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Girls on the Run goes virtual to empower girls

Usually, the Girls on the Run program ends with a fun 5k, but this year because of the pandemic, the 5k has gone virtual.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Girls all over the country, and right here in the Portland metro area, have found empowerment through the nonprofit Girls on the Run. It's all about building confidence and character.

Girl power is front and center for the nonprofit Girls on the Run.

It’s a national organization that uses running and other physical activity to help girls develop key life skills. There’s a local chapter in the Portland metro area that typically serves girls in 3rd-8th grades after school.

Zuzana Pleva is 12 years old. She said she gained confidence going through the 10-week program.

“In middle school, everything’s kind of changing. Your body’s changing, your life’s changing and Girls on the Run is really stable,” said Zuzana.

The girls get support from coaches as they train to run a 5k. They also form meaningful friendships.

“This past year we had 1,361 girls registered in 100 teams across the Portland metro region,” said Mavia Haight, Executive Director of Girls on the Run in the Portland metro area.

“We encourage girls. It’s not about competition. It’s about just pushing themselves,” she said.

Credit: Deborah Pleva

That’s what girls across the area will be doing for the virtual 5k on Sunday. Starting at 9 a.m., girls all over the Portland area will be getting ready and anyone can join in.

The 5K usually ends the program, but this year, due to the pandemic, it has gone virtual.

“We’ve opened it up to the broader community. It is free for anyone but there is an opportunity to make a donation for anyone who wants to support our mission that way,” said Haight.

The money will help make sure all girls can be involved if they want.

“We have never, never said no to a family because of their inability to pay,” Haight said.

She said all you have to do is register on the Girls on the Run website for the Portland area. Participants can print off a bib and you’re good to go.  Haight said you don’t even have to run. You can walk or just move any way you can.

Meantime, Zuzana is ready.

Credit: Deborah Pleva
Zuzana during her training last year

“I’ve gone on a couple training runs to get ready for the big day,” she said.

She knows accomplishing her goal will feel good because she ran the 5k last year and crossed the finish line.

“It was one of the best moments of my life because I felt like I had achieved something,” said Zuzana.

She has a message for girls everywhere.

“Stay confident, believe in yourself, and you got this,” Zuzana said.