Wendie has been a “volunteer extraordinaire” for Girls on the Run sharing her energy, wackiness and dedication as a coach, a SoleMate, a race committee member, a training breakout session leader, a runner and a friend. In Wendie’s words:
I ran cross country and track in college and never considered myself a talented athlete, but every time I ran, I discovered that I felt strong, confident and at peace with the world when I was pushing the pace in a workout or a race. I was surrounded by folks who didn’t “get” what was so wonderful about running during a very tough time in my life in 2003. I decided to seek out a way to give back to the sport that has made such a difference for me. I remembered an article about Girls on the Run in Runners World magazine that my mom mailed to me and searched on the Internet to see if the program was in St. Louis. I connected with Jill Indovino (founder of the St. Louis Council) and ended up going to a coaches’ training with Molly Barker (the founder of Girls on the Run) soon after. I helped Jill coach at Captain Elementary, served on the race committee since the very first GOTR 5K, train new coaches, and became a head coach at Griffith Elementary in Ferguson-Florissant where I teach 5th and 6th grade band. Spending time around folks who love the challenge of running and coaching pulled me out of my funk and I am extremely grateful!
What is the most rewarding thing about Girls on the Run that both you’ve experienced and that you’ve seen for the girls you’ve coached?
There is nothing more inspirational than helping a young person realize that they are capable of doing something tough! I absolutely love running along side of my girls and coaxing them to smile across the finish line at their very first practice 5K. Once they do that they realize that they are ready for race day! Also, during practice, when we talk about the tough stuff in life that holds us all back, it is very rewarding to know that my runners feel safe sharing their thoughts and concerns with me and their teammates. I am helping them listen to and support each other with honesty, and that I am equipping them to face life’s challenges head on.
Molly Barker came to visit Griffith in April, and we were all very honored to have her there! She told such wonderful stories and inspired the girls with her energy and wisdom. She brings out the best in every person she meets and has a way of reminding us all that we are all moving forward perfectly on our own journey. I am so very grateful that my runners, my coaches and my principal got to meet her in person.
Why would you recommend others get involved with Girls on the Run?
Whether you are a coach or a person handing out water at the race or a 3rd grade girl who’s new to the sport, know that there is nothing better than being surrounded by a pack of confident female runners – young and old – who are celebrating that we can do anything we set our minds to! Get involved with Girls on the Run!
What are your hopes for the future of Girls on the Run at your school?
I hope that my Griffith Elementary Girls on the Run continue to make positive connections with new friends, celebrate their unique qualities, run with grace and confidence and tackle challenges way beyond their elementary school years! (I also want them to come back and help as a volunteer, buddy runner or coach!)
What’s your favorite Girls on the Run cheer?
My runners make up funny cheers all the time and the one that struck me as brilliant goes like this:
Awwwwwwsome, beautifulllllllll….. CHEER!”
(You had to be there to see their choreography and goofy smiles!)
Any favorite memories or stories you’d like to share?
I was extremely moved when a parent came up to me after practice with tears in her eyes thanking me for helping to instill confidence in her daughter. That moment was pretty powerful!
What else should we know about you?
In early 2010, that dark, looming, ominous 40th birthday was clouding my conscience. I wanted to commemorate the occasion somehow. I had been training with some very strong (and psycho) ultrarunners, so of course there was a lot of discussion about how they train for 100 (yes, ONE HUNDRED) mile races. I would just run along and shake my head at the craziness, but the idea of running 40 miles kept invading my thoughts. Can I run 40 miles to celebrate my 40th birthday? That sounds difficult and PAINFUL! I finally blurted out my idea to these ultrarunners and convinced me to sign up for the Flatlanders 12-hour Endurance Race in Fenton, MO on September 5, 2010, just a few days before my 40th birthday. The race works like this: the race official says “go” and starts the clock. The participants run 1.4 mile laps around Fenton City Park until the time is up. Whoever runs the farthest is the winner. Sounds a little crazy, doesn’t it? 29 laps = just over 40 miles. Isn’t it funny that as we age we say we’re celebrating our 29th birthday again? I had to run 29 laps! It seemed to be a perfect idea to try this race. I trained through the searing heat and oppressive humidity of the summer and worried that I had made a mistake taking on such a huge challenge. I ran with experienced runners and with new runners who all encouraged me. Many of them donated money to Girls on the Run, too, since I used this as my SoleMates race. The morning of the race, I stepped onto the starting line and said to myself, all I have to do is put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward, just like I tell my Girls on the Run. My wonderful husband (Dave), my coworkers (Sheila, Dawn, Laura) and my running friends (Sarah, Jill, Elyse, Jason and the rest of the SLUGS) all supported me during the day and I DID IT! I finished my 29th lap at around the 8 hour mark and I was ECSTATIC! I hugged and high-fived my supportive family and friends and sat down with my feet up for about an hour. As I was basking in the glow of my accomplishment, I kept eyeballing the other participants running laps because the race wasn’t over. I decided to get up and walk another two laps with Elyse (the SoleMates queen), then I started to think that my legs might still be capable of running! At the end of the 12 hours, I ended up with a grand total of 48.85 miles and all I could think was that I shouldn’t have sat on my butt for so long because I didn’t run 50 miles!
What I learned:
True friends support your crazy endeavors no matter what.
The human body and mind are capable of much more than we think!
Wendie’s favorite Molly Barker quote:
“Imagine what it would be like if you were free to express yourself. Imagine how it would feel and how you would show up to the world if you knew, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that you were brilliant, magnificent, strong, and beautiful, just as you are. Now, rather than imagine it, believe it…because you are. I am. We are. The only ‘thing’ between you and your own magnificence, beauty and potential is your believing that you must be, act and conform to a set of standards that are non-existent, imaginary, make-believe. The only thing between you and your highest self is you.”