Our History

How Girls on the Run International Began

Girls on the Run® was established in 1996 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Girls on the Run® curricula, the heart of the program, provides pre-adolescent girls with the necessary tools to embrace their individual strengths and successfully navigate life experiences. The earliest version of the 24-lesson curriculum was piloted in 1996 with the help of thirteen brave girls. Twenty-six girls came the next season, then seventy-five. In 2000, Girls on the Run International, a 501c3 organization was born.

What started with one school has grown to over 200 councils in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. With the help of over 100,000 volunteers, Girls on the Run served over 185,000 girls in 2015, including its millionth girl! In the same year, Girls on the Run hosted more than 350 end-of-season 5k events across the United States, making the Girls on the Run 5k series the largest in the country, and launched a new middle school program, Heart & Sole, which is dedicated to the unique needs of adolescent girls.

Girls on the Run has been featured in many media outlets including People, Runner’s World, Redbook, Women’s Day, O Magazine, Fitness Magazine, Self Magazine, Glamour, Shape, Marie Claire, Parenting, Running Times, CNN, MSNBC, ABC News, NBC News, NPR and ESPN.

The true success of the program, however, is not told in the numbers, but rather in the words of the girls who participate. “Girls on the Run made me realize that I am the boss of my brain.” “I know that whatever I set my mind to do, I can do.” “At Girls on the Run I learned how to be comfortable in my own skin!”

That is success.

How Girls on the Run of Silicon Valley Began

Girls on the Run of Silicon Valley (GOTRSV) was founded in 2002 by Kathleen Nestler and Christy Cowley. It was the first Girls on the Run council in California and was established to serve the girls in Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Both Kathleen and Christy grew up in the south Bay Area and wanted to share their love with running and the Girls on the Run experience with the girls in their community. They started with one small group of girls at Lakeside Elementary School in the Santa Cruz Mountains above Los Gatos and have grown the organization to include 92 sites serving 2,070 girls in 2016. 

Since Girls on the Run of Silicon Valley was founded, over 12,000 girls have participated in Girls on the Run and Girls on Track programs. Kathleen continues to manage GOTRSV as the Executive Director, and Christy continues to serve as a board member, race committee member, Team Adelaide member and overall volunteer extraordinaire!

Our Founder: Molly Barker

Molly Barker, MSW and four-time Hawaii Ironman triathlete is a visionary. Using her expertise in counseling and teaching along with research on adolescent issues, she founded Girls on the Run® in Charlotte, North Carolina. Girls on the Run is a non-profit organization with mission of inspiring girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running. The innovative, experiential program combines training for a 5K event with life-changing self-esteem enhancing lessons that enhance social, physical and mental health in 8-12 year old girls.

Molly began running at the age of 15, an age when she found herself stuck in the "girl box," where only girls who were a certain size with a certain beauty were popular; where girls who wanted to fit in had to mold their bodies and their personalities to fit the requirements of the box.

In 2006, Molly was the recipient of several prestigious national awards including Redbook magazine's "Strength and Spirit Award" which recognizes individuals who are building a better future for all of us, the "Woman's Day Award" from Woman's Day magazine which salutes individuals who have used their vision and heart to help fix pressing problems and the highly prestigious "Heroes of Running Award" from Runner's World magazine.  Corporate sponsors for Girls on the Run International include New Balance Athletic Shoe and Apparel Company, Kellogg's Frosted Flakes and Goody's Hair Products.

With the success of the Girls on the Run program combined with her books, Girls on Track, A Parent's Guide to Inspiring our Daughters to Achieve a Lifetime of Self-Esteem and Respect, and Girls Lit From Within, Molly has become an inspiration and positive role model for people of all ages.

Molly lives in Charlotte, North Carolina and enjoys writing, running and cycling. She is passionate about her work but is most inspired by her two children.

Educating and Preparing Girls for a Lifetime of Self Respect
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