Concord's chapter of Girls on the Run meets Tuesdays and Thursdays until the annual 5k run in Boston on June 1.

Girls are ‘on the run’ at Thoreau School for fun and positivity

May 11, 2024

By Caitlin V. ReidyCorrespondent

Britton Taunton-Rigby, a fifth grader at Thoreau Elementary School, is running with a broken arm and a smile on her face.

“Since I broke my arm, I don’t have fun things to do on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” Britton said. “I said to myself, ‘Why don’t I do Girls on the Run?’”

Girls at Thoreau Elementary School warm up before they start their run. Pictured (Adeline McNamara (left), Britton Taunton-Rigby (back left), Erin Burke (back middle), Emily Blackham (back right), and Sydney Winkler, ABA at Thoreau Elementary School (front right).
Photos by Caitlin V. Reidy

Girls at Thoreau Elementary School aren’t just running laps. They’re creating friendships and building confidence in themselves and each other.

They’re doing this as part of Girls on the Run, an international organization that aims to build physical and social positivity in females from grades three to eight. This is the first year Concord has a chapter.

Practice begins with the girls sitting in a circle and introducing themselves with a positive adjective that begins with the first letter of their names. After that, they warm up, discuss their lesson’s objective, and run laps around the school.

Sydney Winkler, an ABA at Thoreau Elementary School and coach on Concord’s Girls on the Run, Eva Wimbush (back right), Isla DeAngelis (front left), and Emily Blackham (front left) listen to directions on the goals for practice on May 2.

After each lap, each girl picks up another girl’s journal and writes something positive in it.

Eva Wimbush, a fourth grader at Thoreau, said she loves running because it’s fun and healthy.

“You run with a group and groups make it fun,” Eva said. “You get to write things about your awesome friends too.”

Eva’s mother, Allison Wimbush, is a coach on the team. While dashing around the school, Eva encourages her mom to run laps with her. It’s not an uncommon sight to see the girls inspire their coaches to run a few laps with them.

Sydney Winkler, ABA at Thoreau Elementary School and Emily Blackham support each other after running several laps around the school.

Thoreau’s team has 13 girls and five coaches, said Kate Yenrick, director of Engagement and Communications for Girls on the Run.

The girls have practice twice a week and will run a 5K on June 1 in East Boston. Yenrick said the girls practice after school for 75 to 90 minutes and work their way up to a 5K by running more each time.

Joy Burke, Thoreau’s site liaison, said she moved from Rochester, New York, to Concord a few years ago. She said they had Girls on the Run there, but her daughter, Erin, was too young to join at the time.

“My mom worked really hard to get this to work in Concord,” said Joy’s daughter, Erin. “Doing this makes me feel good and makes me feel like a good person.”

Part of Girls on the Run’s philosophy is to be kind; for each lap girls run, they write something positive in their peers’ journals. Pictured: Eva Wimbush

In addition to positive self-talk, peer mentorship, and physical fitness, members of Girls on the Run must do a community project that has a positive impact, Yenrick said.

Sydney Winkler, Thoreau’s Applied Behavior Analyst (ABA) and volunteer coach, said the Thoreau team doesn’t know what they’re doing for a project yet, but they might use sticky notes to leave encouraging messages on mirrors in the bathrooms or around the school. She said that sending such notes to teachers or people that have positively impacted the girls is a possibility, too.

Riley Lynch (left), Adeline McNamara (second left), Sloan Piro (back middle), Erin Burke (second right), and Britton Taunton-Rigby (right) run together during practice on May 2.

“I loved the whole aspect of positive self-talk and meeting new friends,” Winkler said. “It’s about positivity.”

As the girls wind down from practice, they look at what their peers have written about them and break into smiles and giggles.

“I love doing this with all my friends,” said Emily Blackham, a team member.

On June 1, all girls will have a 16-year-old “buddy” to compete with them during the 5K in Boston, Yenrick said. Currently, 2,260 girls are competing, and 13 of them are from Thoreau’s team.