★FitStars: Girls on the Run’s Molly Barker

BW_fix_0155_2848-3178Erin and I started FBG to make working out and eating right fun and accessible to women of all shapes and sizes, no matter where they were on their fitness journeys. FBG isn’t about being perfect, but about being real, laughing at yourself often and really enjoying a balanced and sane life. And we always thought that once we had a readership that was large enough to make a difference (and hence some funds to contribute) that we’d give back. Well, I’m happy to report that that day has come. It’s giveback time! You guys already know that I’m running the marathon for SoleMates to benefit Girls on the Run (GOTR), but we wanted to do a little bit more for the nonprofit after-school running program for young girls that uses running to transform the way girls see themselves and their opportunities. That’s why today’s FitStars interview is with Molly Barker, the founder of GOTR. Molly is totally inspiring. She’s a four-time Hawaii Ironman triathlete with expertise in counseling and research on adolescent issues. Her organization is truly changing the mindset of young girls and introducing them to the positive powers of running. The GOTR program combines training for a 5K event with life-changing self-esteem enhancing lessons that enhance social, physical and mental health in 8- to 12-year-old girls. It’s amazing. If you have a daughter this age, I highly recommend you see if there’s a GOTR chapter in your area. Read on to learn more about why Molly does what she does, her thoughts on the “boy box,” how she stays so motivated and what’s next for GOTR! (Plus, details on how we’re giving back with your help!)

  • FBG: According to your bio, you got the idea to start GOTR during a sunset run in 1993. Where did you get the idea and how has it changed from that first spark?
  • MB: At age 11, I stepped into the “Girl Box.” The Girl Box is a place many girls go, around middle school, where morphing into what they think they should be becomes more important than just celebrating who they are. For years, I struggled trying to conform to the standards and lifestyle defined by the Girl Box. At age 32, I hit bottom. On the following day, July 7, 1993, while out on a run, I had an epiphany. About mile four of that run, something dramatic happened. I felt complete, whole and “in-powered” and knew that from that step on, I would do everything in my power to help girls and women recognize and achieve their greatest human potential.
  • FBG: How does GOTR help girls break out of the Girl Box?
  • MB: The messages of the Girl Box vary, but the overarching theme comes from a culture rooted in the belief that girls and women must conform to a set of standards that are unattainable and dangerous to our health and well-being. “You’re not smart enough,” “You’re too smart,” “You’re not thin enough,” “You’re too fat,” “You’re too loud,” “You’re too quiet,” “You’re not pretty enough,” are a few of the more well-known Girl Box messages. Girls on the Run educates and inspires third- through eighth-grade girls to stay true to themselves—to discover a life free of the Girl Box, where they can say, “I AM enough and I belong just the way I am.”
  • FBG: In GOTR, you obviously focus on running. Why running? And why is the 5K at the end of the program so critical?
  • MB: For me, running is the sanctuary in my day, when I am free of any expectations or judgments. Running can serve many purposes. Time alone, time with friends, time to think, time to NOT think, time to train, time to relieve stress…the list is as long as there are runners! What I do know is, it represents something unique for every girl in our program…running has no meaning to her, until she gives it meaning. That’s what the curriculum provides for the girls. An opportunity to explore the Girl Box and give running meaning beyond competition or cardiovascular functioning. The end-of-season New Balance Girls on the Run 5K is the dot on the timelines of their lives to mark the experience and to provide for them a lasting memory…a memory they can engage the next time they are afraid, lack confidence or are challenged. “If I can do this 5K, just think of all the other amazing things I can do!”
  • FBG: How has running and working out regularly changed your life? How has it affected your confidence?
  • MB: My relationship with running has evolved over the years. In my teens, it was a space of self-discovery. I learned the capabilities of my body, a gentle understanding of how my breathing, pace and lifestyle were all connected. In my twenties it served as a vehicle to meet people…a social life. Running also provided for me a feeling of comfort and “power” in my skin. I liked the effect it had on my appearance and this provided for me the self-confidence I needed to navigate first jobs, new cities and the singles scene. In my thirties, I stepped “off track.” I was competing in Ironman-length competitions and I lost sight of the joy and found myself running from my problems rather than toward serenity. Running became a crutch rather than a strength. I could numb out on the endless hours of training. And now in my forties, my love for the sport is full-force. I run every other morning, before sunrise, listen to my feet scuffle through autumn leaves and feel grateful for my body, my age and the place to which running has carried me.
  • FBG: Most of our readers are out of their teenage years, and many serve as role models for younger girls. If you could give our readers a few words of wisdom about what they can do for the younger generation, what would it be? Do mothers with daughters play a special role?
  • MB: I think we all need to celebrate, honor and embrace our gifts. This includes speaking kindly about ourselves and others, avoiding gossip and verbal name-calling, and standing up for ourselves. Consider this question and then make a decision based upon your answer: Does this person/situation/circumstance honor, respect and elevate the ME of who I am…or does this person/situation/circumstance demean and limit the ME of who I am? Conversely, am I honoring, respecting and elevating the YOU in someone else? While I won’t always be “right on” with my response, this has been of great value in keeping me on center and true to myself.
  • FBG: Here on FBG, we’re all about working out to feel better about ourselves no matter how big or small our fit bottoms are. How do you stay so balanced and focused when it comes to fitness, and do you ever have a day where you just don’t feel as fit as you’d like?
  • MB: OH yeah. I travel quite a bit these days, and I’ll have to say, if I go three or more days without a good sweat I can start to get a little bit…oh, how shall I put it…mean. Even on the road, I try to hit the hotel fitness center. Thirty minutes is all it takes now and then to keep me motivated and “upbeat” for my day!
  • FBG: GOTR obviously focuses on girls, but do you think that boys can get stuck in the “Boy Box?” Do you talk to your son about the same issues you address in GOTR?
  • MB: Absolutely! Boys AND men definitely have their boxes. I do believe they are different. Boys’ stature in the world is based on material success, athletic prowess and sexual conquests. As with my daughter, I want both of my children to get past the value we place on external measures and celebrate, honor and respect people for the gifts and talents they provide in this world.
  • FBG: Anything new in the works for GOTR? For you?
  • MB: I’m currently re-writing our curriculum. It is important that we remain relevant to the girls we serve!
  • FBG: What are your favorite forms of exercise?
  • MB: Running, cycling, weight lifting.
  • FBG: Any final words of advice for our readers?
  • MB: Based on the fact that I am 49 years old, my sixth-grade daughter Helen, is getting a huge kick out of the fact that I am being interviewed by ANYTHING with “fit bottom” in the title. She isn’t sure whether to laugh out loud or be embarrassed by it. Ahhh, the angst of adolescence and having a “fit bottomed” mother.

