It's been a long road for the Girls on the Run program, with participants across the area finishing up a 12-week after-school program. This Saturday, at Sugarhouse Park, program participants from across the state will meet up for a 5K run.
Park City-area programs are based at McPolin, Parley's Park, Jeremy Ranch and Weilenmann schools. Girls on the Run teaches girls in grades 3-5 to be joyful, confident and happy through a running curriculum. Girls on Track is a similar program for girls in grades 6-8.
On Saturday, the nearly 1,000 girls in the program across the state of Utah will participate in a 5K along with their running buddies. The race is also open to the public for anyone who wants to support the girls.
Girls on the Run board member and program ambassador Lydia Kluge said she's expecting a huge turnout for Saturday's race.
"We've got about a thousand girls registered across Utah at 70 different sites," she said. "We're expecting 2,500 people coming."
Though the running level of each girl is different, Kluge said it's a great day for everyone involved.
"Some of them can do 5K pretty easily," she said. "For the others, even if they're skipping or hopping or jumping, we just encourage them to keep moving forward and finish the race. It's a fun day."
The race begins at 9 a.m., but there are several pre-race activities for the girls.
"Lunatic Fringe Hair Station will be doing the girls' hair," Kluge said. "They call it getting their hair 'happied.' The girls will be dancing with School of Rock to get warmed up and Body Wise will be helping with stretches and other warm ups."
Kluge added that completing the 12-week program by running the 5K is a big step for many of the girls.
"The atmosphere of the race is wonderful," she said. "A lot of the girls have never run this far before. They wear race numbers on their shirts and everyone has the number 1. It's wonderful seeing the smiles on the girls' faces and their positive energy."
The positive energy is one of the key components of the program, which is about much more than just running.
"It's about arming these girls with skills that help them with things they're going through at their age," she said. "They'll cover stuff like healthy eating, taking care of themselves, how to build healthy friendship groups and also how to stand up for themselves. The nice thing is there's a group of girls at each school, so they can work together to reinforce positive behavior."
The Girls on Track program from Weilenmann recently hosted a practice 5K at Willow Creek Park in Park City to help prepare for the race.
"It was good," Kluge said. "Each of the teams do a practice before the real run just to get the girls comfortable with the distance. It was a lovely day for it they just did a couple laps around Willow Creek Park."
Kluge encourages people who aren't associated with the program to come out and see what Girls on the Run is all about and have fun with everyone involved in Saturday's real race.
"We'd love to see people come along to the race on Saturday and join in on the fun," she said. "The more people that come help us grow the program."
Registration for Saturday's 5K is $25 until Thursday. Race-day registration is also available, beginning at 7 a.m., for $30. Visit girlsontherunutah.org for more information.
Girls on the Run 5K
When: Saturday, May 31, at 9 a.m.
Where: Sugarhouse Park Big Pavillion
Cost: $25 before May 29, $30 on race day