By Deirdre Higgins |FAIR HAVEN – “I feel good about myself, because we play a lot of games and I get a lot faster at running,” said Catalina Frank, 11, about the benefits of participating in her local Girls On the Run (GOTR) program.The program, part of a nationwide organization, encourages girls to lead a healthy and confident life, while integrating running as exercise. The national nonprofit focuses primarily on the wellness and happiness of adolescent girls and has spread to over 200 councils in 50 states.Girls on the Run participants at Fair Haven Fields. Photo by Deirdre HigginsMother and fellow runner, Sue Flynn, coaches the third- through eighth-grade girls from Fair Haven, Rumson and Little Silver in more than just running. “The girls learn about bullying, choosing their friends and core values, what you value in your friends and what you should value in yourself,” Flynn said. She empowers them to be the best person they can be and love themselves for who they are.The group spent the fall improving their running skills at Fair Haven Fields in preparation for a 5k race in Somerville on Nov. 19. “The running portion is fun for the girls and provides an outlet they may not have had before,” said Flynn. The race provided a tangible goal for the girls and helped them gain confidence through their accomplishments.“The 5K was really fun, it got me really pumped up,” said Catalina.With each practice, the girls had an opportunity to unite as a team and share words of encouragement and enthusiasm. Small compliments were happily accepted and beaming smiles graced their faces by the end of each practice, accompanied by a rousing group chant: “Girls on the run, girls on the run, girls on the run is so much fun!” Despite the obstacles the girls may have faced throughout the day, GOTR provided a concrete time for the girls to gain confidence and support each other.“We work on confidence and what we should and shouldn’t do in life,” said Catalina.While mainly focusing on lighthearted topics during the non-running portion of the practices, the group will sometimes broach a serious subject. After a recent run, Flynn asked the team how they feel when they see models and women in magazines, if the way they dress or look had an impact on the girls. The group members expressed mixed thoughts and feelings on the subject, ultimately concluding that each person is beautiful in their own way. One team member loudly proclaimed, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”With another successful season behind them, the runners are now equipped with a positive outlook and a personal confidence they may have not carried before. “I just really believe in the Girls On the Run program, how it can impact these girls and the message within it,” said Flynn.This article was first published in the Nov. 30-Dec. 7, 2017 print edition of the Two River Times.