Helen, be proud! Your mom is awesome! And because we so believe in this program, we’re donating $1 for every comment—up to $500—on this post. So comment away, dear readers! It’s for a good cause!!! —Jenn

Update: A big thanks to New Balance for offering to MATCH our contribution, making each comment worth not just $1 but $2! Girls on the Run is nationally sponsored by New Balance, Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, Secret and Goody, and SoleMates is sponsored by Horizon Fitness.

Categories: Celebs

This article was originally published on fitbottomedgirls.com.

We often receive products from companies to review. All thoughts and opinions are always entirely our own. Unless otherwise stated, we have received no compensation for our review and the content is purely editorial.



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  1. This is such a fantastic program, I wish it was around when I was a young girl! I have a running friend who coaches at her daughter’s school. I’ve been trying to get involved at my son’s school but I think since I don’t have daughters, it’s a bit harder to get involved. Best of luck to you in your marathon!

  2. This is my first time commenting on FBG! I was inspired to do so by Molly and GOTR. The program sounds amazing and from what I’ve seen is so inspiring to girls and women. If there was a chapter in my state, I would absolutely volunteer with them. When I run my first marathon, I’d like to run for GOTR. Thanks for the interview!

  3. This interview made my day. Congratulations to Molly. Had I had access to something like this 15 years ago – at 12 y-o – maybe I wouldn’t be struggling with my weight and self-esteem so much now.
    But, in all fairness, it is never too late to begin.
    Cheers from Brasil

  4. Thank you to Jenn & Fit Bottomed Girls for helping spread the word about Girls on the Run and the wonderful work Molly Barker is doing! I’m proud to consider Molly a friend and my company, New Balance has been a proud sponsor of the New Balance Girls on the Run 5K series and supporter of GOTR for 10+ years. There is nothing quite as inspiring as seeing these girls complete their first 5K. I encourage everyone to please sign your daughters up or consider volunteering your time as a coach

    Love your idea to donate $1 for for every comment to GOTR up to $500! How about we up the ante? New Balance will match the amount you raised today through reader comments up to an additional $500. Get posting & spread the word people!

