Sporting bright, multicolored tutus, pink capes and sparkly face paintings of unicorns, nearly 450 girls and their “running buddies” stood beneath an arch of balloons Sunday, counting down to the start of the eighth semiannual Girls on the Run 5K.
Jennifer Young was running buddies with her niece, Devin Rhynes, 11.
“It’s a great program not only for confidence-building, building connections and friendships, but being able to physically do something and accomplish a goal,” Young said.
The route at UNLV was lined with messages such as “Crush it!” “You are magic” and “You are powerful.”
Kim Boschee, executive director of Girls on the Run Las Vegas, said the walk celebrated the end of a 10-week program that began in February at nearly 30 elementary and middle schools in the valley.
When girls are 9 years old, their self-confidence starts to drop significantly and stays low throughout high school, said Boschee, a marriage and family therapist who specializes in adolescent development. Girls on the Run aims to reverse that trend, and is meant to inspire and empower girls, she said.
In the spring program, girls in third through eighth grades met twice a week with trained coaches and talked about anti-bullying, self-identity and emotional awareness. They set goals to run a certain number of laps each session and later reflected on the day’s lessons and how it felt to meet their goals.
Sunday’s 5K run was a culmination of those lessons, Boschee said.
“This (event) is talking about the sense of achievement, the joy of accomplishment, trying hard things, pushing yourself both mentally and physically,” Boschee said.
It was Devin Rhynes’ second Girls on the Run 5K.
“It really helps you embrace your inner star power,” she said, referring to one of the program’s lessons about channeling inner positivity and refraining from negative self-talk. “And then, you know, it’s also nice to do something active.”
Girls finish the program — and the run — with increased confidence and improved coping skills, Boschee said.
“The other benefit is that they learn to trust their bodies,” she added. “… There’s a whole mind-body connection that’s wonderful.”
Young, Devin’s aunt, believes the program reaches beyond just the girls who participate, she said.
“It’s easy for girls to underestimate themselves, which I think contributes to a lot of people underestimating girls and women,” Young said. “… It’s a good thing for the girls, but I also think it’s a good thing for equity in general.”
Devin was greeted at the end of the race by her older brother, Gavin, 17, who told her he was proud of her.
“I know that she can really accomplish anything,” he said. “Seeing her out here giving her best effort … was just really amazing.”
Devin beamed, echoing his praise.
“If you put your mind to it, you can do it,” she said.
Zoe Dicair, 8, was joined by her running buddy and dad, Jason Dicair.
“I just wanted to run, and I wanted to have dad time,” the third-grader said.
When asked why he participated in the 5K, Zoe’s dad said, “To support her, of course.” Dicair gestured to Zoe, whose flushed face was framed by a flower-adorned headband.
“It promotes strong women. I’m trying to raise her to become a strong woman in her community,” he said.