Founder: Molly Barker
-adj. 1. Genuine and authentic. 2. Not artificial. 3. How one would describe Molly Barker
Molly Barker, MSW and four-time Hawaii Ironman triathlete founded Girls on the Run® in 1996. Combining her counseling and teaching expertise with research on adolescent issues, she developed the first curriculum with 13 girls in Charlotte, North Carolina. The innovative, experiential program combines training for a 5k event with life-changing, confidence building lessons that enhance the physical and mental health of 8 – 12 year old girls.
Molly first began running at the age of 15 when she found herself stuck in “the girl box”. The girl box is a place where many girls go around middle school when they begin to morph into what they think they should be instead of being who they really are. The messages of the girl box vary but the overarching theme comes from a culture rooted in the belief that girls and women must conform to a set of standards that are often unattainable and dangerous to their health and well-being.
During a sunset run in 1993, after years of questioning her self-worth and self-image, Molly found the inspiration that grew into Girls on the Run. In 1996 she piloted the earliest version of the 24-lesson curriculum with 13 brave girls. 26 girls came the next season, then 75, and so the program grew. In 2000, Girls on the Run International became a 501c3 organization. Today, Girls on the Run is offered in over 160 cities across North America and hundreds of thousands of girls and women’s lives have been changed by the program.
The organization has been featured in many media outlets including People, Runner’s World, Redbook, Women’s Day, O Magazine, Self, Shape, Southern Living, Running Times, CNN, MSNBC, ABC News, NBC News, NPR, ESPN and Forbes. Molly is 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. She is also a lifetime fellow of Ashoka, a global organization that recognizes and supports leading social entrepreneurs who are creating positive systemic change to the planet. Molly is an inspiration to people of all ages.
Molly lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, and enjoys running, cycling and writing. Since creating Girls on the Run, she has authored two 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. She is passionate about her work but is most inspired by her two children.