Getting Moving + Giving Back: Two Great Ways to Support GOTR

Victoria VanLinden shares her experience as a National SoleMate and future Every Woman’s Marathon participant 

Being a member of the Fleet Feet and Girls on the Run National SoleMates Team is a fun and rewarding way to give back to local girls AND challenge yourself to a meaningful goal. By embracing the joy of movement as a SoleMate, like Victoria VanLinden so proudly does, you not only improve your own health and well-being but also raise vital funds to ensure our program reaches girls and inspires them to do the same. The camaraderie and sense of purpose within the SoleMates Team create a vibrant, supportive environment where everyone is driven by a shared mission of making a positive impact, all while enjoying the thrill of reaching personal fitness milestones. 

And sometimes, as you’ll read in Victoria’s story, achieving these types of milestones is the catalyst to other amazing opportunities that transform lives, including registering for the Every Woman’s Marathon presented by Team Milk! The Every Woman’s Marathon’s goal is to get more women out there to experience the joy and community that comes with finishing a marathon. And for every woman who registers for the Every Woman’s Marathon, Milk is making a donation to one of five charity partners, including Girls on the Run! Learn more about Victoria’s National SoleMates Team experience and exciting new journey with the Every Woman’s Marathon presented by Team Milk below! 

Tell us about how you learned about National SoleMates Team and what inspired you to sign up. 

I actually learned about this opportunity through a Facebook Ad, of all things! I follow GOTR on almost every social media platform, and the advertisement caught my eye while I was scrolling – I had been looking for a new way to engage with Girls on the Run and after seeing the post I immediately applied!

What’s your favorite aspect of what we do at Girls on the Run, and why is it important for you to support our cause?  

When I talk to people about why I love Girls on the Run so much, the actual “running” part is the last thing I mention. To me, GOTR is about building strong and confident girls and preparing them to handle whatever life throws at them. A lot of the topics covered in the GOTR curriculum are topics that some adults even struggle with, Stop and Take a Breather almost always comes to mind!

In a world where young girls are pressured to “fit in, look a certain way, or engage on social media, Girls on the Run celebrates authentic beauty and diversity in such an honest way. There’s something so real about being in a group, running or moving your body, setting goals, and being celebrated that feels almost rare in 2024. It’s important to me to keep the spirit of girlhood alive – That’s something I’ve learned in my adult life, too. By supporting GOTR, I’m helping light that spark early on, so girls like me don’t have to wait as long to find it. 

Like GOTR, National SoleMates Team embraces the joy of movement. How has giving back while getting active enriched your life?  

Oh my gosh! Giving back to an organization like Girls on the Run fuels me in my personal life. As a SoleMate, I was able to share my story online with my friends and family, and I think a lot of people learned some new things. This time in my fundraising efforts, I didn’t hold backI realized my story is worth telling, you know? All that to say, by sharing my story online, I realized that I’m not the only one who has had an on-and-off relationship with running, struggled with their mental health, and transparently had a hard time being a good friend. (That’s not something I’m proud to admit but it’s true.)

Giving back to GOTR while being so immersed in a running community has reminded me of my core values and what truly matters to me. Having this opportunity to be reflective and active has impacted my life in a way that is hard to explain.

Speaking of movement, we’ve learned you’ve registered for your first-ever marathon – Every Woman’s Marathon presented by Team Milk! Tell us about why you registered and what you’re most excited about!  

YES! I am so terrified and excited to run a marathon! Back in August 2023, I decided to create my own running club, Slow Girl Run Club (SGRC), in Athens, Georgia, where I live, because I was craving a women’s community that was centered around running and friendship (basically GOTR, but for adults). Long story short, SGRC exploded overnight! After a few months of SGRC, I started to see social media posts advertising for the Every Woman’s Marathon presented by Team Milk. After a few days, I texted my friend Laura and asked,Do we need to run a marathon? I explained to her that the stars were aligning.

How was it that we started SGRC, folks were setting goals and crushing them, and then Team Milk created this womancentered marathon? It felt very kismet. It felt like this was something we were meant to do. The most exciting thing for me is that more than 20 women from Athens and SGRC have already signed up for this race, and we will start training together in August and then travel together to Savannah. These women and community have been at the center of this whole journey, and I can’t wait to celebrate with them. Through SGRC, I’ve seen women who weren’t able to run a mile feel empowered and encouraged to sign up for 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons, and now, the Every Woman’s Marathon. It is truly special.  

What does the Every Woman’s Marathon mean to you and why is it such an important event in today’s world?  

This marathon is so special for a lot of reasons. It is a celebration – a celebration of womanhood, whatever that means to you; a celebration of community, strength, and empowerment. I think spaces dedicated to people who identify as women are so sacred – and for this marathon to be inclusive of gender identity, ability, and life experience it shows that this race is truly for every woman. Additionally, being in an environment that is outside and away from screens is where connections happen. The Every Woman’s Marathon is setting a standard for what races should be, because they should be for everyone.  

Why should people get involved with the National SoleMates Team next season and Every Woman’s Marathon presented by Team Milk this November?

GET INVOLVED Y’ALL! This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be engaged with the first-ever Every Woman’s Marathon presented by Team Milk, and you’ll be supported by GOTR staff every step of the way. Fundraising can be scary, but when you are connected to a cause and can see the impact, it can be so rewarding. Being a part of the National SoleMates Team is such a great way to stay connected to a cause while working towards your running goals. It’s so motivating! There’s no wrong way to get involved with GOTR. Whether you’re fundraising for GOTR as a SoleMate or participating in the Every Woman’s Marathon presented by Team Milk you will be making an impact. 🙂 

Learn more about how to become a member of the National SoleMates Team next season here 

The Every Woman’s Marathon presented by Milk has officially sold out, but there’s still a way to get involved! Click here to learn more. For 42% of registered runners, the Every Woman’s Marathon is their very first marathon. Experienced or not, be bold and take part in the big day!