    Chris Mann
    New Balance Athletic Shoe, Inc.

  5. Chris–Our jaws are on the floor about your generous and amazing offer to match what we raise for Girls on the Run. It’s too fantastic for words. THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts!!!

    FBGs Jenn & Erin

  6. This is so exciting to me. I just heard about this organization a couple days ago, and last night, I signed up to run the GOTR 5K in Chicago on 11/14!

    I’m really hoping at some point in the future I can volunteer my time as a coach! Unfortunately it just don’t work with my schedule right now.

  7. So wish I could join this at 29! Sounds like a great program. I’ll be checking to see if there’s any groups nearby that I can volunteer with!

  8. i agree with the readers above. i think molly is by far the best fitstars interview ya’ll have done so far. talk about amazing and inspirational! i love the idea and i love that fbg is supporting such an awesome cause.

    i love how molly broke down the reasons for running…boy do i relate!!!

  9. Hey friends, thanks for posting this great info and interview! And thanks to Chris Mann and New Balance for upping the ante! So cool and such a great cause! I’ll link to this on my blog, too, and hope to spread the good word! You ladies rock! 🙂

  10. What an inspiration! I’m definitely someone who wishes that GOTR had been around when I was younger. Keep up the good work, Molly!

  11. What an amazing idea. Thank you for this interview and thank you Ms. Barker for taking the time to make young girls lives a lot better!

  12. What a wonderful program GOTR is – I will also be looking to see if I can find something local. Great interview with Molly (who truly is inspirational and empowering!!)

  13. I was interested in signing up my daughter but the runs were too early in the afternoon. I was really bummed that she wasn’t able to participate and get the important lessons this group is teaching young girls. Awesome inspiration and a FANTASTIC way to give back!

  14. This sounds like a great program- I certainly could have used it growing up! My husband and I don’t have children, yet, but it’s good to be reminded “to get past the value we place on external measures and celebrate, honor and respect people for the gifts and talents [our children] provide in this world.” It’s also a nice reminder, even now in my late 20s, when i start getting down on myself for not fitting in the girl box, that I am already good enough, and am happier when I celebrate the way I am instead of comparing myself up to some unttainable other.

  15. What a wonderful program. I wish so much that I had had the opportunity to be involved in something like this as I was growing up. But I am so thrilled that Molly had the willingness to start the program and get so many young girls excited about fitness and about being who they are.

  16. What an awesome program! One of the greatest gifts we can give our kids is a tool for lifelong fitness.

  17. I am so glad I was directed to this – I want to learn more and see what may be available locally. We are very concerned about how to avoid the “girl box” for our daughter.

  18. I’ve loved this program (GOTR) since I first heard about it over a year ago. Someday I would love to begin a GOTR group at the school I teach at, although for now that’s still just a dream. Thank you for being so inspiring!

  19. What a great idea. Growing up with two sisters, I recognize the need for something like this and the need for good positive role models for children in general is always in high demand. Keep up the amazing work!!

    Going to re-tweet this, let’s get to 500!!!


  20. This is great! I wish I had GOTR to inspire me as a teenager. It’s so important to reach girls at this critical age. Great work, Molly!

  21. awwww i think this is a FABULOUS program!! i wish there had been something like this around me when i was that age! 🙂 this inspires me, i wish i could go for a run instead of being stuck at work right now, hahaha.

  22. This interview was amazing and inspiring. I will be looking for a chapter in my area to refer some young girls I know. Thanks FBG!

  23. As a council director for Girls on the Run in Kansas, I can’t speak enough wonderful things about the lives that are being changed by this program. Not only are these girls becoming more confident, amazing young women, we are changin the lives of women everywhere who volunteer as coaches and mentors. My life has been enriched by this program for the last 3 years and I can’t imagine not having my daughter experience this program.

