About GOTR

Who We Are

Welcome to Girls on the Run! – a life-changing, non-profit program for girls in the 3rd through 8th grade. Our mission is to inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running.

The 24-lesson Girls on the Run curriculum combines training for a 5K (3.1 miles) running event with lessons that inspire girls to become independent thinkers, enhance their problem solving skills and make healthy decisions. All of this is accomplished through an active collaboration with girls and their parents, schools, volunteers, staff, and the community.

Girls on the Run is an Independent Council of Girls on the Run International, which has a network of 200+ locations across the United States and Canada.

Girls on the Run® is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to creating a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams.

Meeting twice a week in small teams of 8-15 girls, we teach life skills through dynamic, conversation-based lessons and running games. The 24-lesson curriculum is taught by certified Girls on the Run coaches and includes three parts: understanding ourselves, valuing relationships and teamwork and understanding how we connect with and shape the world at large.

Running is used to inspire and motivate girls, encourage lifelong health and fitness, and build confidence through accomplishment. At each season’s conclusion, the girls and their running buddies, complete a 5k running event. Completing a 5k gives the girls a tangible sense of achievement as well as a framework for setting and achieving life goals. The result—making the seemingly impossible, possible and teaching girls that they can.

Our People

Sue Gifford, Council Director

(231) 759-7909 ext. 256

Email Sue


We inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running.


We envision a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams.

Our Core Values

Girls on the Run honors its core values. We strive to:

  • Recognize our power and responsibility to be intentional in our decision making
  • Embrace our differences and find strength in our connectedness
  • Express joy, optimism and gratitude through our words, thoughts and actions
  • Nurture our physical, emotional and spiritual health
  • Lead with an open heart and assume positive intent
  • Stand up for ourselves and others

Our History

How Girls on the Run Began

Girls on the Run® was established in 1996 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Girls on the Run® curricula, the heart of the program, provides pre-adolescent girls with the necessary tools to embrace their individual strengths and successfully navigate life experiences. The earliest version of the 24­ lesson curriculum was piloted in 1996 with the help of thirteen brave girls. Twenty-six girls came the next season, then seventy-five. In 2000, Girls on the Run International, a 501c3 organization was born.

With the help of over 55,000 volunteers, the Girls on the Run program is now serving over 130,000 girls in 200+ cities across North America each year. In 2012, Girls on the Run hosted 253 end-of-season 5k events across the United States and Canada. Girls on the Run has been featured in many media outlets including People, Runner’s World, Redbook, Women’s Day, O Magazine, Fitness Magazine, Self Magazine, Glamour, Shape, Marie Claire, Parenting, Running Times, CNN, MSNBC, ABC News, NBC News, NPR and ESPN.

The true success of the program, however, is not told in the numbers, but rather in the words of the girls who participate. “Girls on the Run made me realize that I am the boss of my brain.” “I know that whatever I set my mind to do, I can do.” “At Girls on the Run I learned how to be comfortable in my own skin!”

That is success.

Girls on the Run FAQs

What does Girls on the Run do?

One girl put it this way, “I learned that I am the boss of my brain.” Helping girls take charge of their lives and define the future on their terms. You can also think of it as Can University—a place where girls learn that they can. No limits. No constraints. Only opportunities to be remarkable.

How do we play a role in our girls’ lives?

Lots of ways, but we start with helping the girls get a better understanding of who they are and what’s important to them. Then we look at the role of teams and healthy relationships. And, finally, we explore how girls can positively connect with and shape the world. And remember, we believe that life-changing experiences can be fun too—for everyone—the girls, coaches, families and other volunteers. So don’t be surprised when you hear laughter along with self-reflection and see beaming smiles across the beautiful, confident faces of our girls.

Academic Evaluations

Girls on the Run International has evaluated program efficacy since 2002 when Rita Debate, Ph.D., MPH, CHES, developed a formal evaluation tool entitled “Girls on the Run: An Assessment of Self-Esteem, Body Image and Eating Attitudes.” Several preliminary descriptive and quasi-experimental studies have been conducted since that time – specific information and findings are included below.

2011 Academic Evaluation
2007 Academic Evaluation
2006 Academic Evaluation
2005 Academic Evaluation
2002 Academic Evaluation

Phase I: Pilot Study

A pilot assessment of Girls on the Run was implemented in 2002 using a one group pre-post-test design.[1]Girls on the Run program participants from 28 program sites (n=322) in 5 geographic areas representing a range of metropolitan areas and SES were assessed. A self-report survey including the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale[2], the child/adolescent version of the Silhouette Ratings Scale[3], and an adapted version of the Children’s Eating Attitudes Test (ChEAT)[4] was used to assess self-esteem, body size satisfaction, and eating attitudes and behaviors.  Pre- to post-test improvements were significant (p<.05) for self-esteem, eating attitudes and behaviors, and body size satisfaction.

