Girls take to the run Saturday | SteamboatToday.com

Girls take to the run Saturday

— They wore T-shirts they'd painted, and they wore pink capes, draped across their shoulders and flapping in the breeze as they ran, and they wore tutus … so many tutus, pink and orange and blue and some of the rainbow variety.

None ran alone, instead tagging along with parents and teachers or holding hands with friends and classmates as they trod the 3.1 miles, one massive train composed of hundreds of smaller groups, collectively making up the annual Girls on the Run event that once again swept across the roads in Strawberry Park.

More than 600 girls — some local and some who woke up long before the sun to make it to Steamboat — ran, and they loved every second of it.

"It was fun. I didn't stop at all. I just kept running," Basalt runner Willow Bower said. "I started walking a little last year, but this year, I didn't stop."

The Girls on the Run event, a 5-kilometer, non-competitive run starting and ending at the Strawberry Park elementary and middle school complex in Steamboat Springs, returned Saturday to cap a girls empowerment program that's been implemented into schools across the region.

The mission is to "allow every girl to recognize her inner strength,” to "inspire girls to define their lives on their own terms," to make new friends and build confidence.

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Those messages sank in with this year's runners through the course of nearly three months of work in an after-school program. There, they learned a handful of lessons.

"You learn to shine your star power and not let the clouds come in," North Routt fourth grader Josie Meyring said. "It means being true to yourself; shine bright, be nice and have fun."

That was one lesson.

Another was how to tackle the 5K run in Steamboat.

The race has been bigger. In previous years, more than 1,000 girls showed up, supported then as they were this year by teachers and coaches, moms and dads, brothers and sisters.

The larger organization added more Colorado locations for this year, however, including one in Frisco. Still, Saturday's runners represented a wide swatch of children from the region.

There were runners from Steamboat's two elementary schools, of course, North Routt and South Routt and as far away as Basalt.

The runners worked for this, building up their strength in the twice-weekly classes, and many gave it a dry run leading up to Saturday.

"I thought it was going to be a lot harder, because our course is rockier and muddier," North Routter Charley Lodwick said.

Some stopped to help friends, while other walked to catch their breath, but many ran every foot of the course. Members of the Steamboat Springs High School cross country team manned the course and offered advice as the field chugged up a hill near the finish. Hundreds of friends and family then lined that finish, a downhill stretch into the school the girls often met with a sprint and where they were met Saturday with cheering and applause.

"It's not as much about the running as it is the learning to be a good sport," said Heather Anthes, a parent who accompanied the Basalt contingent.

She ran with her daughter, Taylor, who is nine years old.

"Taylor stopped a few times to help teammates, to walk with them. It's not about winning. It's about being with your friends and enjoying them," she said. "It's about being yourself, and letting that shine. They really enjoyed it."

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9