Sarah Barrett has always set high goals for herself.
Of course, becoming a New England Patriots cheerleader was one of them, along with graduating from New York University and Columbia. And after recently competing in Berlin, she's also crossed two of the six Abbott World Marathon Major courses off her list.
It's never been about how quickly she racked up those accomplishments, though. So when she was one of the last people to cross the finish line at the Girls on the Run 5K, that was the example she was trying to set for the girls she cheered on in the back.
"I was the honorary 'Wonder Woman' for the Girls on the Run' 5K, meaning I finished with the last participants in the race," Barrett said, after attending the event as part of her season initiative with the cheerleading squad.
"As a track & field coach at the high school and college levels, this resonated with me because something I always instill in my athletes is that this sport is not about winning. It's about individual progress. Completing the 5K at the back of the pack embodied the importance of recognizing growth and progress for these girls. As a coach, I even emphasize to my athletes who come in first place that winning is not everything – what matters is if they made improvements and progress and have bettered themselves personally. That, to me, is where the real impact of athletics lies: always improving, learning, growing, and challenging oneself in all facets."
At its essence, that is what the mission of Girls on the Run is all about, and rain didn't stop more than 2,000 runners, running buddies, and volunteers from showing up for the race to cap off a successful fall season.
The Greater Boston chapter of Girls on the Run was founded in 1996 and is dedicated to making an impact on local girls through running and community, helping them realize their potential and gain confidence.
Barrett has participated in other Girls on the Run programs over the years, resonating with the organization's goal of providing opportunities for young girls to find themselves through involvement in athletics. She has a similar story herself.
"Running my first marathon and becoming a competitive road racer led to personal growth that I never expected," Barrett said.
"The physical and mental push of marathon training is one of the hardest things I've done. Athletics have truly shaped who I am over the years. I love that Girls on the Run provides a platform for girls to grow, develop, and challenge themselves in a fun and active way. Girls will carry these skills and experiences with them for the rest of their lives and they will be ready to navigate all of life's challenges."
Events and organizations like this are a huge part of Barrett's initiative with the Patriots cheerleaders.
Having been adopted from South Korea and raised in Connecticut, sports like figure skating, professional cheerleading, and track & field have allowed her countless opportunities in life to defy expectations. She's passionate about advocating for athletics and equity in sports to help others realize the same through her platform.
"I have found running to be a platform through which I can support athletes with disabilities as well," Barrett said. "When I go for runs that are hard and discouraging I remind myself never to take for granted that I am physically able to run."
In addition to the Girls on the Run 5K, Barrett also recently ran in the Hartford Half Marathon as a charity runner for Achilles International. The non-profit provides resources and opportunities to individuals with disabilities that makes running accessible to all, including covering the costs of race training and entry, training guide runners for visually impaired athletes, and supporting athletes living with physical and developmental disabilities.
Next up is the London Marathon in April of 2024, where she'll run for charity in support of Get Kids Going! – a United Kingdom-based foundation that gives children and young adults with disabilities support and equipment to participate in sports.
"Running London would be amazing no matter what," Barrett said. "But to run for such an amazing organization makes this race even more special."