Our “Who is GOTRBC” series would not be complete without spotlighting the Executive Director of Girls on the Run Bexar County: Minka Misangyi. Her story of finding joy through running--and helping young girls do the same--inspires all of us at the Bexar County council.
Girls on the Run’s theme for 2016 was “Born to Run,” which encouraged girls to reflect on what they were born to do, whatever that may be. Tell me about how you discovered what you were “born” to do.
One thing I was born to do is what I’m doing right now: leading Girls on the Run of Bexar County.
I would say that I discovered this by accident, but I don’t believe in accidents. My background is in English composition and literature, and one of my great loves is writing. I taught for a while and love teaching, but life led me elsewhere. When I moved to Texas I took a job at a start-up and rapidly growing IT company, where I became the training development manager. I met some truly wonderful people there, but never quite felt like I fit in, so I quit to do some freelance writing and editing.
It was during that time that I read about Girls on the Run and thought it would be fun to coach, so I looked for councils in San Antonio and Bexar County. But there weren’t any. There was, however, an amazing group of women who were working to get a council started, and I was in the right place at the right time.
I didn’t know, however, that becoming council director and running a nonprofit was the job in store for me. If someone would have told me so then, I don’t think I would have believed them. I do know that as the organization progressed, I discovered that the passion for what Girls on the Run of Bexar County does, how we do it, and who we do it through is so strong I can’t imagine doing anything else.
When I look back, I see that in past jobs I learned the skills I need to do what I’m doing now. Even if at the time I wondered what on earth I was doing there, I know now--I was preparing for this.
You helped found the Bexar County council in 2010. What drew you in initially and what were some early success stories you would like to share?
The mission and the people. When I first read about Girls on the Run, I sobbed. I don’t mean I cried. I mean I sat in my home office behind my computer and sobbed loudly and soggily. I knew what running did for me. And I thought the same thing, as it turns out, that so many coaches think: Where was Girls on the Run when I was growing up? There have been very few things in my life I have known with absolute certainty. That I needed to be a part of Girls on the Run was one.
There are hundreds of success stories, from our first season at Hawthorne Academy when we hoped for 8 girls to sign up and got 36; to the first season Gamma Phi Beta volunteered at our 5k and walked out of the early morning darkness like a wall of angels and said, “we’re with Gamma Phi Beta and here to help--what do you want us to do?”; to the dozens of community impact projects planned and implemented by the girls each season. Simply look at the face of every girl in the program as she runs, whether it’s around the field behind her school or across the finish line at the 5k. Each girl is her own success story.
What is one thing about working with GOTRBC that keeps you coming back each year?
I am dumbfounded day in and day out by the incredible people associated with our council. The many sponsors and volunteers who freely and generously give their time and skills, their love and passion to see the girls and the Bexar County council succeed humble me.
Tell me how you got introduced to running and how that turned into a passion and joy of yours.
I took up running in my early 30s. I was recovering from a serious illness, through which I discovered that I have a body. This might sound like a silly thing to say--obviously, I knew I had a body--but it became very clear that I have only one body, that it is on loan to me for a lifetime, no matter how long or short that turns out to be, and that it’s my responsibility not only to take care of it, but through it to do something good.
As I recovered, I decided that I needed to find out what my body could do; how far could I push it? I tried all kinds of things--biking, swimming, scuba diving, jumping out of planes--but it wasn’t until my neighbor invited me to run that I found the thing that would push me to my limit. Other activities require equipment. Running only requires a pair of shoes. It’s just me pushing me.
My first time out I couldn’t even run a quarter of a mile. I was breathless and felt muscles I didn’t know I had. But I persisted, and eventually got to one mile, and then two, and then a 5k. Somewhere along the way, running stopped hurting and started healing. I found that I could think more clearly and work out problems in my head while I ran. The more confident I got in my ability to run, the more I could see the same confidence taking hold in the rest of my life. When life’s share of problems cropped up, running helped me to work through them in a healthy way.
Running still helps me through life. Setting a running goal and posting a training plan on the side of my fridge keeps me focused and grounded, not only on running, but on the work I do. I keep the vision of my ultimate goal in front of me, but don’t let it overwhelm me. While I know where I’m heading, I’m only responsible for doing what’s in my plan today. It’s sometimes difficult to keep the balance between knowing that if I don’t do what I need to do today, the long-term goal may suffer, and giving myself the grace to let it go on those days when I just need to be still.
There is joy there, in the planning and the execution. Mostly, the joy is in the moment, in simply running.
If the girls could learn one thing throughout the season, what would you want that thing to be?
This is the Girls on the Run motto:
WE BELIEVE THAT EVERY GIRL
CAN EMBRACE WHO SHE IS,
CAN DEFINE WHO SHE WANTS TO BE,
CAN RISE TO ANY CHALLENGE,
CAN CHANGE THE WORLD.
I believe this with all I am. I want every girl to believe it about herself too.
What are your “words to live by”?
My most recently adopted is Brene Brown: “Courage over comfort.”
My longstanding is Henry Thoreau: “Be not simply good -- be good for something.”