I’m an Indianapolis Runner | Online Exclusives, April 2012

Girl Power

Running helps 9-year-old Nani Ho grow in health and spirit

I’m an Indianapolis Runner is a series profiling five strong, bold and beautiful women. Though they vary in age, background and lifestyle, each woman has a passion for running, and they will all be standing at the same starting line for the Indianapolis Women’s Half Marathon & 5K on Sept. 1.

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Nani and her dad Skye at the Forest Park Step n' Stride 5K.

Young and determined, 9-year-old Nani Ho has gained self-confidence and healthy habits through running. Last year, she joined Girls on the Run, a program that combines positive, empowering lessons with running games and workouts.

This bubbly Hoosier Road Elementary fourth-grader finds joy in team-building exercises and living an active life.

“I like running with a group of friends because they encourage me, and I like to encourage others,” Nani says.

The girls have become a team, says Nani’s mother Michelle. They learn the same lessons together, and, like family, they are there to support one another.

Running has not only made Nani stronger and improved her endurance, but it has taught her to believe in herself. She used to be bullied, but Girls on the Run has helped her stand up for herself and understand what it means to be a good friend.

“Through this program, it has helped her build that confidence in who she is,” says Nani’s father Skye. “It’s helped her to recognize the character in others, the character in herself, and helped her to open up the real Nani that was in there.”

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Nani and Skye (right) pose with friends Emma Ruggles and father Jason Ruggles (left) after a practice 5K.

Nani enjoys the games that coaches Sarah Fowler, Jennifer Eicher and Kelley Stokesbary put together.

“I like how they make my life a lot better,” she says.

The whole family is involved with Nani’s running. Skye runs by her side during 5K races and laughs about his attempt to “keep myself alive” next to his athletic daughter. The rest of the family enjoys cheering from the sidelines.

“Girls on the Run has really helped her find something that she loves and something that she’s good at, and it has built her self-esteem up,” Michelle says. “Nani has learned that she is an individual, and she is in charge of her own body.”

Outside of running, Nani enjoys dancing, basketball and baseball. In school, her teacher Miss Pall makes all subjects fun –– especially science.

Nani looks forward to continue her running and plans to partake in the Geist 5K on May 19 and Indianapolis Women’s 5K on Sept. 1.

I’m an Indianapolis Runner is a profile series in partnership with Indianapolis Woman magazine and the Indianapolis Women’s Half Marathon & 5K. Learn more about the race at indywomenshalfmarathon.com.

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