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This isn't quite nonfiction, but is close enough to hurt.

So your life is going well and you need an ego check to avoid getting mushy like an old mango or turning into a flabby dad whose definition of a good workout is making three trips up the stairs to put the kids to bed.

Well, if you have an 8-year old daughter, you're in luck, particularly if she's a girl on the run.

For those of you who are unaware, Girls on the Run is a national program designed to help young ladies build confidence and self-esteem through running and working with positive female role models. You'd be silly not to let your daughter try it out, especially if things are going well.

For one, once she likes being a GOTR, which is usually right away, being able to participate in the program provides you -- or any shrewd parent keen on making idle threats -- one more carrot to hold over her head when you need her to clean her room or do homework or pick up the socks she just threw on the floor or stop hitting her brother or just about anything else you need done.

For two, all that stuff about self-esteem and building confidence is important. And for three, it can provide you the ego check you need when things are going too good - family is happy, sports teams are winning, bosses are cooperating, etc.

Here's how: About two weeks after the program begins, actually read the information that describes the three-month journey your child will partake in. There is a nice picture on the program cover of a man running with a girl. It might look odd, maybe even a little creepy seeing a middle-aged man on the cover of a pamphlet promoting Girls on the Run.

Push past that and onto the first page where you'll see a training schedule:

Week 1: Learn to stretch, walk a lap and meet your team.

Week 2: Stretch more, run more and learn about things like positive self-talk and proper diet.

Then around Week 5 you will see the words, "Find a running buddy." It may alarm you at first, but when you read a little more you will see that your daughter will need a partner to run a race with her at the end of the season.

At this point you have two choices. One, you can listen to common sense and find your daughter a running buddy; someone who can actually run a 5K.

But since you are feeling a little big for your britches, don't just offer to help. Take option two and volunteer to run with her. Make a big deal out of it, so she knows that you are there for her. Then, think about your training plan. Think about running a mile a day every morning and working your way up to the required distance. Think about hitting the elliptical machine at the gym. Just keep thinking until one night about a week before the race you wake up in a sweat -- the first sweat you've actually broken since committing to this race -- with the realization that you can't run a K, much less five.

This revelation is important because it will give you enough time to prepare your mind for the run, and also lay the groundwork for potential failure. Start limping a bit, maybe toss in an extra moan during a jaunt up the stairs. Make sure you start drinking plenty of water as well because cramps stink, and race day is right around the corner.

When you arrive at the race, make sure you stretch your arms, your neck, your groin and your quads. Limp some more to remind your daughter you are playing hurt. Of course she'll be too busy laughing with her teammates to care, but you should enjoy her happiness, too.

Cover your ears when the gun goes off and take advantage of that time when you get to blame the cramped crowds for your slow pace because pretty soon, the field will thin out. If you need some help keeping pace, think of the Army cadence: "One mile, no sweat; two miles, better yet."

Pretty soon you're more than halfway home, and as you look over your shoulder, you may be pleasantly surprised at how slow some people are. In fact, your self-esteem may reach an all-time high when you realize that you are still faster than half the field in spite of your training regimen.

Then you'll hear a voice call you from the front, "Hurry up, Dad."

As you look forward. you'll see that the order is coming from your offspring. If you have trouble picking her out, just look for some floppy hair and the Nike swooshes on the souls of the shoes you spent $75 on as they kick up one foot at a time. Before you can follow the command, she'll motivate you with some of that positive talk she's been learning: Don't quit. You're doing great. We're almost done.

It may come off a little patronizing, but it will inspire you to find that one last gear to push yourself forward. That is until you realize you don't have one last gear. Then you'll realize it doesn't matter if you're ahead of 1,000 people because the fact of the matter is you are officially slower than your 8-year-old daughter.

That means from this day forth, the only thing your child will need to do to avoid punishment is to start running. And there ain't a thing you can do about it except wait for her to come home, hopefully wet, probably hungry, but certainly not tired.

GOTR took care of that, and if you do what's listed above, it will square away your ego as well.

If you have comments on this or anything to do with sports, contact me at chad.t.jones.civ@mail.mil.

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