After a Maryland girls empowerment organization was forced to cancel its season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it took steps to switch over to a digital format.
Girls on the Run is a nationwide nonprofit that uses running to help empower girls in grades three through eight and uses running to help teach them about accomplishing their goals. It operates as an after-school program that runs over 10 weeks to teach girls social and emotional skills.
The local affiliate Girls on the Run of Central Maryland, which serves Carroll and Howard counties, planned to hold its spring kickoff with a 5K in March, but had to cancel because gatherings of 10 or more people had been banned at that point, as part of Maryland’s steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
So instead, the organization decided to try and make up for it with a “virtual” 5K.
“We’ve sort of changed we’ve changed our 5K to a virtual 5K and, of course, we had to cancel the entire season, but we wanted to still have an opportunity for girls and their families to do something fun together this spring,” said Jessamine Duvall, Girls on the Run of Central Maryland executive director. “So we’ve created this virtual 5K just as something fun to do.”
As part of the virtual version, the organization’s 5K has a entry fee of $15, which will be discounted for anyone that was registered for their spring season, and allows participants to choose their form of physical activity if they don’t want to run.
“You decide where you want to run, and if you don’t want to run, you don’t have to, you can pick another goal,” Duvall said. “We have some physical activity cards that we can share with you to complete, you could set really any goal you want. On the weekend of May 30 and 31, you’re going to set your mind and accomplish that goal, whether it’s running a mile or walking the 5K or completing the physical activity card.”
As part of its digital efforts, the organization has also developed Girls on the Run at Home, which provides registered families with on-demand video lessons twice weekly that girls can complete independently or with their families. Registered families received the lessons even if they were given a refund for the canceled season, according to the release.
Participants will share their experiences either on Facebook or Instagram, and will receive a medal and a Girls on the Run 5K T-shirt in the mail. They will also receive a certificate to print out at home. For those who want to train for the 5K, the organization will also send participants a training guide.
The $15 entry fee covers the cost of the postage for the medals and the T-shirts, according to Duvall.
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“That’s why we’re keeping it low because you’re seeing more and more of these virtual 5Ks now that all the races have been canceled,” Duvall said. “They’re charging a typical 5K cost of $25, $30, whatever it is, but we made ours really cheap with the goal of just offering an activity for people to do, something to look forward to, something to train for and it’s not really a moneymaker for us it’s just a way to stay connected.”