FRIDAY FEATURED FRIEND

I am always impressed by those who use their "love of the sport" and put it to good use.  In this day and age, girls have every right that boys have when it comes to being involved in sports thanks to Title Nine.  Sports are a great way for girls to feel strong, connect with other girls that have the same passion and build strong self esteem.  When I heard about "Girls on the Run" 3 or 4 years ago, I wanted to get involved but I had my own girls to raise and they were heavy into soccer.  What Monika Carlson has done with this group is AMAZING and I hope it inspires you to get involved with your community through your "love of the sport"!

What got you into the running? 
I started casually running in college with a friend and enjoyed a few runs a week around the campus of UCSB. A few years later I completed my first 10K and I was hooked on running! I started runnng 5Ks and 10Ks before graduating to a half marathon, and after finishing my first half marathon I knew I had to run a full. My motivation to train for my first half marathon was to quit smoking, and it worked! It was the best decision I ever made and now 7 years later I've run 18 full marathons and running is a huge part of my life. 

How did you get started with GIRLSontheRUN for you?
I started coaching GOTR back in September of 2009.  After coaching for one season I was asked to join the Board of Directors and I'm now the Marketing Chair for the organization.  I've continued to coach and am now returning for my 7th season in Carmel Valley.

How does running make you feel?
Running makes me feel strong, confident, and free! I love being able to step outside and just run. I've lived in San Diego for 4 1/2  years and I love how our perfect weather makes just about any day a perfect day for a run. I've learned a lot about myself through the course of marathon training over the years, and  after crossing the finish line of my first full marathon I really believed that anything was possible. Setting a goal, creating a plan, dedicating yourself to the training, and adjusting for whatever life threw at me in the mean time has really helped me approach a variety of things in life with more confidence. 

How long have you been doing each and why (what do you love most about it)??
There are so many things I love about Girls on the Run! The program is amazing and has been such a positive part of my life. Its fun to coach and its incredible to see the girls learn, share, and grow up throughout the program. The program meets twice a week for 12 weeks, and at the end of the season all of the sites around San Diego come together for a community 5K. Watching hundreds of little girls (ages 8-12) cross the finish line of their first 5K always brings tears to my eyes! 

What is your most memorable event and one you would LOVE to forget?
They might be one and the same. :) At our season end 5K I usually stand on the sidelines so I can cheer all of my girls out and back on the course. A year ago I decided that it might be more fun to be the one handing out the medals at the finish line, so I did that instead. Well, as the first girl from my team came running towards me I started to cry! As her and a few other girls came across the finish and over to me they looked at me like I was crazy. Why was I crying? It was too hard to explain to them, and I was so embarrassed! Blubbering at the finish line! I was just so moved to see these girls accomplish such a big goal, imagined how my life would've changed if I had done something so important at a big age, and was happy just to be part of the experience. This past season I returned back to my spot as a cheerleader, and smiled and cheered each girl in with bubbles, a cowbell, and tear free eyes. ;o)

Who inspires you?
Im inspired by a lot of my female friends who are runners, mostly those who seem to be much busier than me and seem to accomplish so much more. Life can be so busy between work, family, friends, etc  - and it takes a commitment to yourself and your health to stay dedicated to training for a marathon. 

Advise to other young female athletes who run and have big dreams and goals for themselves? . . . Have an open mind and just try! Don't underestimate yourself and what you are capable of. You will be amazed by what you can do with a positive attitude, a goal, and a plan. 

Girls on the Run San Diego is one of 200+ councils across the US and Canada and we're growing each year! If you're interested in volunteering or you'd like to sign your daugther up, search for a local chapter in your area. 

Thank you, Monika and keep inspiring others to be the best that they can be! Happy Running!