    Molly, you rock! And FitBottomedGirls lives the mission of Girls on the Run every day! Keep up the awesome work ladies!

  24. How much can I write??? I am the GOTR council director for Jackson County, Missouri, and I have had the honor to meet Molly twice. Before I met her, I’d heard great things, but was pretty skeptical, it takes a lot to impress me. But I have to tell you, she is the most genuine, encouraging, amazing person I’ve ever met. I am so honored to be a part of this amazing organization, and I would encourage ALL of your readers to get involved. Molly started this movement, she is the founder, and she is my hero. Thanks for continuing the dream! (and thanks to the rest of the staff at national for being available!)

  25. This is an absolutely great program. I wish we had had something like this when I was young. I wonder if there is any way to start one up around here….

  26. After reading these wonderful and inspirational words about running, I even more so look forward to the day when I finally start running myself. I have tried to make it a routine many times, but this time I am pretty serious!

  27. I am a forty five year old woman who has always struggled with my weight..i always exercise..but i don’t conform..i am raising three daughters..they are awesome and beautiful..amazing and smart..gifted and lucky..i am so proud of them i could almost cry..my oldest daughter suffers from severe anxiety and struggles with her abilities..my 14 year old is blessed with a sunny disposition..my 11 year old is a ball of fire..they don’t have fat bottoms, but awesome muscular ones..they all run, but also swim five to six days a week for two hours a day..it is amazing what you can accomplish if you just put in the effort..this generation of girls does not have to conform..they have real potential..go girls go..go chloe, go allie, go annie..go everyone..have fun.. with your life..life is short

  28. Such a powerful – and FUN – program. Girls on the Run is life changing for the girls who participate and the volunteers who support them! Thanks, Molly – and Thanks Fit Bottomed Girls for helping to spread the word!

  29. Thank you to Jenn and Fit Bottomed Girls for sharing the powerful mission of Girls on the Run. Thanks to everyone who has posted a comment to help us raise funds! And finally, special thanks to Chris Mann at New Balance for generously matching Fit Bottomed Girls donation! New Balance has partnered with Girls on the Run for 10 years and has played a significant role in our ability to reach more girls. Thanks to their support, what started as an afterschool program for 13 girls in 1996 has evolved to have served over 52,000 girls in 2008!
    Liz Kunz
    Girls on the Run International

  30. What an ispiration! Thank you for all that you do to help young girls realize they don’t have to be in the Girl Box and conform to society!

  31. Oh my GOSH!!!! Fit Bottomed Girls, New Balance and all!!! Thank you so much for your kind and genuine comments. This means so much to me and simply lifts my spirit to even higher heights. To feel such support from so many fantastic people…well…it just feels really nice, safe AND real. If you are on Facebook, please shoot me a friend request. I love connecting with like-minded and strong women and men. Run on!

  32. Molly is an amazing woman. Her life shows us what one woman can do to change the world if she believes in herself.

  33. Great article – and thanks for making the donation! GOTR is fabulous and as a Coach in the program for several years, I see firsthand the difference it makes in our girls’ lives as they grow through running, supporting each other and becoming stronger females.

  34. As a former coach for GOTR/GOT, I can affirm that this program makes a huge difference in young girls’ lives. GOTR Rocks!

  35. Great interview…I’m not a girl…but that really doesn’t matter here! Very powerful, and a great way to motivate young women 🙂

    Have a great day!

  36. Molly is such an inspiration! She has done such an amaxing thing with GOTR. I wish it was around when I was growing up!

  37. Yay! What a great way to spotlight GOTR. I have run for them with Team Tiara and volunteered at my local (Lexington, KY) 5K. I believe that this is such an important program.

  38. Great interview and for such a great cause! I will absolutely comment to help out. Even if such a small way….Keep it up!

  39. I have been a huge fan of GOTR for a few years. Way to go – these efforts change lives for the girls and inspire their families as well!

  40. I wish I’d had a program like this when I was a kid – maybe I would have started running before I turned 25. Great job – keep up the good work!

  41. I love this program! I was coach last year in Orlando, FL and it was the greatest experience I’ve had as a teacher. I’ve since moved schools and am looking to bring it over next year. It is amazing how strong the girls become and their confidence levels rise daily. I am a huge believer and supporter of the program! Run Girl Run!!!

