A Conversation with Girls on the Run Montgomery

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Longtime Montgomery runners Jenny Roth and Maggie Brooks are well aware of the activity’s benefits: running burns calories, builds muscle, strengthens your heart, and reduces stress. Their love of the sport and the knowledge that kids can reap the same benefits—and much more—motivated the pair to share their passion with the area’s young girls by starting a local chapter of Girls on the Run.

But how do you appeal to a demographic often glued to the TV or on their tablets? Well, girls, they wanna have fun, and that's just what Girls on the Run offers, among many other positives.

Girls on the Run Serving the River Region just became official, and its first session working with 3rd-8th grade girls will start this fall. But Jenny and Maggie are inviting everyone in the River Region to get involved now by participating in the 3rd annual Women’s Health 5k Run & 1-Mile Fun Run on May 2, an event that benefits the newly formed GOTR chapter.

We asked the co-executive directors how they got into running, where they do it, and why they worked to bring GOTR to their area.

How did you get started running?

Jenny: I got started during law school. I liked it for exercise, but also the mental release it provided. Once I started running in races, I was hooked. I’m competitive, so that appeals to me, but it’s also just a fun environment. For my regular runs, I go by myself some, but I often run with a group of friends, and that’s what I really like.

Maggie: I grew up around the idea that being active makes you feel better; that was really instilled in me by my parents, who always exercised. Running has been something I've really enjoyed for a long time.

Where do you run?

Jenny: I love running in McGeghee Estates neighborhood. There are a few small hills, but most importantly, there is a lot of shade, which is essential in our heat!

Maggie: I usually run in the Cloverdale neighborhood. It’s lovely, with big trees and beautiful old homes and gardens. It’s nice and flat too, which I like.

GOTR girls start each session with a warm up.
GOTR girls start each session with a warm up. Courtesy of GOTR Birmingham

Tell us a bit about GOTR.

Jenny: It’s an international non-profit, and its mission is to “inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum that creatively integrates running.” Two 12-week sessions held each year revolve around training for a 5k race and use running to teach the participating girls important life lessons.

Why did you decide to start a GOTR chapter?

Jenny: Maggie and I learned about GOTR from a mutual friend who was working with the chapter in Birmingham and thought it sounded great, so we took it upon ourselves to get a chapter here. Once we got started, we learned that Avery Ainsworth, the owner of Fleet Feet Sports in Montgomery, had already been working on it, so we pooled our efforts, and he’s now the chairman of our board.

On a personal level, I have a 4th grade daughter, and I wanted her to experience what GOTR offers. It’s not only about running; running is just the vehicle we use to help these these girls identify who they are, what their values are and how to stick to them when they hit the teenage years. It’s really about knowing yourself, being a part of a team and being a part of your community.

Running works because it’s easy to learn, and you can do it anywhere. And working toward the goal of finishing a 5k builds self-esteem and teaches them that they can accomplish anything with discipline and hard work.

Maggie: I got involved because it is a way to help others realize the benefits of exercise and get into that habit, but it is so much more, too. I remember those awkward pre-teen years, how hard it was to be a girl. GOTR addresses many of the issues young girls face in a unique and effective way, and I knew it would be beneficial for our girls, girls from all backgrounds.

Girls on the Run Serving The River Region will form friendships that last a lifetime.
Girls on the Run Serving The River Region will form friendships that last a lifetime. Courtesy of GOTR Birmingham

How will your chapter work?

Jenny: Maggie and I will receive coach training from the national GOTR, and then we’ll choose two schools and work to get girls from those schools signed up for our first session, which will start in September.

The girls will meet twice a week. We warm up and then do games to make the physical training fun, instead of just constantly running laps. And there is a specific topic woven into each meeting where they learn about and discuss things like bullying, gossiping, how to treat friends, how to give back to their community, etc.

The culmination of the session is doing a 5k, and ours will probably piggy-back on an already existing run. It’s really fun. The girls dress up in tutus, crazy colored socks, and more. And they don’t have to run the whole race. They can walk, skip, whatever; the goal is just to keep going.

How will the May 2 event help GOTR?

Jenny: The proceeds of the race go to our GOTR chapter, and we need them. It does cost for girls to participate in GOTR, so by raising money, we can build our scholarship fund. That way, we won’t have to turn any interested girl away.

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