Today we shine the spotlight on Sonali Rajan! Sonali is a long time Girls on the Run coach and supporter and will run the Brooklyn Half Marathon as a GOTR SoleMate!
Why did you decide to become a SoleMate and fundraise to support Girls on the Run?
I have been involved with Girls on the Run for 10 years (this is my 20th season coaching)! This year I felt like I wanted to do something to bring to light the extraordinary value programs like Girls on the Run have and bring to so many kids and families both here in NYC and across the US. I have actually never raced as a SoleMate before, so this is an exciting opportunity for me as well!
Why did you decide to sign up to run the Brooklyn Half Marathon?
This is one of my favorite NYRR races! My husband (Andy) and I lived in Brooklyn for many years and this was always a great race to kick off the summer with. I gave birth to my son (Nikhil) in August 2015, so I haven't been able to run this race in a couple of years. This will be my first truly long distance race since then (the half-marathon is also one of my favorite distances, so I am really looking forward to this)!
What does the Girls on the Run mission mean to you?
I have said this many times, but I feel like I have learned just as much (if not more so!) from my girls at Girls on the Run as they have from us coaches. I try, as best as I can, to model many of the Girls on the Run core values (compassion, character, connection) in my own life (and when I forget to do so, my girls are there to remind me).
Tell us a little bit about your running history!
I started running when I was about 13 years old with my dad (I grew up in upstate New York). We still run together when I go home to visit, which is one of my favorite ways to spend time with him! I then joined my high school cross-country team, which I just loved (one of my best friends (who I am actually running the Brooklyn Half with!) and I became especially close through running cross-country together). I went to Cornell University for undergrad, which is located in Ithaca and truly one of the most beautiful places in the world. It's also one of the hardest places to run (hilly, snowy, you name it - I've run in it)! Another one of my very best friends and I were actually on the triathlon club team at Cornell and we used to go on these crazy long runs together all around the gorges and in insane weather - sometimes I still can't believe we used to do that! Andy and I met at Cornell and so we used to run together then too (and up until Nikhil was born, we actually ran together quite a bit (Andy's an incredible athlete, so he's good company + motivation))! I moved to NYC for graduate school in 2005 and have run all around this beautiful city. To date I've done 8 marathons and countless other road races. I ran through most of my pregnancy and while on maternity leave I would take Nikhil out in the running stroller all the time. I'm already excited to be able to run with him when he's a little older (though he's pretty speedy - so it won't be long before I can't keep up with him)!
What do you do besides running to keep yourself healthy, confident and joyful?
Running is certainly an important of my happiness. Juggling work and motherhood is tough and so I (try to!) prioritize sleep as a regular component of staying healthy. But I can easily say that spending time with Nikhil and coaching Girls on the Run are two things that bring me enormous joy and so I feel very lucky in that regard.
Favorite place to run in NYC?
The Reservoir and Bridle Path in Central Park (as evident by my Instagram feed :)). It's really one of the most beautiful parts of the city.
Favorite time of day to run?
Since becoming a parent, the best way to fit in running without losing out on too much family time is to just run as early as possible (I run with the New York Flyers now and those workouts start at 6AM)! Ideally....an 8 or 9AM run is perfect.
What words of encouragement would you share with a girl starting with Girls on the Run?
Joining something new can feel scary and intimidating, but Girls on the Run is so unique in that it actively seeks to create a safe, welcoming, and inclusive space for all girls. That's the beautiful part of this program. I promise you will love it. (Also, for those of us coaching, getting the chance to spend time with such bright, creative, hilarious, brilliant, talented girls of this age is such a joy).
Thanks, Sonali! If you want to help Sonali reach her fundraising goals, you can visit her fundraising page here!