A couple years ago, I was coaching my first Girls on the Run season at an elementary school here in Des Moines. My team was an amazing group of 3rd-5th grade girls, some who had participated in the program before, and a few who were first-timers. However, most of them all had one thing in common (besides the bright smiles painted across their faces every week at practice) – they all needed a solid pair of running shoes.

Looking down at their little feet, I couldn’t help but feel a little sorry. I felt sorry for their pinky toes getting squished in their siblings’ hand-me-downs. I felt sorry for their parents who might not be able to afford a brand-new pair. I felt sorry for the comments they might have to hear after a classmate makes fun of the holes in their shoes. And I felt a little sorry for myself too, for one very important reason.

A wonderful thing about Girls on the Run of Central Iowa (and I’m sure many other chapters out there) is that they partner with a local running business (thanks Fleet Feet!) to provide proper running shoes to girls who may need them. One day before practice, we had “try on time” where we helped the girls pick out their very own pair! As a coach, this time is a little hectic because the girls get so excited about finding just the right fit and have so many questions. Amid all the commotion, one of my girls looked up at me with wide eyes and said, “Coach Jordan, we’ve never had Nikes before!”

I had to look away for a minute as I blinked the small tears away from my eyes. Some of these girls were in fifth grade and had never owned a nice pair of quality running shoes that fit them well. Right then, I couldn’t help but think of little fifth grade Jordan, and the new pair of Nike Shocks my parents bought me at the beginning of each school year. How I wish I could go back and share those shoes with these girls today!

As a coach, Girls on the Run has a funny way of teaching me more than I ever could have imagined – not only about running, but also about everything else under the sun. Each day is a new learning experience and a new chance to apply the day’s lesson to my own adult life. This story is just one of the many reasons why I love Girls on the Run and everything this program has to offer. Every day with these girls gives me one more reason to be thankful. Each practice allows me to embrace the differences between myself and the girls on my team and find strength in our connectedness through Girls on the Run.

Throughout this blog series, I will be highlighting one of Girls on the Run’s Core Values in each post – a little reminder that running encompasses so much more than simply lacing up your shoes.

Follow along my coaching journey! You can find me at @jordtran on Instagram. In the upcoming months, I will be giving away 5 free registrations to any race on marathon weekend!

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