The Hippo


Apr 26, 2019








 Five favorites

Favorite Book: The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Favorite Movie: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Favorite Musician: Bruce Springsteen
Favorite Food: Almonds 
Favorite thing about NH: The mountains and the ocean

Running girls
Finding empowerment through Girls on the Run

By Ryan Lessard

 For eight years, Jennifer Hubbell has been the executive director of Girls on the Run New Hampshire, which has been around nationally since 1996 and began in New Hampshire in 2001. It’s run through elementary schools throughout the state, and this is the first year it will be offering a similar program for middle-school girls.

What are the main goals of the Girls on the Run program?
Girls on the Run is an outdoor school running program for young girls, teaching them to be leaders of their lives. It’s curriculum-based, and the girls train for a 5K running event for 10 weeks while learning these lifelong lessons on how to be the best girls they can be. We actually have two groups of girls that run. Girls on the Run is third, fourth and fifth grade. And then the sixth-, seventh-, eighth-grade middle-school, curriculum — brand new this season — is called Heart and Sole.
Is the curriculum different for older girls?
Exactly. Girls mature ... over the course of many years. So to have a different curriculum for the older group makes a ton of sense. It had been just rewritten this past year. So, Heart and Sole, we’re really excited about.
How is the running and curriculum split?
It’s intertwined, the entire 90-minute lesson. There’s a whole process to every single day. It’s the same routine, where they’re getting on board, learning about the lesson of the day and every lesson and every activity in the lesson incorporates some kind of movement so that the girls are running and learning. They’re not running for 90 minutes straight but processing the things they’re talking about, the lesson of the day.
What’s your experience with running?
I started running my sophomore year in high school and continued into college for two years. I ran for the University of Vermont and high jumped. It’s just a daily part of my life, like coffee.

What benefits have you gained from running that you hope young girls will get?
Just listening to yourself and knowing that every step truly is just for you. It’s a stress reliever. Of course, it’s exercise, but there’s so much more to it than just that cardiovascular piece. ... I’ll drive to work in the morning and I’ll see the people running on the street and I’ll think, ‘I didn’t invent running but I’m so proud of every single person who’s out there.’ I can’t imagine not being able to.
How has the program evolved over the years?
My first season, fall 2007, 58 girls participated. This past spring 2015, we had 1,034 girls participate. So we’ve grown incredibly over the past eight years. And I also now have three part-time staff working with me, which allows for even better customer service and attention to all the different activities that are associated with this office.
How does the non-running portion work?
There are three different categories of the curriculum book. The first set of lessons deals with girls really getting to know about themselves, their own identity. The second set of lessons deals with being part of their team. There’s only 15 girls allowed per team, so that girl and 14 others, the second set of lessons deals with getting to know their team members. And then the last set of lessons deals with the community at large. They realize that there’s a bigger world out there, and how can they affect it and make a difference?
Can you remember any specific girls who were transformed by the program?
There was one girl who came up to me when I did a site visit and she said, ‘I just want you to know that I’m not a girl on the run. I’m a girl on the walk.’ And I kind of laughed with her and said, ‘Even as a girl on the walk, I’ll be at that finish line at the 5K celebration with your finisher medal.’ And she said, ‘I get a medal even though I don’t run?’ And I said, ‘Of course you do. You’ve done 10 weeks of training and learning things to be a better you.’ So I remember seeing that girl at the finish line and … I was able to recognize her and … I was like ‘Run! Run, to me!’ She actually ran that final piece to the finish line, which was pretty cool to see that. … There are magical stories about girls with autism, [and] a girl who is legally blind and crossed the finish line. Every single girl is a success. 
— Ryan Lessard 

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