Big, Strong, Beautiful, Bold: Sierra’s Story

Girls on the RunI live and breathe in the world from the view of an eight year-old girl. I just love kids.

When I started Girls on the Run, the obesity issue wasn’t much talked about. That was sixteen years ago. As anyone who reads the news knows… it is much talked of now. Couple this with the eating disorder challenges young girls face, and the landscape can get very confusing. Our culture’s extreme emphasis on appearance, coupled with shame for not fitting into the appearance norm is, I believe, a contributing factor on the issue. I will admit right here and now that I am not an expert in the field of nutrition. The issues are very complex for sure!

The further I get down the Girls on the Run road, the more awed I am by the passion and commitment of the Girls on the Run volunteers and staff around the nation. (If this is the first time you have heard of Girls on the Run…please read on. We need you!) Many of you have your own stories of feeling left out, shamed or hurt when you were little girls (and boys), but all of you have used that pain, shame, and healing to create safe havens on playgrounds, in rec centers and school classrooms, all across North America. Where little girls as young as eight can open up, share their hearts, their fears, and their hope.

I am reminded of Sierra.

Sierra was in fifth grade. Sierra was a big girl — some of the other girls in her class called her fat, lazy, and ugly. When Sierra read her big sister’s magazines, all the models were thin, beautiful and sexy. They all had really nice cars and didn’t have to work when they were fifteen. All those actresses wore makeup, smoked cigarettes and confused her because her Grandmama, a good strong woman told her, “That stuff isn’t good for you,” but Sierra thought maybe if she tried it she’d be beautiful too.

Sierra was in Girls on the Run.

Girls on the runTwo thirds of the way through the 12-week program the girls get a chance to practice a 3.1 mile run or walk. Sierra did not believe she could do it. While the majority of girls in the group were running by her, I could see Sierra look on with envy. “My body can never do this.”

While Sierra had stubbornly drudged through two miles, all of the other girls had finished and were already socializing on a nearby picnic table.

Among them was Jordan. Jordan was the fastest runner. She was thin and in third grade. Jordan always finished first. Jordan noticed something special on that day. She noticed that Sierra had gone further than she ever had. She walked to the edge of the track. “Sierra, you’ve gone further than you ever have. Come on now, you can do it,” she yelled joyfully.

And in that moment, I witnessed a light — THE light — sparkle in Sierra’s eyes. The realization that “I can do this” transformed her stroll into a jog, her attitude into a kick, and her body into a machine. With every ounce of her being, Sierra started jogging first, then running, huffing and puffing every step of the way. She smiled with each step, moving that big, strong, bold body effortlessly around the pavement.

Before the last lap was complete, all 14 girls had joined her. She had done it. The body that never would–could. A smile, as big as California, stretched across that beautiful, sparkling face; sweat glistened on her brow.

Girls on the run GOTR 5k

On that day, Sierra took her body back. She took it back from the magazines, from the movies, and from the MTV images. She took her body back from the teacher that told her she was lazy, and from the girl who called her fat. Big. Strong. Beautiful. Bold. Her body was her body, and she took it back.

I don’t believe there is much more I can write. This story makes me cry every time. This story makes me feel the power of our work, and fuels my desire to move the world in such a way that all of us… every last one of us… can realize that we are all strong, big, beautiful and bold.

I guess sometimes it just takes a few of us longer to realize it than others. But if ya don’t mind… let me remind you, right here and right now… that yes my friend, YOUR body is strong, big, beautiful and bold… just like Sierra’s. Strong, big, bold, beautiful and yours.

Sue Ossmann

June 28, 2012 at 12:19 pm

AWESOME!!! This made me cry too just loved this story 🙂

Stevie Lowery

June 29, 2012 at 7:07 am

Stories like his are precisely why I love Girls on the Run.

I’m heading into my second year of being a head coach and I plan to make sure Girls on the Run continues to thrive in my community for years and years to come!

Thank you, Molly!


June 29, 2012 at 7:43 am

Again- you are an AMAZING writer! I too live in the world of the 8 year old. That age and stage is the best and it still lives in all of us at ALL stages in life. Thanks for sharing this story 😉


June 29, 2012 at 7:55 am

I am a physical education teacher who just cried my eyes out reading this! I am fortunate that I teach students everyday, but this speaks volumes about the gift, we can, and do give children, especially young girls. Kudo’s for telling the story and for such an amazing program!


June 29, 2012 at 8:11 am

I didn’t have this feeling of accomplishment until I was 30, and I still have pangs of being the biggest, slowest one in P.E. class. This story is so touching and uplifting. What you are doing is making such an important difference in the development of young girls. Thanks so much for sharing and for starting something that will make a difference for girls for the rest of their lives.

Jody - Fit at 54

June 29, 2012 at 4:08 pm

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SHARING! I read a lot about this group – so awesome!


June 29, 2012 at 8:09 pm

As soon as I overcome some health challenge,I want to committ to being a mentor to these girls! What an awesome thing to do. I am excited to become involved!!!

Nancy Rose

June 30, 2012 at 5:26 am

Molly, you are doing extraordinary work. As a Girls on the Run volunteer coach, I have personally witnessed girls reclaiming their bodies. How can we NOT cry when we see this? I would also add that what makes the GOTR curriculum even more powerful is empowering girls to support and encourage each other, the way Jordan did for Sierra. Thank you for sharing your passion and vision with our precious children!


June 30, 2012 at 3:35 pm

Wow this story made me cry as well. I am a plus size women and i was a plus size little girl and I can remeberr begin called Fat , ugly, and cow. I even had a little boy make up a song about heather the heffer. So I Know how these girls feel. I have married a man that makes me feel Big, Strong, Beautiful, and Bold. So remember the way we look makes us who we are. I would be glasd to be apart of these orginization.Will look into.

Anna Behning

July 02, 2012 at 11:05 am

Love, love, love this story and I’m a HUGE fan of GOTR!
I’m going to be a coach for a team in the fall in Iowa too and I know that it will absolutely be life changing for me. I can’t wait to encourage young girls to love themselves for who they are on the inside and out.
Such a great orginazation, thank you for such an inspirational story!

Christine @ Love, Life, Surf

July 05, 2012 at 12:28 pm

This is such a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it. I have heard so many amazing things about GOTR and the impact that you’ve had on so many lives. It’s so empowering to read stories like this. Thank you for all the work you do.


March 06, 2014 at 5:11 am

This is a beautiful story. I thank you for sharing it and starting the GOTR program!
Keep impacting lives !

Jeanne Turlington Lind

March 11, 2014 at 10:00 am

I too am a head coach for GOTR. It is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. I started out a running buddy in the fall, and head coach spring session. The first time you run in a 5k sponsored by Girls on the run you feel empowered! I stayed on cloud 9 all day long! You are cheering for your girls, and they are cheering for you! I would recommend every woman to make time to volunteer once. The program does as much for you as it does for them! Thank you Molly for girls on the run!



March 16, 2014 at 3:26 pm

I am a retired nj teacher that took her entire class out everyday to run/walk their personal best. I was a chubby student who lost weight through running as an adult and have done numerous races in my adult life including 3 half – marathons. I feel my running everyday helps to define me. Now as an associate at Athleta, I have signed up for gotr and hope to help make a difference in these girls lives. What better cause is there than to help make our future women more confident in their own skin.

Everyday we need to give back and what better way than to a child….

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