  42. I’ve just learned of this program a few weeks ago and am inspired! I love to run and will be participating in the GOTR 5k on Thanksgiving, giving thanks for the MANY gifts in my life!

  43. I think that this is awesome! It reminds me of “Girls Rock” but from a different activity perspective. Go FBG girls for being so generous with your support!

  44. I ran a marathon and raised money last year for GOTR and it is a fantastic organization. I wish they had a chapter in my city but unfortunately they do not at this time. Running has benefited me so greatly that I love that girls who may not have been introduced to it get a chance to experience the benefits of running in such a positive enviornment and atmosphere.

  45. I started running about 8 months ago, and I’ve lost almost 40 pounds! I’m 27 and I really wish I had discovered how much fun running is at a younger ago. Girls on the Run is inspiring!

  46. I think its great what Girls On the Run does. If only I’d heard about this three years ago. Best of luck to you.

  47. I’m sure it’s been said many times, but having discovered my love of running late into my 20s, I really really wish an organization like GOTR had been around in my neighborhood when I was growing up young and not understanding the *mental* benefits of exercising. I’ve met a few women over the last two or three years who have volunteered for the Atlanta chapter and find myself inspired by them and their stories. So Kudos to Molly for founding such an important organization, kudos to everyone matching donations, and kudos to FBG for featuring this worthwhile cause!

  48. I have recently started running again and weight lifting 3 days a week to get ready for my NPS training in January and man do I feel good. I have always been fairly active and I try to eat well but man it feels sooooooo good to run and lift. I am not a tiny girl by any means but I look so good in my own strong way and of course its amazing what it does for self confidence! I can take on anything! Having a goal to work for really helps me and its great!

  49. this article has made my day – thanks for inspiring more people (including me) to follow your example and make a difference

  50. I’m commenting again because it doesn’t say anything about “one comment per person”–I want y’all to meet your goals, girls! This is an awesome organization!

  51. GOTR is a great organizations, thanks for a great read and for giving back! A group of us is currently bringing GOTR to Louisville, Kentucky. It’s a big task, but reading this helps me remember why we’re doing it. Thank you:)

  52. This will be my first season as a running buddy for the GOTR Puget Sound, and I’m so excited to be a part of this wonderful and inspiring organization. It’s so important to teach girls at a young age just how valuable they are, I plan to be a part of GOTR for many years to come. Thanks for supporting!

  53. My 10 year old was involved in this program, and it has been tremendous! She comes home and talks about what they cover in the classes, and the information has been so beneficial in helping her understand that the advertisements and pictures of women everywhere are not real depictions of women. Also, she completed her first 5k this past weekend. I couldn’t be prouder of her! I love this program!

  54. Girls on the Run is awesome!! Thanks for featuring Molly on your site and spreading the word about how folks can become involved in such a wonderful organization!!

  55. Thank you for re-sharing this interview! I had heard of GOTR, but didn’t know much about it, I’m glad I’m more informed.

  56. I wish I had begun the running habit earlier in life which makes this sound like a fantastic organization for any girl.

  57. I recently ran in our local Girls on the Run 5K and it was one of the most inspiring and and FUN races I’ve run! The girls, and those who were there running with them, cheering them on, were AMAZING. I am a beginning runner, and I kept thinking, if these girls can do this, so can I! They inspired ME to run better and stay strong when I wanted to quit! I was so proud of each and every one of those girls, and I can’t wait until my daughter is old enough to participate in the GOTR program! It’s an empowering message of strength, self-confidence, and determination that I certainly want my daughter to have. Thanks GOTR!!

  58. Molly has been my hero ever since reading her profile in the 2006 issue of Runner’s World where she was honored as a “hero of running.” And I’ve been involved with Girls on the Run ever since. Thank you for profiling her. And Jenn–best of luck to you at Disney! It was my first marathon too and you picked it for all the right reasons–fireworks, fanfare and flat!

  59. I’m a huge fan of GOTR. As a coach in GA and in KS I have seen it really transform shy girls into confident young women. I enjoy running, and I’m proud to be a fit bottomed girl (and mother of two boys).

