Gospel means good news” tells Uchenna Jones, founder of Madison Gospel 5K Foundation and creating a run/walk for Madison’s diverse communities is a way for her to share the good news that she found for herself and wants to bring to the larger community.
Several years ago, Jones embarked on her personal fitness journey, which started with running. People noticed and many asked if there were other Black people who were also running and while there were, there were few opportunities to do so in an organized fashion. “I looked at what was important to me; my faith, my family, and my fitness.” Using those principals Jones created the Madison Gospel 5K Foundation, with the core being a run/walk that kicked off in July of 2019.
Jones and her team connected with local health partners, including SSM Health, Lighthouse Church and Mt. Zion. She then began to make plans for a run/walk that would take place at Penn Park, located in the heart of South Madison. The neighborhood surrounding the park is the most ethnically diverse community in Madison and is considered a gateway to Madison.
In 2020 when the pandemic hit, Jones lobbied the City of Madison for an event permit after initially being denied. She boldly appealed the decision and worked with the City and Public Health Department to safely hold the 5K, which was a success and resulted in similar events being held. “I knew that if we gathered in a well-ventilated environment that we could safely do so and that our community needed that feeling of hope in order to get through that difficult time.”
Well-being and mental health are an important part of the equation, Jones noted and addressing it in a way that focuses on positive body image and includes the community. “The root of community is unity. Uni is the root of Unity. You and I. That is community and that’s where it starts and that’s what I am protecting and safeguarding. It’s more than just physically moving; it’s creating a space for diverse thoughts and experiences.”
The starting line of the race is where young people gravitate and the Madison Gospel 5K starting line is different from most races in Madison, which tend to be less diverse. While youth is well represented, you will also find older adults taking part. This year they have asked for a 1-mile option so they too can feel that they have accomplished a goal.
Able-bodied individuals are not the only people taking part. Last year Ainsley’s Angels, a national nonprofit with local ties that promotes the inclusion of people with disabilities in running, brought mobility equipment that allowed other runners to push disabled individuals during the race. They too felt included and seen in the space. The Wisconsin Council for the Blind and Visually impaired has also supported the run and Jones hopes to find ways to partner with them to have guides available so visually impaired persons can participate.
This year’s the 5K Run/Walk will take place on July 8th from 8am to noon and once again will kick off at Penn Park, with Pastor Marcus Allen and Pastor Marcio Sierra blessing the event. Gospel music will get runners amped for the run or walk ahead. The course will take runners from Penn to Quann Park, then Goodman to Olin Park where they will turn around and come back to Penn Park, while being cheered on by families, friends, and community. Runners have the option of a 1 mile, 5k or 10k experience.
In addition to the run, Madison Gospel 5K sponsors MG5K Wellness Talks, which are a monthly virtual offering where participants have a safe space to learn about topics including how to heal from childhood trauma and creating smart goals. The foundation offers a weekly Sole Sistas Run Madtown meetup to encourage wellness throughout the year and an annual movie night for families. Past movie nights have featured King Richard and Wakanda Forever and this year families gathered for a low-cost option to watch The Little Mermaid, which included dinner provided by MG5K.
Partnerships and collaborations are at the heart of MG5K’s work, which has brought together organizations across Madison, including UW Carbone Cancer Center, Access Community Health, Madison College’s South Madison Campus, NAMI, Girls on the Run, Tri for Schools, and others with new partners like Unity Point Health-Meriter being added every year. Funders have begun to recognize the benefits of the foundation’s work, including United Way, which sponsored a Fall Festival last year held at Penn Park. The festival included activities and food provided by Boulders Climbing Gym, MSCR, Madison Reading Project, The River, and Kona Ice. MG5K hopes to continue to bring this type of fun to Madison families in the future. Which is good news indeed.