On September 30th, the Tennessee Municipal League officially launched Walk Tennessee, an initiative to determine the most active city in the great state of Tennessee.  Currently, there are 16 cities that have formed teams and collectively those teams have logged over 2500 miles.  That is simply an amazing stat and a real cool way to show how a community comes together.  I can’t think of any other state in this country that has accomplished such a feat. Participants in the challenge have been logging their daily activities by how far they walked, ran or rode their bikes. As these points accumulate, they roll up to their City Team Points.  We’ve also seen a flurry of activity with participants adding events to the calendar, such as 5ks, obstacle courses and even a 50k! The Stump Jump took place in Early October in Tennessee, and the three participants that completed that event were from two different city teams in the Walk Tennessee Community. I can’t imagine running for over 8 hours so congrats to the members on that amazing accomplishment.  We hope to share their story in a future blog.  These events carry a higher point value and it’s a fun way to socially engage and share with each other what is occurring in all the communities.

There are several things that make this fun for me, aside from all the great accomplishments.  It’s the people I get to meet and the communities I get to visit. There are some great communities in Tennessee.  In fact, I am looking for lakefront property eventually.  Along the way I usually get to hear about their stories, what they like to do, and what inspires them.  Each time I hear these stories it motivates me to do more, so I wanted to share with you one of those stories.  I recently had the chance to visit Manchester Tennessee and meet Bonnie Gamble, Chair of the Coffee County Health Council and Director of the Manchester Parks.  Bonnie stated, “We have made health our central programming theme and mission.”   When I asked her how she heard about the Walk Tennessee Challenge, she shared “I Saw the Walk Tennessee information in the TML newspaper.  We provide many services, but our emphasis we put in as many programs as possible is improving the health of our community members.  We put out the flyers and personally contacted those who come to our Recreation Complex and parks to enter the program.  Our next step is to provide outreach to those that don’t walk or run regularly.  The Tennessee Department of Health has awarded us a grant to establish a running/walking club for middle school students.  We will be entering them into the program.  Right now we have 50 students who have signed up and participated.  The vast majority of these students did not exercise regularly at all.”

When I asked her why she started exercising, Bonnie replied, “ I began exercising in my twenties after I started having children and needed to control weight and also needed an outlet.  But I did not start really running until I was 40 and that was my goal to run a 5K.” Bonnie continued to tell me that she enjoys running, biking and swimming. “I used to say that biking was fun, running is work.  But after my recent success preparing for the half marathon, I have really enjoyed pushing myself to new goals with the running.  The biking takes less mental push to hop on and go than persuading myself that I really want to get up and run, but I am excited of what I am now achieving with running.”

When I asked her about goals, she shared “ My goal was originally to walk the half marathon of 13.1 miles.  But when I started training, I got bored with just walking and started including run segments.  Soon my run segments were getting longer and faster so I changed that goal.  It became run as much as I could of the half marathon.  Now my goal is to run the half marathon without any walk segments.  That is why I signed up for another half, because without that goal or event to train for, I would probably have a harder time maintaining my fitness level.”

I then asked Bonnie about inspiration, she stated, “Nature inspires me, but really the people I see every day here at the Recreation Complex who have health and physical challenges.  They don’t give up and sit home, but get up and get moving and try to become stronger, healthier, and reduce their stress levels.   When you see people coming in with walkers and wheelchairs that are fighting cancer and other serious conditions, then there are no excuses.”

I then asked her more about the types of events occurring in her community, she replied “We have our various races which are mostly 5K and 10K races.  We have an evening Neon 5K coming up and a Running of the Turkeys 5K/10K during the Thanksgiving weekend in November.  We also have walking events we do twice a year for people to participate in.  For example we have walked to New Orleans for the Super Bowl, to Hershey Pennsylvania, and right now we will begin our program of walking to New York for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.  Manchester is fortunate to have a really nice greenway system that we are expanding which has really help support the growth in running and walking.  We also have a rubberized indoor track that people use to walk and run.  The indoor track has been especially beneficial to our seniors and for people that have physical challenges because they can exercise and sit down, have restrooms close, and a controlled temperature without threat of cars or dogs.”

It was a great visit for me to see a truly unique way in how a community has come together to inspire others. It takes a community approach and folks like Bonnie to push us to achieve more, but it’s the stories that inspire us.

So remember walk, run or bike with a smile, as you never know whose story might inspire you or how your story might inspire others. Whether you are walking, running or cycling you are an inspirational movement.

It’s still not too late to join the challenge! Everybody wins so share your stories and events occurring within your community.

I hope you enjoyed the story as I plan to share more during my visits and please email us at info@cmecompete.com if you have a great story to tell us, we want to share all the great accomplishments and inspirational journeys.  So continue to log those miles, have fun, be safe and most of all get social.  If you have never participated in a 5k or other road race the take away is it’s your day to have fun. You may not be the fastest or place in your age group but think of the accomplished feeling when you cross that finish line!