  60. GOTR is such a worthy organization. Bravo to you, Fit Bottomed Girls for generously supporting them and encouraging your readers to learn more about the great work they do. Happy Holidays to all!

  61. I read about Girls on the Run and was instantly impressed and knew it was something I wanted to be involved in. I’ve signed up with the San Francisco chapter and will be coaching girls in the spring. I cannot wait to share my love of running and love of life with my team.

  62. Girls on the Run is a fantastic program! And coming from someone who has sufferend from low self-esteem, it is always nice to be able to support a program that helps encourage confidence and good habits in young girls/women.

  63. Awesome inspiration! I love to run and do it because it makes me see the world as a better place!


  64. I ran the Girls on the Run 5K with my 9 year old daugther a few weeks ago – in the snow!!!!!! It was tough – but a great experience.

    The program was run for the first time at my daughter’s elementary school in Northern Virginia by two great female teachers! Thank you to them (Erika and Marissa), Molly, FBG’s and everyone who has made this program such a huge success for our girls!

  65. This is the first time I’ve heard about GOTR. What a great program! I love that it focuses on girls right when they’re struggling with conforming to what they think is the ideal girl.

  66. I ran a Girls on the Run 5k with one of my students, and ran the Chicago Marathon with Sole Mates this year. Simply put, GOTR has changed my life.

  67. My first experience with Girls on the Run was just a few weeks ago – they had a bunch of girls running their first 5k at the same race I was at. It was so inspirational to see their running buddies build them up! Such a great program!

  68. I got involved with GOTR with my daughter and then became a coach! I love the program and the feedback and enthusiasm from my team. I have also met a wonderful group of women who inspire me everyday to be a better mentor for all girls!

  69. What a great organization. Because I started running as a girl (in the 70s, when it wasn’t that popular to do), I’m still athletic and fit today. Thanks so much!

  70. Molly has inspired so many girls and women…as well as boys and men! Everyone can learn from the GOTR lessons. The most important ones are to be yourself….. and be honest with everyone. To Molly and all the GOTR volunteers and staff — Keep up your awesome work!

  71. I have been a coach for GOTR for 2 years and just finished my first Solemates experience. This is such a great program. My daughter will be old enough to participate next year…I can’t wait!!

  72. GOTR is an amazing program and I love being a part of it in GOTR-Nashville. Jen, director of Nashville council, is an inspiring lady.

  73. I’ve coached with GOTR for 2 seasons and I must admit that I get something positive out of each and every session. Even adult girls need reminders that WE BELONG JUST AS WE ARE. GOTR rocks!

  74. Girls on the Run is a great program. I’ve been involved with coaching and raising money through Team Tiara over the past couple of years. I’ve loved sharing my joy of running with young girls.

  75. I have coached GOTR for three seasons. I am also a teacher at the school where it is run. I have seen the program change the lives of many girls. It has also changed mine. I went from never running to now completing my first half marathon. Thank you Molly Barker!

  76. Molly had created a movement!! I have been involved with GOTR for the past 5 years and it has had an enormous effect on my life. Watching the girls thrive emotionally and physically never tires each season. The faces of the girls at the finish line are beyond words. As one of our coaches said: The girls stand taller, laugh louder, say no when they mean no and yes when they mean yes, and of course run or walk faster.

  77. I can’t believe I’m just now seeing this! I’m posting on GOTR Atlanta’s blog tomorrow first thing! Thanks so much for your support!!!

  78. What a great program! I’ve read articles by Kristin Armstrong about it, but I loved hearing the background about how it got started. As I enter my mid-thirties I am still trying to focus my passion on something I can actually do. My husband has pointed out that I’m at my happiest when I am helping others. I just completed coaching a running club at our local youth center that culminated in a 5K this morning. I loved seeing the kids faces and hearing how proud they were of themselves. I need to figure out how I can find a position (even as a volunteer) where I can work with kids on being mentally, emotionally, and physically strong. Thanks for the inspiration! Amy

  79. I found out about GOTR a few months ago and vowed that if I ever move to a place with an active chapter, I’d get involved ASAP. That might be happening this year!

  80. I love being a GOTR running buddy! I wish this type of program was around when I entered the “Girl Box”

  81. I have been a GOTR coach for two years and I am very great full to be part of such a wonderful program!