Being a GOTR SoleMate
Have you ever considered participating in an athletic race to raise money for a good cause? Here At Girls on the Run, we offer you the chance to do just that through our SoleMate program! Individuals dedicate their miles to the Girls on the Run St. Louis scholarship fund by signing up to be a SoleMate and reaching a fundraising minimum. They pick the race, distance and training schedule and we provide the network of support needed to make their fundraising a success. Hear about the experience firsthand from SoleMate Natalie Kaczmarczyk!
How did you first get involved with Girls on the Run St. Louis?
When I first moved to St. Louis from Chicago 6 years ago, I really leaned on fitness to help me adjust and to meet new people. I picked up running in college and always loved it as a means to de-stress, escape and explore new places. As I worked my 9-5 job, came home, exercised and repeated that over and over, I decided I needed something more and to DO something more for my new community. I started researching non-profits and discovered GOTR. The mission resonated with my own personal message, and I decided I needed to help in any way that I could. That's when I decided to support GOTR by running races.
What races have you participated in as a GOTR-STL SoleMate?
I ran the 2016 GO! St. Louis Halloween Half Marathon and the 2018 Chicago Marathon for Girls on the Run.
Tell us about your SoleMate experience(s).
Being a SoleMate the past 2 years has been an incredibly rewarding experience. When you sign up, not only do you gain the motivation to run for girls everywhere, but you gain a team cheering and supporting you the whole way through. Marathon training is a job in itself and the GOTR team makes sure to help you throughout the process by offering fundraising ideas, training plans, and an entire organization of coaches, volunteers and girls cheering you on. I was unable to become a coach because of work hours, so I love that GOTR offers a way to still be involved even if you aren't able to work with the girls directly.
How do you think being a SoleMate affected your training/race day experience?
As someone who has struggled with body image and confidence, the GOTR mission, of empowering girls for a lifetime of healthy living, has always struck a chord with me. Growing up I constantly felt like I wasn't good enough or strong enough to accomplish big things. In my 20s I started to realize that if I wanted to accomplish something epic, I needed to think of myself as that. I needed to believe that being strong was good, being athletic was good and most of all, being ME was good. On days where it was hard to run, or when I felt my message wasn't being heard, I would think of my adolescent self and all the girls who are in need right now of messages that they are good enough to accomplish whatever it is they want to achieve in life. I would think of the girls picking apart their body in the mirror because someone told them it wasn't pretty enough. I would think of all the strong females who have broken barriers for all other females and reassured them that they don't need permission to be bold. With every training run, I was held accountable to running for something greater than myself.
I definitely was not perfect with my training. As a fitness & cycling trainer, it was hard to get runs outside of the classes I taught and at one point, I thought I might not race. Again, after posting my commitment on social media and remembering the bigger picture and mission of GOTR, that sense of accountability and support was instilled in me. Race day was magical in the sense that everything came together - the training, the hard work, the community. The Chicago SoleMates, all had a meeting point to prep for the race & celebrate post-race. It was amazing getting to meet so many men and women running as part of Team GOTR, and to see so many crushing their goals during the race. Crossing that finish line as a representative of all the girls working hard on their own goals with their coaches and teammates during the GOTR season was reward enough for me!
What would you say to someone considering being a GOTR-STL SoleMate?
DO IT! As a girl who struggled with self-esteem from a young age, I truly believe I would have benefitted tremendously from a program like this. I believe that organized sports, fitness and running are so pivotal in teaching girls confidence, how to live a healthy, active lifestyle and to feel good about being strong. Girls on the Run inspires all of these things, so raising funds for Girls on the Run while training was a no-brainer for me.
Fundraising can be intimidating, but when speaking openly & from the heart, it makes it easier to ask friends and family for support. As a cycling instructor at Cyclebar, my platform allowed me to raise funds in my community and classes by hosting a Cyclegiving ride dedicated to GOTR. Riders were glad to pay a little extra for their bike & workout to support the cause. GOTR also provides you with an online platform you can share with those via email & social media to make donations quick and simple. Reminding my community that I was dedicated to training and being a voice of acceptance for not only women, but young women everywhere, helped inspire donations from all over.
If you feel called and want to help support this growth and empowerment of young girls, I would 100% suggest training for an athletic event as a SoleMate! You don't have to run the longest distance, but instead choose something that simply gets you outside your comfort zone. Every bit helps, every bit is a step forward.
Express an interest in becoming a SoleMate by filling out our SoleMate Interest Form today!