“I always love being at the finish line and seeing all the joy on people’s faces when they cross the finish line, and all the families coming in excitedly.”

Megan Searfoss describes Run Like a Mother, the 5K event she founded 10 years ago in town, with palpable excitement — like a runner waiting to hear the starting gun go off.

Searfoss and her faithful event organizers are getting ready to celebrate a milestone this weekend — a decade of empowering, inspiring, and enabling women in town, and around the country.

Registration is open for the women-only race, and all proceeds from this event will benefit the Noreen L. Papa: Mothers Live Your Life programs at the Ridgefield Library.

30,000 women

To commemorate its 10th anniversary, Run Like a Mother will honor people who have participated in all 10 years of the event.

Each participant will also receive a special medal.

Run Like a Mother has expanded dramatically from its roots in Ridgefield, with 5K events happening in Frisco, Texas; Milwaukee, Wis.; Raleigh, N.C.; and Minneapolis, Minn.

In total, it has encouraged around 30,000 women from all walks of life to incorporate running in their lives.

“Run Like a Mother has steadily grown because it’s become a tradition for so many families,” Searfoss said. “The dads and the kids wait for the moms to run across the finish line, and then they celebrate in the park with a picnic. It’s really neat. Now we’re at about 1,600 women and 400 kids.”

“So many of us, as moms, don’t take enough time for ourselves,” Searfoss said. “We’re driving people to soccer and lacrosse practices, and picking up everyone from school and maybe working even and doing all this stuff, and we never take time to celebrate ourselves. So Run Like a Mother is that one day in a year in which these moms are challenging themselves to run and celebrating themselves.”

Lifelong inspiration

Past participants, like Stephanie Bell, highly praised Run Like a Mother.

“It turned me into a runner for life,” she said. “I went on from Run Like a Mother to other training programs in Ridgefield Running Company to doing half-marathons and a marathon. It gave me a community of runners and running support. …

“You’re really trying to just beat yourself and be better, so there’s little competition among runners.”

Bell described the exhilaration she felt each year.

“It feels amazing and empowering when you’re at the start line with a huge crowd of women,” she said. “There’s so much positive energy. It’s an emotional response that you get being surrounded by all these women who are community members and friends. They’re women who are just amazing in their own right.”

Over the years

Bell started running in the event during its infancy, joining its training program as someone with little prior experience in 5K events, and she continued participating in the race in the years afterward.

“It was nice to see my progression over the years, going from saying, ‘Oh God, make this end’ the first year to now confidently attacking the hills and being strong,” she said.

Bell has become a leader in the training program.

“Now I really can pass the torch to the next runner. I can empower another woman to engage in this lifelong love of running, and I can give them the confidence and the encouragement that they can do this, because I’ve seen it happen,” she said. “I’ve seen one of the women I ran with last year run a seven-mile and a half marathon over the year, and I like to think that I was a part of that.”

“It’s a great race, a really magical day, and I’d really recommend it. It’s great not only for you as an individual but also for the collective, for the group of women standing there. I invite my whole family to attend.”

Searfoss founded the event soon after she moved to Ridgefield. She had raced as a competitive athlete for years, and she began running with a group of friends on Main Street. In 2007, she and her friends gathered around 40 women to run during Mother’s Day, and Searfoss had wanted to make it an annual event. In a moment of inspiration, she called the race Run Like a Mother.

She had initially anticipated that there would around 50 or 60 participants, but in the end, around 500 had registered. Searfoss was shocked. “There was a lot of quick thinking involved,” she said. “But the first race went off with a hitch. It was really successful, and from there it’s grown and grown.”

During its second year, Run Like a Mother added a kid’s one-mile race. The year after that, Searfoss started a six-week training program on Sundays at Tiger Hollow and Wednesdays at Ridgefield Running Company.

Karla Murtaugh, an early sponsor of Run Like a Mother, said, “Run Like a Mother is an event, not just a race.”

“It’s more than just starting and ending at the finish line,” she said. “There’s a lot more that goes into it. The communication present throughout starts when people train, and the amount of effort Megan has been able to put into this is incredible.

“Megan’s been able to channel her love for running for the people, and you just look on the streets now any morning, and many moms are out there running. And I think it’s great for not only physical but also mental health.”