Movements toward Health and Each Other
Renée Pitter, MPH ’09
Research Program Manager, Center for Sexuality and Health Disparities
What is the 50 Mile #GoBlue Challenge?
The 50 Mile #GoBlueChallenge was created by Michigan alums Sidney Bailey IV and Ronnie Johnson Jr. to inspire Black alums across the country and world to become more active. The University of Michigan Black Alumni Association promoted the month-long event. Movement primarily included walking, running, and biking. We used apps to track distance, time, and pace and had a bit of friendly competition on the leaderboard to see who could get to 50 miles most quickly. Once a participant reached 50 miles, they were encouraged to continue with self-imposed goals. We encouraged one another on the app and through social media, where we shared videos, photos, music, and other support and inspiration. The challenge was so successful that it was extended from August beyond October.
Who was involved in the challenge this year?
The challenge had over 700 black UM alum from the US and abroad and across all ages. Many participants turned it into a family affair, bringing family, friends, and pets with them.
It can seem like every day we wake up to Black trauma, death, and grief that leaves a looming heaviness on us.
This has been a rough year for everyone. Between the health disparities illuminated by the pandemic, police brutality, and the loss of Black leaders, the Black community has been hit particularly hard. It can seem like every day we wake up to Black trauma, death, and grief that leaves a looming heaviness on us.
I was encouraged to participate in the challenge by a former classmate and friend, Lauren Rice, who surpassed the 50 miles and has now completed over 200. Once I signed up, I was greeted every day with stories of positivity and encouragement. Whether it was a new mom squeezing in a mile with her infant strapped to her chest or an older, long-time Detroit homeowner who shared how good it was to see other participants walking and running in the neighborhood—it all brought glimmers of hope and reminded me that all was not lost.
As we focused on the movement of our bodies, it became less about the miles or the times and more about challenging ourselves to be who we know ourselves to be: Leaders and Best.
As we focused on the movement of our bodies, it became less about the miles or the times and more about challenging ourselves to be who we know ourselves to be: Leaders and Best. It was more about consistency, inspiration, courage, and resilience—characteristics that have kept Black people going for generations. This challenge was a reminder of the wealth included in health, of the importance of living well and loving those who are closest to us. It was a reminder of the power of the support we can offer to all of our communities.
As a public health professional, I wanted to share this unique approach to coping with uncertainty and trauma and how we are moving into, through, and beyond some of our present difficulties.
About the Author
Renée A. Pitter, MPH is the research program manager for the Center for Sexuality and Health Disparities at the University of Michigan. She has over ten years of experience in design and conduct of clinical trials, recruitment and community engagement. She has focused on marginalized communities of color both domestically and internationally. She has worked in a variety of research areas including sexual and reproductive health, pediatric preventive primary care, continuous clinical quality improvement, health policy, community health and chronic disease research.
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