Phase II: Preliminary Study

Building upon the pilot study, a more expansive study was implemented in2005 using a convenience sample of 20 councils representing four geographic areas using a non-experimental, single-group pre-post- intervention design of Girls on the Run and Girls on Track (n=1034).[5, 6] Participants completed a self-report survey including the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale[2] to assess global self-esteem, the child/adolescent version of the Schematic Figural Scale[3] to assess body image, one question from the 2005 Youth Risk Behavior Survey[7] to assess vigorous physical activity frequency, and an adapted version of the Commitment to Physical Activity Scale (CPAS).[8] Statistically significant pre-post improvements (p>.01) occurred for self-esteem, body size satisfaction, and vigorous physical activity frequency within the last week.[9] An increase in overall commitment to PA also occurred as well as a decrease in negative attitudes towards PA. Both before and after the intervention, vigorous PA frequency was significantly correlated to PA commitment (p<0.01).[8]

When stratified by number of times participating in the program, first time participants saw significant (p<.01) gains in self-esteem, body size satisfaction, commitment to physical activity, and PA frequency. Similarly, second time participants had significant increases in self-esteem, body size satisfaction, and PA frequency. Girls who participated in the program three or more times did not show any significant changes from pre- to post-intervention.[9] When stratified by age (≤10 years old; >11 years) both groups had statistically significant pre- to post-intervention differences (p<.01) in self-esteem, body size satisfaction, and PA frequency. Older girls also had increased commitment to PA.[9] Results indicated two key findings. First, participation in the Girls on the Run and Girls on Track programs observed increases in commitment to be physically active; this is particularly important because commitment is an important determinant of long-term physical activity maintenance.[10-12]Second, findings indicated age-related differences in physical activity commitment scores. More specifically, pre-intervention commitment scores were lower among older girls compared to those ≤10 years of age. However, physical activity commitment scores significantly increased from pre- to post- intervention in 11-15 year old girls. These results are valuable as physical activity declines in girls occur as early as late elementary school. Results from this study were presented at the annual meetings for the American Public Health Association, Eating Disorders Research Society, Society for Behavioral Medicine, and the American Academy of Health Behavior.

Phase III:

Quasi-experimental study. A longitudinal quasi-experimental study was implemented in 2009 to evaluate Girls on the Run intervention effects among 877 participants categorized into one of three groups (never, newly, and previously exposed to the intervention). A 64-item self-report survey measured participant psychological and physical assets at three time-points. Nested random effects ANOVA models were used to compare demographic factors and psychological and physical assets between exposure groups and to compare longitudinal differences in these developmental assets. After adjustment for multiple comparisons, previous program participants had significantly higher physical activity commitment (p<.01) and physical activity levels (p<.05) at pre-intervention than never exposed. From pre- to post-intervention body image improved in never and newly exposed participants, which persisted through follow-up in the comparison group. Physical activity increased from pre-intervention to follow-up among never and newly exposed participants (all p<.05).

Phase IV:

Longitudinal study. Drs. Maureen Weiss and Rita DeBate are in the process of developing a rigorous and longitudinal study design to determine the effectiveness of Girls on the Run having a significant positive effect on positive youth development outcomes, including physical (activity frequency, intensity, duration), psychological (e.g., body image, self-esteem, intrinsic motivation), and social assets (e.g., positive adult and peer relationships, resistance to peer pressure to engage in risky behaviors) and health promoting behaviors and outcomes.

DeBate, R.D. and S.H. Thompson, Girls on the Run: Improvements in self-esteem, body size satisfaction and eating attitudes/behaviors. Eating and Weight Disorders, 2005. 10: p. 25-32.

Wylie, R., Rosenberg self-esteem scale (RSE). Measures of self-concept.1989, University of Nebraska Press: Lincoln. p. 24-35.

Collins, M., Body figure perceptions and preferences among preadolescent children. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 1991. 10: p. 199-208.

Maloney, M., J. McGuire, and S. Daniels, Reliability testing of a children’s version  of the Eating Attitudes Test. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 1988. 27: p. 541-543.

DeBate, R.D., Y. Zhang, and S.H. Thompson, Changes in commitment to PA among 8-to11-year-old girls participating in a curriculum-based running program. American Journal of Health Education, 2007.38(5): p. 277-284.

DeBate, R.D., et al., Changes in psychosocial factors and physical activity frequency among 3rd to 8th grade girls who participated in a developmentally focused youth sport program: A preliminary study.Journal of School Health, 2009. 79(10): p. 474-484.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System 2007.  2007  [cited 2009; Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/yrbs/index.htm.

DeBate, R.D., J. Huberty, and K. Pettee, Pyschometric properties of the commitment to physical activity scale. American Journal of Health Behavior, 2009. 33(4): p. 425-434.

DeBate, R.D., et al., Changes in psychosocial factors and physical activity frequency among 3rd to 8th grade girls who participated in a developmentally focused youth sport program: A preliminary study.Journal of School Health, 2009: p. Submitted, 7/31/08.

Burke, P. and D. Reitzes, An identify theory approach to commitment.Soc Psychol Q, 1991. 54(30): p. 239-251.

Corbin, C., et al., Commitment to physical activity. Int J Sport Psychol, 1987. 18: p. 215-222.

Martin, K. and H. Hausenblaus, Psychological commitment to exercise and eating disorder symptomology among female aerobic instructors.Sport Psychology, 1998. 12: p. 180-190.

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