Kim Boschee brings the gospel of running to girls in Las Vegas
Kim Boschee looks like she just stepped off the cover of Runner’s World: chiseled legs, suntanned shoulders, energetic expression. She drinks frequently from a lightweight bottle, prehydration for an afternoon run.
“I’m training for a desert marathon,” she says matter-of-factly, as if vigorous outdoor exercise in mid-July Las Vegas wasn’t reserved for the insanely dedicated.
This Kim Boschee, now the director of the nonprofit Girls on the Run, is not one that the Kim Boschee circa 2010 would recognize. Back then she was a “super-happy, super-fat stay-at-home mom,” she says. “I never even thought twice about my weight.”
The death of her father in 2011 abruptly ended Boschee’s complacent bliss. When a friend suggested she try boot camp a few months later, she thought, Why not?
It was hill day, she recalls, meaning the group went up and down a hill every imaginable way — sprinting, frog-hopping, crab-walking, and so on — for an hour.
“I thought I was going to throw up,” she says. “But I got through the 60 minutes. I got in my car, and on the drive home, I realized that, for the first time since my father died, I wasn’t sad, and it was such a relief.”
That experience led to running two miles, then four, then a half-marathon, then a full, which she did in four hours, 44 minutes, her coach pacing her the entire way.
“That was a life-changing experience,” she says. “First, the fact that he was willing to run with me for nearly five hours and not complain once told me there is good in this world. Runners want to give back, which made me fall in love with the sport. Second, it was something that was completely mine. No one could ever take it away from me.”
After that, she got serious, focusing on her nutrition and running 50 miles or more a week. Her weight dropped 100 pounds from its peak. Today, she’s two races shy of running in all six major world marathons.
It was on the bus to the Boston Marathon, in fact, that she talked to her coach about joining the Southern Nevada board of directors for Girls on the Run, a national nonprofit that teaches third- through eighth-graders social-emotional skills through running. The group had approached her earlier in the year, and the opportunity intrigued her. In her life before stay-at-home motherhood, she’d gotten a master’s degree in psychology, worked with adolescents through the Juvenile Justice system, and operated a private family therapy practice. And before that, she’d worked at a flower shop, where her favorite thing to do was plan weddings. The Girls on the Run position wove the strands of her work experience — counseling, kids, event-planning — into her passion, running. She became its executive director in 2018.
Girls on the Run is an after-school program that meets 20 times for 75-90 minutes each over 10 weeks. Coaches use fun activities to teach girls goal-setting, stress-management, and other life lessons. Running is incorporated gradually, starting with bite-size challenges, such as darting between cones. And there’s always time for processing feelings.
The program is open to anyone who identifies as a girl, Boschee says. Funds are set aside to sponsor it at Title X schools, while other sites pay for it upfront. She expects the program to be in 20 sites this fall. There are fall and spring sessions, each culminating in a mass 5K for all participating groups.
“For our spring run this year, we had 1,500 people (including runners, their safety buddies, and spectators), 200 volunteers,” Boschee says. “A life-size unicorn led the runners out.”
She describes a festival atmosphere, with “sparkle zones” and “star power activation stations.” But amid the fun, something important is happening: Girls are gaining confidence in themselves and each other.
“During the December 2018 5K, a girl was sprinting toward the finish line, and she fell with 20 feet to go,” Boschee says. “She couldn’t make it the rest of the way, so three of her teammates came out and carried her over the line.” They’d learned from Girls on the Run what Boschee did in her first marathon: When you help someone reach their goal, you score one for the greater good.