The Girls on the Run St. Louis 5k is one of our favorite days at the office! We get to see the amazing GOTR participants and their families and celebrate their accomplishments as they cross the finish line. We hear so many incredible stories about perseverance, dedication, and challenges along the way and we see the joy on everyone's face as participants complete the race. One of the many stories that captivated our hearts this season was that of James Joyce, an Assistant Coach at Crestwood Elementary, and his daughter, Maura.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am a graduate of DuBourg High School and work as a physical therapist assistant with geriatric patients. I love my job and the amazing machine known as the human body! I have 9 year old triplets; my daughters Maura, who has cerebral palsy, and Vivian, and my son Quinn.
Why did you choose to volunteer/get involved with GOTR-STL?
I have studied track and field and exercise physiology for long time and now, at the age of 50, after running triathlons, marathons, half marathons, and being a retired mountain climber (I climbed Mt. Mount Kilimanjaro in 2005), I am focused on joint preservation. I first learned about Girls on the Run at a half marathon expo many years ago and knew that I wanted to be involved. I signed up to be an Assistant Coach not only to share what I know about running with the girls, but also to help Maura experience what she thought was out of reach. Maura has an amazing, indomitable spirit. I felt like the 5k was doable if we trained the right way and focused on the right things, I knew that we could cross the 5K finish line. I wanted the cheers to fall on her ears. She is such a bright, hardworking kid, and I wanted to show her that she can do all the things those other 9 year olds can do. I also knew that Vivian was going to soak up so much from the program and wanted both of my girls to participate. I needed to arm my girls with the whole package to become strong, hardworking, humble, and good communicators. I needed my girls to get that.
We had a good group of dedicated, kind coaches this season who were unified behind a common goal to help our girls finish a 5k. Along the way, we became better people and it means a lot to me to be a positive, male, adult role model.
What is our favorite memory from your volunteer experience?
Crossing the finish line with Maura. To be truly WITH HER. I’ve always dreamed of going on these runs with my kids.
What are your hopes for the future of Girls on the Run as an organization?
I really like the marriage of all good health, physically and mentally. I don't want girls to say “ I was never athletic.” Instead, I want them to say “I remember when I reeled in that big fish.” I don’t know why society would hold someone back because of gender. My hope is that GOTR continues to empower girls to become strong, hardworking, caring leaders!
The above photo was taken after James and Maura crossed the finish line of the Girls on the Run St. Louis Spring 5k on May 13, 2017. James explains below what this moment meant to he and Maura.
This was DIFFICULT for Maura. I mean how many 5K races will even let a little girl with Cerebral Palsy enter? I can say now that it's finished that my whole motivation for signing up to be an assistant coach was to share what I know about running with the girls, but really to help Maura experience what she thought was out of reach: to train for and complete a 5K run/walking. So many kids would take that for granted, but it was VERY CHALLENGING for Maura. I knew what she didn't; that we could make it if we persevered through the difficulties --just like life. It took a lot for me to find a way out of work early on Tuesdays and Fridays for 10 weeks. Finally the race day came. We finished the 5K dead last out of 4000 girls. But as we got about 500' away from the finish line, I became very emotional. Her legs hurt like anyone's would after covering that distance, but then she started running faster!! I was pumping my fists in the air. I must have looked like a fool, but I didn't care. It occurred to me that we were in rarefied air now. How extremely proud of her I was. Then they began taking photographs and that picture captured the totality of it all. Life is really good, you know? We are blessed, very lucky. Humbled. Grateful for all that we have.