November 21 2014
After enduring personal tragedy, this mother runner turned to endurance sports.
Molly Barker, Founder of Girls on the Run
“One day we’ll have millions of graduates and our girls will bring open leadership to the world,” says Molly Barker. And as the founder of Girls on the Run (GOTR), a nonprofi t youth development program that incorporates running as a catalyst for self-improvement, Barker has the passion and enthusiasm to bring that statement to life.
Barker started GOTR with the thought that if she could positively influence just one girl, then her work was done. One girl turned into 750,000 and counting, and now GOTR, which uses training for a 5K to bring third- through eighth-grade girls together to work toward a common goal, is developing a junior coaching program.
“Teens are all over the place with fi guring out who and what they are, but they can look at a third-grader and tell her she is beautiful,” says Barker, who has a counseling and social work background. “Those words will [eventually] resonate for the teens, and they’ll start believing it about themselves. “
Barker sees engaging teens to help the younger girls as a way to give this eager audience a way to make a positive influence in the world. “Running serves as a basis to live an authentic life, no matter your age or ability,” says Barker. “At GOTR, everybody sweats and there is shared suffering and shared joy. That is our strength.”
“Being able to witness the aha moment for another human is just awesome. Knowing that someone realized they have everything they need within themselves to be whole, beautiful and powerful is what drives me. Our goal is to plant the seed—you never really know when it will happen, but running creates the opportunity.”
There are three ways Barker encourages others to become involved with GOTR:
1. Reach out to a local council as a volunteer.
2. Become a fundraising SoleMate, where both men and women register and train for an event of their choosing and raise funds for GOTR.
3. Live as a GOTR would, by becoming more aware of the language they use about themselves and others. Learn more at girlsontherun.org.