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Girls Run the World

Aug 06, 2013

Jessica Velez, a volunteer with Girl Scouts Heart of the Hudson, is a runner who inspired her Girl Scout Junior troop to get active and healthy by running a half marathon (that’s 13 miles!). Here, in her own words and photos, she shares their story. Later, each girl received a personal letter of congratulations from our CEO, Anna Maria Chávez.

After I ran the Women Run the World Half Marathon, my Junior troop wanted to run a half marathon too. So we came up with a 13-mile route right in our town, and set a date. My group consists of 17 girls, ages 9 and 10—and of them, eight decided to run this half marathon.

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And we’re off!: The start of our half marathon. The day was hot and humid. With all the rain we’ve been getting, we found ourselves surrounded by mosquitoes. But the girls remained upbeat and excited by the challenge.

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Rain train: Around Mile 6, the skies opened up! And even as it rained down on us, the radar showed clear skies with only a 40 percent chance of showers later in the day. But the girls were still smiling and wanted to continue. They were singing and dancing. I’m not sure where they got all their energy!

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Hurrah!: This photo was taken about two miles from the finish. It had been steadily raining for several miles. The sky ahead was black, and weather warnings were coming over cell phones. With parents’ permissions, we decided to keep going. We couldn’t have gotten any wetter—and had no idea what the next mile was going to be like. If we had known, I think we all would have bailed. This photo was taken right after the girls decided that they were going to finish.

For Mile 12, we experienced flooding rains. Rain was coming down so hard that we couldn’t see. (I couldn’t even risk taking out my cell phone to snap a picture.) The girls were taking turns pulling one another through the floodwaters. They were practically able to water ski! This last mile would have challenged even a seasoned marathoner, yet the girls kept on. Parents were giving the girls the option of stopping, but they proved themselves to be made of some seriously tough stuff.

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The finish!: We were supposed to have a celebration meal at a nearby diner, but the last two miles proved to be too much for four of the girls and they went home for hot showers. My only regret, besides the weather, is that we didn’t have a strong photo-op finish with a big production made about awarding medals to the eight girls. It was raining so hard that parents were hiding out in the restaurant (with the medals) and girls were jumping into cars the minute they could. But you can see by the big smiles of the four in this picture that they had a positive experience. All eight finished the half marathon. It took us six and a half hours. I checked in with all of them since—and you can hear the pride in their voices as they talk about their experience. Later in the day my daughter, who was one of the runners, said, “Look at this cool medal. And you know what makes it so special? It’s mine!”