Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Her Beating Heart

“There are many things in life that will catch your eye, but only a few will catch your heart…pursue those.”

Michael Nolan

Thanks to the support and dedication of many people, Girls on the Run now reaches over 50,000 girls, annually, across North America. One of those dedicated people, an attorney who has worked with us over the years, shared a story with me about his now grown-daughter, Amanda. Several years ago when she was just four, the family was seated at the dinner table when the discussion of careers came up. Karl and Pam were sharing with their daughter. “Honey, you can be anything you want to be when you grow up—a mommy, a lawyer like your daddy, an astronaut, a banker, even President of the United States! What do you think you want to be?” Amanda pondered the question. After a few seconds of considering their query, she asked, “Do they still have queens?”

And you know what I would tell her? A resounding, “YES they do!” Maybe not in the traditional sense, but every woman, every girl has within her a queen just poised to emerge.

The key is finding her in there.

Maddie was in third grade. Her hair always stuck up, shiny-blond from too much swimming-pool chlorine and sun. Her little knees were knobby, her small ribs showed through the muscle of her small frame. Maddie was tiny. Even her voice was tiny. Her socks always fell down around her ankles and her shoes were always untied. She wore glasses that were thick like soda pop bottles and she had obvious problems with coordination.

Maddie was in Girls on the Run.

Maddie, born with congenital heart issues as an infant, was a fighter. Every day, she was there at Girls on the Run: sticking-out-hair, falling-down-socks, and the spirit of someone special. But her heart had started misfiring again. She was getting weaker, losing weight, and having problems even walking through the games, so her doctors ordered her to stop and only watch. Tears welled up in her eyes, but no matter what, she was there, to support, encourage and cheer on her friends in Girls on the Run.

Three weeks before the culminating Girls on the Run 5k run/walk in which all of the girls in her hometown were participating, her doctors scheduled another surgery. The doctors opened up the body that housed that strong-girl spirit, held her beating heart in their hands, corrected the weakness there, and ever so gently placed her life back into her body.

And three weeks after her heart had been cut open, exposed and vulnerable, Maddie, with permission from her doctors, ran in that Girls on the Run 5k with hundreds of runners. She crossed that finish line in sixty-three minutes, arm in arm with all fourteen of her Girls on the Run teammates…the teammates she had never abandoned and who now wouldn’t dream of abandoning her.

She was crying.

She had done it.

They were together again.

On that day, Maddie’s spirit soared for all of her friends to see. Thousands of men and women watched that little soldier cross the finish line. The kings and queens hiding inside peered out—permission, if just for a little while to step into the sunshine, along with Maddie and her Girls on the Run friends. Each person there was given a moment to celebrate the potential that rests within --this moment wrapped in hope.

And as I write this early morning and remember Maddie, I take time to celebrate the strength of my own body…find gratitude in its power…I consider the many ways that I can nourish, embrace and care for the gift of this body and the queen who is housed within.

What action will you take today to nourish, care for and honor your strong, powerful and healthy body? Let me know at molly@girlsontherun.org or comment here.


  1. I am forever inspired when i visit your blog. This one in particular made me tear up. Bella received your book this past Thursday, coinciding with the start of her GOTR season and was the first item she packed for our camping trip over the weekend. You've never seen a happier girl. Thank you so much for your kindness and wide open girl heart. <3

  2. I am a fairly new reader of your blog, but I just have to say thanks for your beautiful stories, thoughts, and reminders to honor ourselves as women.

    Today I honored my body with a rest day and am trying to reflect on my training (CrossFit and running)...why I do it, etc. Thanks for helping remind me why. Because of the potential it holds, to keep the heart beating strong, and to honor the 'queen' within.

  3. What incredibly nice comments to read at the end of a challenging day. Thanks so much for posting!

  4. Molly. You are a beautiful writer. I'm so glad I found your blog and can't wait to read more!!!

    Mandy in VT