Who would know that walking by a sample sale for a company I didn’t know a heck of a lot about could bring me to one of the most rewarding experiences of my life? I’ve been fortunate enough to not only be a part of, but to manage, the Skirt Sports Kick Start program. Right now we are in the final stages of our current Kick Start Program, the “Kick It Up a Notch 10k” (I just made that name up!). We have 11 women who previously entered our 5k Kick Start Program who will be running their first 10k on Sept 13th!
Let me rewind a bit and share my story of how I got involved with Skirt Sports and the Kick Start Program. My kids were out of school, summer was in full swing and I was rethinking my current job, good timing because Skirt Sports was hiring a Customer Care position. I have a pretty colorful job history from working in the healthcare industry, managing a local marathon, coordinating events for the pharmaceutical industry and working as a teacher’s aide in an elementary school…why not try this out! I’ve worked with people of all walks of life I figured I could handle managing kudos or the occasional complaint, it happens in all professions! Plus I’m a runner, a cyclist, love fashion and best of all – I love to talk about things I love. I got the job and here I am today, knee deep in Skirt (literally my closet is full of Skirt), but best of all I’m knee deep in being a part of transforming women’s lives.
Shortly after I started, I guess Nicole DeBoom thought I had a knack for more than just Customer Care. She gave me a few challenges, first our Skirt Sports Ambassador program and then Kick Start. I heard about the Kick Start program, but didn’t know to the full extent what it was about, so that scared me a bit. I knew that it was a special program that helped women who have barriers in their lives and have never run a 5k (or for some, they’ve never run much at all), and paired them up with a motivator (someone who runs, loves to run and would be a great support system). I understood there would be meetings, introductions and updates, and then they would all run a 5k. Sounds easy enough, right? Well sure, when you spell it out like that, but it really is so much more; it’s the emotional part that you can’t put down on paper.
When I take a project on I want to make every piece of it memorable. Something that kept ringing in my head was how special this program is and the huge effect it has on women’s lives, not just the beginners but also the motivators, their families and ME.
I jumped in last spring. It all started with a shout-out for applicants for Beginners and Motivators. We hit Facebook, emails, even a TV spot on a local morning show; we searched every avenue we could! The applications started rolling in and then it hit me, I have to choose these women, I have to pair them up with other women who will have a profound effect on their lives….this is a big deal and I need to do this right. So I did what many might do, I filed them and walked away for a good bit. I was scared that I might pick the wrong partners and worse I might fail at this.
Lucky for me and the program I didn’t have much time to be in denial about the selection process because time was of the essence and it had to be done no matter how I felt. I started doing this very methodically, first by location, then by age, then by stories….the stories boy that was huge. I laughed, I cried, I had chills, I smiled over and over again because this was becoming really exciting! I got it! I really think I got it! After many notes, highlights and discussions with myself I was able to pair up 34 women! I paired 17 women with barriers in their lives with 17 women who would motivate and support them through one of the most exciting and possibly scariest, yet rewarding times of their lives. That felt really good.
Next up was the Kick-Off meeting. A Kick-Off meeting is where everyone in the program finally comes together, tells their stories and then meets their partners…oh yeah and then we go for a 20 minute run, for some this was their first run, ever. There was not a dry eye in the house and I wasn’t quite prepared for that. I read the stories in the applications, but it’s not the same as hearing it in-person; this definitely was going to be special and transformative.
Then the training began. A lot can happen in 8 weeks, meet-ups for walks, jogs and runs, Facebook/email communications with lots and lots of questions, concerns and kudos, and then boom the 5k! What I found most important during these 8 weeks was not just the buildup of miles, but the buildup of relationships and trust.
On June 1st, I could tell for many it was nerve-racking, their first 5k ever! The energy was just amazing at the Skirt Sports Half Marathon and 5k. Before the race we had a big pow wow to get everyone revved up to go with an incredibly inspiring talk from Nicole DeBoom, a pep talk from me, a warm up and then we lined up at the starting line! We had runners, joggers and walkers and everyone did it.
I am so proud to say everyone crossed the finish line with huge smiles, some tears, lots of hugs and of course high-fives. What a proud moment to see each and every one do this, although I think I missed a couple because they were so fast they crossed the finish line ahead of me! As I sit and write this I still fill up with tears of joy knowing that I was a part of transforming these women’s lives – the beginners, the motivators…and ME!
Join me virtually as we cheer on the 11 women who are making that huge leap from the 5k to their first 10k. We all know how important each step of the journey toward becoming a runner is. These women are well on their way!