A girl on the run


Amanda Walton teaches girls life skills through running

When Hilton Head Island resident Amanda Walton laces up her running shoes and hits the pavement with a group of area girls, she’s doing more than taking those girls for a run. She’s teaching them about friendship, self-worth, body image and a lot more.

As co-president of the Beaufort County chapter of Girls on the Run, Walton encourages physical activity while helping area students build character. The group gets together a couple of times a week to run and talk about issues influencing young girls today. At the end of the 10- to 12-week program, the group runs (or walks) a 5K race together.

“It’s really a great program,” Walton said. “To see the girls bond and form this sense of camaraderie is really special.”

Girls on the Run is a national program that focuses on girls in third through eighth grades. It teaches girls the importance of a healthy, active lifestyle and life skills through running games and other activities. It’s a unique program that Walton said helps students cope with the challenges they face every day.

“A lot of people don’t realize how much bullying goes on, and how much pressure young girls are facing,” Walton said. “This program is all about helping others grow while teaching the girls how to help themselves.”

The organization’s mission also hits home for Walton, who hopes her young daughter develops some of the strength and character Walton is teaching to others.

“I want my daughter to be a strong, confident woman,” Walton said. “It’s hard to be kind sometimes, especially for young kids and especially when they’re jealous or feeling left out. I want my daughter to help build up other women.”

Those are lessons that Walton said don’t come easy for young girls. It takes some serious work, often taught while training for and completing the program’s 5K finale.

“We don’t really expect the girls to run the whole 5K with so little training, but to our surprise, they did,” Walton said, “Over the length of the program, the girls built confidence. When they finished the 5K, they were ecstatic. They were on cloud nine. And they were encouraging other girls. It was awesome.”

Walton said the program also gives area students the chance to stretch their legs and learn about healthy habits, lessons they often share with the rest of their families.

“The girls have been sitting in school all day long, and they’re ready to get out and run,” Walton said. “And it’s a great bonding time for kids and their parents. Sometimes moms and dads will come out and get active with their kids, and their girls are the ones cheering them on.”

Though this was her first semester as a Girls on the Run coach, Walton said she has no intention of hanging up her running shoes.

“I used to play soccer, but after I had my baby I got out of the habit of working out,” she said. “I decided one day I would go for a run, and four years later, I’m still running.”