Girls on the Run program

Participants in the Girls on the Run program high five program leader Leanne Lowden Mothershead during a warm up excercise. (Roger Wilson / Staff Photographer / February 25, 2013)

In less than three months, a small group of girls from Paradise Canyon Elementary School will discover they can do just about anything.

On Monday, the 11 girls who decided to take a giant step toward their dream of running a 5K event met the woman who will get them there. Girls on the Run coach Leanne Mothershead explained that while running is the group's theme, it's certainly not the only thing.

“It's an action-packed program,” Mothershead said. “We use running as a tool for fitness. We do fun games. You don't ever have to run. You can skip, if you like, as long as you're moving forward.”

Over the next 21/2 months, the girls in third through sixth grades will participate in twice-a-week sessions.

The training will culminate with the inaugural Girls on the Run 5K on Sunday, May 19, at the Rose Bowl. Mothershead expects more than 400 Girls on the Run participants from around the Southland to lace up and run, or walk, the event.

“It's going to be huge — and a lot of fun.”

Before doing any exercise on Monday, Mothershead had the girls get to know each other through word associations. Girls wrote their names on name tags and introduced themselves by including an alliterative adjective.

“I'm Loyal Leanne,” Mothershead started.

“I'm Energetic Ellie,” a girl followed.

Mothershead, who has been coaching for eight years, also shared her rules: 1) Have fun; 2) Be respectful and kind to each other; 3) Be honest with yourself and others; 4) Be on time.

Assistant Coach Nancy Massimino, whose daughter Ellie is a Paradise Canyon student and member of the team, led the girls in their warmup — a series of 50-yard runs to Coach Leanne and back.

Before each run, Massimino made affirming statements:

“I love fruit,” she exclaimed.

All but one ran.

“I love vegetables,” she followed.

Only three ran.

“I have a tree in my backyard.”

Most ran, but one girl who didn't run said, “My mother cut down our tree.”

The girls' main workout was several one-sixth-of-a-mile laps around the grass field.

To make it fun, the girls would catch up with their teammates and put a name tag on others' shirts. By the end, every girl had the names of their teammates on their shirts.

“I learned that we have an incredible team, and that you are faster than you thought,” Mothershead told the girls. “What do you think is one of the most important things you learned today? I hope you learned ... that we all are different and unique. We are all strong, wise and beautiful just the way we are.”

Other third- through sixth-grade girls interested in joining the Paradise Canyon Girls on the Run team can join through Thursday, March 7.

For more information on the program, call (626) 825-9307, email leanne@gotrlosangeles.com or visit www.gotrlosangeles.org.