Posted Suzanna McCloskey on 5/19/2015 |Featured Columns & Series
This year, Girls on the Run will serve its one-millionth girl! We’re honoring this milestone by celebrating what makes each of us one in a million and by showcasing some one-in-a-million women who have made exceptional contributions to empowering girls and women.
Karen "Casey" Cortese, a marketing executive in Denver, Colorado, found the perfect way to combine her love of traveling with her passion for a healthy lifestyle—all while supporting Girls on the Run! Earlier this year, she completed the Triple 7 Quest, an attempt to run seven half marathons on all seven continents in seven days as a SoleMate for Girls on the Run Rockies. Despite travel delays in Antarctica, she met her goal (even running her first full marathon in the process!) and, best of all, raised funds for the Rockies council to bring Girls on the Run to more local girls.
Here’s what Casey has to share about being one in a million.
Q: Girls on the Run envisions a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams! How did you start to realize your own limitless potential and pursue the path to where you are today?
Casey: I have been brought up with a very strong and supportive family. My parents have always told my three sisters and me that we can do whatever we set out to do. I feel so blessed. But I have always struggled, as many girls and women do, with a sense of self doubt, for no logical reason. And as I grew and sought to find my true sense of self, along the way I discovered that it was less important to know exactly what you want to do or be, and more important to keep your eyes and mind open to new opportunities—sometimes the best things, the best opportunities, are unexpected ones. This attitude led me to many life changing adventures that feed my spirit for adventure, for lifelong learning and to live my life passionately.
Q: Of the traits and achievements that help make you one-in-a-million, what stands out most to you?
Casey: I recently completed the Triple 7 Quest, an attempt to do seven half marathons in seven days on seven continents. Prior to doing this I had only done six half marathons ever! While we didn’t make our journey in seven days (we were delayed by weather getting into Antarctica), we did it in 11, and on our final race day in Antarctica I decided instead of doing the half, I would run (run/walk) my first full marathon ever! This experience helped me prove to myself that the motto “where there’s a will, there’s a way” is so true! I consider myself to be a recreational runner and never thought I would attempt something so “crazy!" But I wanted to prove to myself once and for all that I could accomplish anything I set out to do. As an added bonus, through this journey I became an avid supporter of Girls on the Run, which has added tremendous additional value to this once in a lifetime experience.
Q: Which one of the core values of Girls on the Run resonates most with you and why?
Casey: "Recognize our power and responsibility to be intentional in our decision making," stands out the most to me. For a long time I felt like I was overly concerned with doing things the “right way," but this was always defined by other people. I sometimes didn’t have the courage to stand up for my own decisions and my own sense of self. I struggled to find that within me. I’ve learned that there is usually never just one “right way." If we make decisions based on our core values, even if they differ from someone else’s “right way," we can do so respectfully, thoughtfully and with pride and honor.
Q: One of the many things our curriculum teaches girls is how to recognize and work through challenges in productive ways. What is a challenge you have faced (or still face)? How did/do you respond, and what have you learned from it?
Casey: When I was in high school we had a very strong and competitive theatre group. I wanted desperately to be an actress at that stage in my life, and throughout freshman year auditioned for every play that I could, but I was never cast. And I learned that there was a bit of a hierarchy that played against me. It seemed that if you weren’t cast after several auditions, it was unlikely that you ever would. I could have just admitted defeat, but instead decided to try out for plays at an all boys school that needed to recruit outside girls. Over the next several years I was in multiple plays there, and the summer before my senior year my high school was producing a play with a guest director. I decided to audition one more time, and was shocked when I was cast in the lead role! After that, the regular director cast me in every play at my high school throughout my senior year. From this I learned that there is often more than one path to achieving a goal. It may not always be ideal or perfect, but perfection rarely exists. This directly supports my philosophy of keeping your eyes open for opportunities.
Q: What insight or advice would you offer a young girl today? What would you say now to your 8-year-old self?
Casey: Follow your dreams and do not get in your own way! Realize that if you go after a dream and it doesn’t come easily or instantaneously, and if there are challenges and setbacks along the way, that these are not failures, but rather lessons on how to grow and improve. Dreaming is good! Thinking big is wonderful! Living life passionately is something you should never forget how to do!
Get involved! The Girls on the Run SoleMates program provides people an opportunity to raise money for Girls on the Run while training for the athletic event of their choice. Find your local council, register to be a SoleMate and let your love of movement change the life of a girl.