’t want to turn anyone away because of their inability to pay,” Forestier said.

Richard Reed, who volunteers with the YMCA and regularly participates in Miles in Martinsville races, has participated in both previous Girls on the Run 5Ks.

“It’s very inspiring,” Reed said. “It’s very family friendly. You see a lot of mothers and daughters and daughters and fathers” running together.

“It’s great for the community,” Reed added. “There’s a lot of bonding out there.”

The Girls on the Run 5K will be held on April 20, and registration will begin on March 25. For more information, visit and


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