CUMBERLAND — While horses are the usual sight on the racetrack at the Cumberland Fairgrounds, on Sunday hundreds of running girls took it over for the morning.

About 400 girls, accompanied by their running buddies, participated in Girls on the Run, a celebratory 5-kilometer run. The run concludes a 10-week program designed to encourage girls in third through eighth grades to pursue lifelong fitness and to help them build confidence.

Girls on the Run is a national organization that started in 1996 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Maine chapter started three years ago. Today the chapter includes 408 girls in 29 groups, or teams, at schools and other organizations in York, Cumberland, Oxford, Androscoggin and Sagadahoc counties. The groups meet in the fall and spring.

The teams also undertake a community service project, such as collecting items for animal rescue clinics, developing goody bags for patients at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland and cleaning trails. The girls are led by 130 volunteer coaches.

On Sunday the girls and their running buddies – many of them their parents – dressed in tutus, capes and tiaras before making the run before hundreds of spectators.

Sage Kuchta, 10, a member of the Ocean Avenue Elementary School team from Portland, warmed up with her father, David Kuchta, while her mother, Jennifer Tuttle, looked on.

“One of the most wonderful things about the program are the coaches. They are just wonderful people and we are grateful,” said Tuttle.

Melissa Hutchins, a third-grade teacher at the Small Elementary School in South Portland, where she coaches a team, said she is happy to volunteer her time with the organization.

“Why wouldn’t I do this? It is an incredible experience, emotional and amazing,” said Hutchins.

Kristen MacAuley, 10, a member of the Coastal Ridge Elementary School team from York, brought neighbor Laura Young along as her running buddy. Young said that she often runs accompanied by Kristen on her bike.

“When I heard about this I had to do it,” said Young.

Young, who has two sons, said she would like to see a Boys on the Run, too.

Bonnie Hennessy of York was at the event to watch her granddaughter, Fiona Miller, 8, a member of the Coastal Ridge team. Hennessy said her granddaughter loves the program.

“It teaches young women today about self-confidence,” said Hennessy.

Ginny Willing, 10, a member of the Falmouth Elementary School team, picked out matching pink capes for herself and her mother and running buddy, Kathy Willing.

“I love running with her and she is a really good runner,” said Ginny.