'Mermaid Run' empowers young girls and women to find love in running

The Mermaid Run in San Francisco on Sunday celebrated 13 years of inspiring women and girls to pursue their fitness goals. 

Carlo Facchino founded the Mermaid series by organizing a triathlon specifically for women, with the first race in Fremont.

"Way back in 2004 when I started, it was very male dominated. So I wanted to create an atmosphere that was inviting for women to come out to, so a women’s triathlon made sense. That helped bring out that very supportive, welcoming, encouraging environment. And then we’ve really built off of that as our mission," said Facchino. 

He said when the events first started there were a few hundred participants. On Sunday there were more than 1,500 people running in either the 10 mile, 10K or 5K races.

"I think it’s super cool because it's women based and women empowerment, obviously men can run too, but my sister and I generally do it together so it’s super fun," said Colleen Nolan, who ran in her 4th Mermaid Run.   

The idea is to not only make it a welcoming environment for women, but also use the race as a way to introduce young girls to running.

"I knew I could do it, but I knew it was going to be hard. But I did it anyways," said 10-year-old Lia Ernst, who completed her first 5K.

Ernst has been training with track and field athlete Nava Kohn for the last month to learn how to use running as a way to deal with stress and anxiety. Now Ernst says running relaxes her and makes her calmer.  

"To see her progress and continue to do something that was hard, even though she has all of these different things that she has to combat in life, it was awesome," said Kohn. 

The two ran across the finish line together. 

"If there’s anyone who has troubles just with, they’re really angry all the time, I just feel like it’s a good idea for them to start running. Because it really helped me. And so I kind of what to help other people too," said Ernst. 

Although the Mermaid Run is not a non-profit, it does help support the Mini Mermaid Running Club, a free program for girls. Facchino said the club works to educate low-income elementary school students about their bodies and teach them about self esteem. 

"If you can kind of teach them that running is fun at a young age, then its going to carry over much later in their life," said Facchino.

The next event in the Mermaid series is a trail run, including a half marathon, 9 mile, 6 mile, and 3 mile run, in Woodside on December 4.