We recently spoke with Kathy Carnahan who serves as a coach for Girls on the Run in Forsyth County, GA. She is a life-long runner who is passing her passion on to young women in her community.
OWG: What is Girls on the Run and how did you get involved with the organization?
Kathy: GOTR is a program founded by Molly Baker and directed here in Forsyth County by Cathie Brugnoli. The program is for girls in grades 3-8 and is designed to teach them, through running, all of the things that they might go through during this particular life-stage and how to handle tough situations with confidence. GOTR prepares girls to handle things like bullying and gossip and teaches them skills like cooperation. The girls prepare to run a 5K by doing all sorts of running exercises that go along with the GOTR curriculum. I coach the program at Sharon Springs park and serve on the board for Forsyth and Hall County, GA. My daughter has been a part of the program in Forsyth County since it began here and has benefitted greatly from it. She is now helping me coach our group of girls. I love that I can tell all of the girls I meet how GOTR helped my daughter navigate through all of the things she faced in elementary school and now faces in middle school! Also, because of the program, she has developed a great love for running and as a family we regularly participate in 5K races in the community. My husband and I also co-direct her track and cross-country club called The Forsyth Flyers, which is for both girls and boys.
OWG: Why do you think it’s so important for kids to get involved in programs like this?
Kathy: Running and fitness programs like these help kids gain a feeling of confidence as they learn about treating their bodies well, developing good habits, discipling their minds to keep running even when they don’t feel like it and being able to train for a goal and then achieve it! Some of the girls come to GOTR with no running experience and so the improvements over time, as a child gets into shape, is a real confidence boost for them.
OWG: Besides their running skills, what are some other ways that you’ve seen these young women develop?
Kathy: The girls develop in a variety of ways. Some of them are very out of shape; they start off really tired and they don’t like running. However, the curriculum is set up to be fun – so they are playing running games and before they know it, they are getting in shape and can run 3 miles. That amazes them! We also run a lot of laps around a football field and the girls get a clothes pin for each lap they do. They are so proud of themselves for being able to run more laps each time that they start to feel really good about themselves. In addition, the girls might show up for practice feeling weighed down by their school day and yet leave feeling happy and good about themselves. Parents tell us that the running helps the girls stay more emotionally level and more focused. They also eat better and are more at peace.
OWG: What are a few success stories that have touched your heart?
Kathy: Often what happens is that the GOTR girl will set off a chain reaction with her family. We have a lot of families sign up for the GOTR 5K together. One mom watched her daughter run the 5K but she felt winded just walking the course. This was the catalyst for her to put herself on a fitness program and she has now lost over 100 pounds and is gearing up to run her own 5K. She told me that she wants her daughter to have a life-long love of running so she doesn’t fall into the trap of being overweight. Another parent in our track club saw her son completely healed of serious asthma by running long distances and changing to a healthy eating plan.
OWG: One of the biggest challenges for people involved in physical activity is time. What motivates you to keep physical activity as a part of your day?
Kathy: Time is a challenge in working out, but I find that I am more efficient and get more accomplished when I make my workout a priority. I exercise at least an hour every day and just find that I don’t have the energy or focus for everything else in my life if I don’t. I am fortunate that my husband is disciplined to run every day and our daughter runs with us so it has become family time. We actually ran the Publix Half Marathon as a family and also had a lot of fun training for that. Because running has been a huge blessing in my life, I really enjoy helping kids find out early on what a treasure it is to be a disciplined runner throughout life.