If you ask new mom Rhonda Fields about her experience as a runner, she will laugh as she admits that she is retired from the sport. “I am a retired runner, and I say that because I ran one 10K and I said ‘That was it.’ When I gave birth, one of my goals was to run a 10K. So I ran a 10K in September, crossed the finish line, and have not run since.”
That might seem like a shocking confession for Fields, who is the Executive Director of Girls on the Run of Southeast Michigan. But the wife (husband Mychael) and mother (daughter Sydney, age 10 months) is confident that she is completely qualified for the position.
“That’s the beauty of Girls on the Run! You do not have to be a runner to be a coach. A lot of our coaches have never run a 5K. Girls on the Run is more than a running program.”
Meeting girls’ needs, where they are
Fields was a University of Michigan student in 2011, studying for a master’s degree in social work when she first began working with Girls on the Run, an international program that helps girls in third through eighth grade develop skills to lead healthy lives, both physically and emotionally. It was Fields’ study of social work that exposed her to the many challenges that girls face today.
“I just kept wondering, what can we do to be more proactive?” she said. When the opportunity came in 2014 to become the executive director of Girls on the Run of Southeast Michigan, Fields jumped at the chance. Last year, 1750 girls enrolled in the spring program, and 250 girls enrolled in the fall. GOTR currently serves five counties and nearly one hundred schools.
“The program is ten weeks. We have these amazing volunteer coaches who go in and teach the girls about healthy eating, body habits, how girls are portrayed in the media…really building them up. It starts with girls learning about who they are, then it expands to who they are within the team, and then it expands from there to who they are in the community.”
The character-building lessons culminate in a 5K race, which is part fundraiser and part community event, with over 5000 in attendance. This spring, the event will be held at Washtenaw Community College on May 17.
Keeping girls involved in sports
Interested participants can register online now for the ten week March to May spring 2020 program. Registration typically costs $165, but scholarships are available. Fields hopes that the non-competitive environment of GOTR can foster a lifelong love of active, healthy living. “I love GOTR because we get that joy back to them with sports. It’s one step at a time. Our tag line at the 5K is ‘You can run, walk, skip or jump through the finish line. Whatever you do to get across.’”
Get to know Rhonda Fields
What’s on your playlist? Gospel, R&B, Pop…anything I can bop my head to.
Best place to buy running gear? Ann Arbor Running Company and Ypsilanti Running Company. They’ve been huge sponsors of our program.
Favorite local café? Beezy’s Café in Ypsilanti or Brewed Awakenings in Saline.
Local food cravings? Ma Lou’s in Ypsilanti.
Favorite place to take (her daughter): Sydney.
Visit girlsontherunsemi.org for more information.