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Girls on the Run
Group to hold race on Nov. 8 at Lambert
Girls on the Run 5 es
Girls On The Run members, from left, Margaret Crick, Natalie Bassel and Anna Spenello reach the finish line Tuesday afternoon at Brookwood Elementary. The girls ran a 5K to practice for the club’s race Nov. 8 at Lambert High School. - photo by Emily Saunders

At a glance

The New Balance Girls on the Run 5K is set for 2:30 p.m. Nov. 8 at Lambert High School. Open registration begins at 1:30 p.m. Advance registration is $15. After Nov. 2, it’s $20.

For more information, contact (404) 667-4101 or

For the 250 girls competing in a 5K run Nov. 8, it’s more than a race to the finish.

In fact, the New Balance Girls on the Run 5K is not a race at all.

“The goal is the finish line, so it’s not whether you’re the fastest ... it’s just all about finishing,” said Cathie Brugnoli, Girls on the Run executive director.

“It’s not all about competition. It’s about setting your own goals and completing your own goals.”

The event is based on the organization’s aim to increase self-respect and health among young girls.

The 12-week program, held in both the spring and fall, is broken into three segments that teach girls about: values, community involvement and self-esteem, including gossiping, bullying, peer pressure and body image.

During the program, girls also learn about living a healthy lifestyle and train to compete in the run by working together to build confidence, skills and friendship.

Girls are in third through fifth grades. Another program called Girls on Track is designed for girls in sixth through eighth grades.

For Melissa Danielsson, who coaches a group of 15 girls from Brookwood Elementary, the program has made a noticeable difference in her own daughter, Emily.

“She said the most important thing with Girls on the Run was making new friends,” Danielsson said. “For me, [it was] seeing the growth of the girls, the increase in their self-esteem, their self-respect and their physical development.

“The lessons that it brings, besides running, are very important, especially in this day and age.”

Danielsson’s group is made up of third- and fourth-graders. She said the older girls take care of the younger ones. If a girl trips or falls, there is always someone to help pick them up.

“They’ve done such a great job of inspiring them,” she said. “I’ve seen such leaders emerge out of this group. I am just so impressed with the great group of girls we have.”

Brugnoli, who founded the nonprofit organization some three years ago, said her daughter went through the program. It changed not only her but the whole family.

The organization’s first run in May 2007 drew about 50 participants. This year, she’s expecting nearly 600, including family and community members.

“It’s always very humbling at how many girls are being affected and how many families,” she said. “We’re so honored that not only are we changing the lives of these young girls and the way they see themselves, but we’re also changing the community ... and the way they respond to these young girls.

“It’s overwhelming. I couldn’t be more thrilled.”