The ninth annual Run Like a Girl race was held Saturday, Oct. 1, at Fairhaven Park with attendance higher than ever.
By 9 a.m., 350 participants had gathered at the starting line ready to support Girls on the Run, a non-profit organization that seeks to empower young girls. Funds raised by the race went to support the organization.
Cyndi Meuchel is the original founder of Run Like a Girl.
“It’s 99 percent women,” Meuchel said. “We do have a few token males. They are usually there supporting a girlfriend, sister or a mom.”
A pre-race dinner, held on Friday night, started the weekend off with an opportunity for the runners to get together to celebrate the event and talk about Girls on the Run.
During the race, participants could pick between finishing a half-marathon or 10-kilometer route. The course was set up with eight differently themed rest stops, including a chocolate mile and a princess mile.
Jo-Ann Hanrahan and Sheilia McCrea travelled from Victoria, B.C. to participate in the event.
“Anything that supports women; we are definitely a part of that,” McCrea said. “On top of that, we are walkers, so we are always interested in promoting races for walkers too.”
“It’s 99 percent women. We do have a few token males. They are usually there supporting a girlfriend, sister or a mom.”
Cyndi Meuchel, original founder of Run Like a Girl
With a highly inclusive event like this, encouragement and positive reinforcement helps to get people to come. There is no stopwatch. Run like a Girl is about people going out, getting exercise, helping people and having fun, Meuchel said.
“We don’t care how far you go or how fast and fit you are,” Meuchel said, “We don’t judge. You do what you can.”
Kendra Smetana is a Run like a Girl veteran. She has participated in all nine of the races.
“I’ve done it solo every year,” Smetana said. “It’s one of those things where they always make you feel comfortable enough to where you can do it by yourself and not feel awkward. That keeps me coming back.”
Each runner received a Run like a Girl shirt that was bright pink to support breast cancer awareness.
Meuchel founded the event to get herself healthier and to help support young girls. Through the years, the only thing that has changed has been the numbers, Meuchel said.
“That comradery and the ‘funness’ of it, the activities we do, and the wholesome kind of entertainment that we have is all still there,” Meuchel said.
At the finish line, all participants received an end-of-race-prize, and in lieu of a medal, participants were given a necklace created by a local Bellingham artist, handed to them by members of the Bellingham Fire Department.
The energy and atmosphere from the runners is what keeps Run like a Girl alive. The age of the runners ranges from 16 to 85. The event is for whoever wants to get involved.
“They come wearing crazy costumes, they’re willing to just to have blind faith in us and go for it,” Meuchel said. “It just warms my heart. All in an effort to support these young girls.”