MORAVIAN FALLS ELEMENTARY "Girls on the Run" and "Let Me Run" participants are pictured with their coaches, Caitlin Pitkin, boys assistant coach, left and Belinda Marino, right, girls head coach. Not pictured is Sara Webster, boys head coach.

A few weeks ago on a pretty, spring afternoon, I had the opportunity to visit the “Girls on the Run” and “Let Me Run” programs at Moravian Falls Elementary School. It seemed that boys and girls were everywhere, running around the track and talking excitedly to each other.

As their names imply, the seven week programs teach the mechanics of running and participants work toward the end goal of running in a 5K. The girls will conclude their season with a 5K in Boone on May 7, while the boys will finish theirs running the Communities In Schools “Headed to College” 5K on May 13.

But according to the coaches, girls coach Belinda Marino, and boys coach Sarah Webster, “Girls on the Run” and “Let Me Run” are about much more than just running.

Coaches undergo training in Charlotte through the programs’ national organizations and are provided curriculum which uses self-esteem-enhancing lessons with emphases on nutrition, well-being, healthy relationships and positive competition.

Marino said that students participating in the programs engage in lessons that teach how to live a healthy, active and positive  lifestyle. “Students learn how to set goals for themselves and learn how to express feelings and emotions,” she said.

The day I visited, Marino’s girls squad had talked about teamwork and how to communicate with others when you are on a team, while Webster’s boys team had talked about gratitude. The boys wrote thankfulness letters to people who had impacted them.

Students’ comments about “Girls on the Run” included, from Rose, “People encourage you;” from Elisa, “Miss Marino is our coach, you make friends and it’s a fun way to exercise;” Kaylynne, “I get to meet new people and I get to be with my favorite teacher;” Gracie, “I went up on my lexile.”

The boys had this to say about being in the club: Alex, “I get to run;” Caleb, “Spending time with my friends;” Matthew, “Running and playing running games;” and Gavin, “Running and playing soccer.”

Marino said that to keep the students interested, she mixes running with agility drills. “Sometimes we do an obstacle course or agility ladders,” she said. The two groups finish up each practice by scrimmaging each other in soccer.

Marino applied for grants for sports equipment for the group through She was able to purchase new soccer goals, a large water cooler, agility ladders and more.

Currently, there are three “Girls on the Run” programs and three “Let Me Run” programs in Wilkes County. Girls’ programs are located at North Wilkesboro, C.C. Wright and Moravian Falls Elementary schools and boys’ programs are at North Wilkesboro, Traphilll and Moravian Falls Elementary schools.

This spring, the Health Foundation Inc. is providing a $9,000 grant for full tuition for 90 students to participate in the programs.


Community impact project

An additional component is that each year the groups organize an impact project to benefit the community. For their project, Moravian Falls “Girls on the Run” from the fall and spring seasons will host the “Sweet Feet Fun Run” to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Two members of the Moravian Falls squad have juvenile diabetes.

The fun run will be held May 13 at 11 a.m., beginning at the Watson Stage at Wilkes Community College. Cost is $5 for students and $10 for adults. For more information or for a sign-up sheet contact Belinda Marino at

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