The Growing Bolder Division Powered By Florida Blue Medicare Begins
“Every day in my life I feel better because I can run.”
Howard Sutch said it, but he echoed the sentiment of over 1800 runners and walkers who were up before dawn for the recent Celebration of Running 5K in Orlando, Florida. The race, the first event of the 2022-23 Track Shack Running Series presented by AdventHealth, not only kicked off Florida’s premier running series, but also marked an historic day for the Central Florida running community — the 45th year of the Track Shack retail store, co-owned by Jon and Betsy Hughes.
The race was also the inaugural event for the Growing Bolder Division powered by Florida Blue Medicare, which includes runners and walkers 40 and older — like many members of the Orlando chapter of the national organization, Black Girls Run. “We’re the baddest running crew out here on the streets,” said group member Melody Copenny. “We want to see African-American women healthy and fit.
“It’s not about winning, it’s about moving,” she continued. “Every day that you get up and you move your body is a positive experience. The community, the positivity, the fellowship, all of it’s important.”
That holistic approach to health and wellbeing is the reason Florida Blue Medicare became involved. “Our mission is to help people and communities achieve better health. And what better way to do it than by being active and being outdoors in this beautiful city of Orlando?” said Sara Noureddine, center director for the Florida Blue Winter Park-Orlando center. “We’re really happy to be here and to partner with Growing Bolder and Track Shack.”
60-year-old Jeff Boley was in that Growing Bolder Division and set a personal record with his run. “Last year, I was 59 and I did a 22:45. Today I did 21:03. A minute and a half faster and I’m a year older. Next year I’m going on to 21.
“This is like my caffeine in the morning,” Boley said. “When I’m feeling down, and I think I’m too old to do it, I just look around and see everyone out here just with the passion, loving the sport and that it really wakes you up in the morning and makes you happy.”
For new mom Kelly Himel, running is the time she takes for herself. “I have a newborn baby at home, so it gives me my own time to be out of the house by myself and listen to music for a few minutes.”
“I have a lot of running friends, but we are competitive, very, very competitive. So, it was nice to be able to pass them out here today. A lot of them still beat me and I’m really happy for them, but excited to get back to where I was.”
The participants weren’t just benefiting their own personal health. Each race in the series has a charitable beneficiary. “Today we support the Track Shack Youth Foundation and the Orlando Science Center,” said Track Shack co-owner Betsy Hughes. “We’re in their backyard and it’s a wonderful place to go for kids. We just so appreciate everybody out here. They’re coming up and saying, “Thank you.” It’s like, ‘How?’ We thank you.”
Plenty of walkers turned out as well. For Roy Reid, walking the races have become part of his regular routine after suffering an acute aortic dissection and having open heart surgery just over three years ago. “Listen, every day’s a miracle,” Reid said. “Every day is to be celebrated, and I can’t think of a better way to do it than to be out here doing something like this.”
While the six races are all timed events, there is a place for everyone regardless of speed and mobility. “Running is for everyone, it doesn’t matter how you do it,” said adaptive athlete Ashley Carroll. “Fast, slow, everyone still does the same distance. I’m very grateful that I’m a part of an inclusive community with Track Shack, and them including me as an adaptive athlete.”
That supportive community was a draw for others as well. “It’s not who can run the fastest, it’s encouraging. Everyone cheers for each other,” said Carol Fowler. “All the runners who came through first are back there trying to cheer on the people who are coming in now.”
Running the Celebration of Running race each year is a tradition for Fowler and her friend, Bonnie Fewox. For Fowler, it’s a measure of her own healthcare. “I feel great,” she said. “Other people around me are saying oh, they’re so tired all the time. Or they get sick way more often than I do. It’s keeping yourself healthy and active and eating right that is really the secret for me.”
The inclusive community and the commitment to healthy movement are why Growing Bolder created the new division that celebrates masters age participants. We know that there is magic in movement and that mobility is a key factor in active longevity. “You don’t have to be a great runner,” said Growing Bolder CEO and founder Marc Middleton. “Yes, there are lots of very talented people here, but this is a community-wide health and wellbeing movement. There is something for everyone of every age and every ability. You will be welcomed, you will be inspired, and you will be better for it.”
This article is featured in the September 2022 issue of The Growing Bolder Digital Digest.