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Women Who Wow Us: Vanessa Fraser

Vanessa Fraser is a professional distance runner with Bowerman Track Club. She participated in Girls on the Run starting in 3rd grade. Never one too shy to set ambitious goals, Vanessa decided that same year—at just 8 years old—that she wanted to attend Stanford University someday. As a high school student, Vanessa even volunteered her time as a Girls on the Run coach in her hometown in Northern California.

Girls on the Run recently had the opportunity to talk with Vanessa and learn more about her experience at Girls on the Run and how she carries the lessons she learned at Girls on the Run with her to this day. We are excited for you to get to know Vanessa in this exclusive Q&A!

Vanessa crossing the finish line

Vanessa crossing the finish line

1. Is there a specific skill or lesson from Girls on the Run that you still carry with you?

The biggest lesson I remember is the power of goal setting. That has been with me since I was in Girls on the Run. I had the dream in 3rd grade to go to Stanford one day, and that dream developed around the time I ran my first 5K as a GOTR girl. Then, in middle school, my dream became that I really wanted to run at Stanford one day.

The reason why I’ve been able to improve my running so much is that I approach it as little stepping-stone goals along the way. Rather than focusing on what everyone else is doing, I focus on how I can get a little bit better each day. Being able to focus on my own growth and development really came from Girls on the Run.

Self-belief is so important in competitive running. It’s not about putting pressure on yourself but seeing it as a fun challenge. You have to believe that you belong. The skills I learned at Girls on the Run have carried me through each stage of my career and helped me find confidence within myself.

2. Can you remember a game or activity that you enjoyed at Girls on the Run?

Some of the most memorable things were the Energy Awards, lessons and practice 5K!

Vanessa Fraser as a GOTR girl

Vanessa as a GOTR girl

3. What qualities do you feel make a good Girls on the Run coach?

The first thing that comes to mind about when I think of a Girls on the Run coach is having a lot of enthusiasm and keeping everything super fun and high energy. Coaches at Girls on the Run make every girl feel included. You don’t need to be a runner to coach. In sports, the focus is often on the fastest or most talented player on the field. But at Girls on the Run, coaches give the same level of energy to every girl, and every girl’s journey is just as special. When I was a coach, it was exciting to see each girl’s personal level of progress!

4. As a collegiate athlete at Stanford and now as a professional with Bowerman Track Club, can you talk about the role that teamwork has played in your running career?

My team has always been really important to my running, and I truly don’t believe I would be where I am today without having supportive and talented teammates who work really hard alongside me. I had an incredible team experience at Stanford.

Everyone’s role matters, and I believe in the power of a shared mission. The focus isn’t on the individual outcome at all. There’s something about running for something bigger than yourself that’s so empowering. It’s also just more fun that way!

Even as a professional, it’s not about comparing yourself to your teammates – it’s about bringing your best self to the track on that day. We’re all supporting one another and want to do the best we can. We’re a force to be reckoned with as a team!

5. Do you have any role models who you look up to?

It might be a cliché to say my teammates, but I know everything they’ve been through. Sometimes, you see successful athletes and you don’t really know their full story about how they got there. When you know the dirty details, it’s all the more inspiring.

Vanessa and her teammates

Vanessa and her teammates

6. You’ve mentioned that you enjoy ice cream as a post-race celebratory treat. So, we have to ask: what is your favorite ice cream flavor?

My go-to original favorite is mint ice cream – whether mint chocolate chip or mint Oreo. I also love blackberry ice cream!

Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, Vanessa. We are all cheering you on as you set your sights on accomplishing whatever goal you dream up next!

To learn more about Vanessa’s experience with Girls on the Run and her journey as a runner, check out this episode of Lindsey Hein’s “I’ll Have Another” podcast.

At Girls on the Run, girls are empowered to unleash their limitless potential and boldly pursue their dreams – just like Vanessa. Learn more about the impact of our program and register your girl for our upcoming program season by connecting with your local council today!

Be sure to join Vanessa at our 25th Birthday virtual event!

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