Home Health Faith, Family and Fitness: Inaugural Madison Gospel 5k Aims to Make Connections...

Faith, Family and Fitness: Inaugural Madison Gospel 5k Aims to Make Connections for Wellness


For Uchenna Jones, it’s all about family.

As a labor and delivery nurse at St. Mary’s Hospital, she helps start new families. And as the organizer of the Madison Gospel 5K and the W1N Crew walking group, and cofounder of the Sole Sistas Run Madtown running group, she helps keep those families healthy. The first-ever Madison Gospel 5k will take place on July 20 and include a full-fledged health fair, as well.

“My whole thing is family health,” she says. “Look at all these programs that we have that say, ‘Okay, we have to focus on the kids.’ The kids are only as healthy as their parents. Then we have programs that focus on the men. Well that man came from a mother and a father, right? Same thing for the mother, right? But if you look at the whole family unit, you would yield the biggest results.”

Jones is celebrating ten years as a nurse this year. When she graduated with a second bachelor’s degree in 2009, this one in nursing, she knew she first had to focus on her own health.

“I came out of nursing school the largest weight I’d ever been. I was over 300 pounds,” she recalls. “I was like, ‘This is not my life at all. This is not the life I want.’ I looked at the girl in the mirror, and I said I had to do something different. That’s when I started to learn how to run.”

She started walking, then running, and set a goal to run — no matter how slowly — in 40 competitive races by the time she was 40. She made that goal, with one of those 40 races being the Madison Marathon in November. And she didn’t stop, finishing her 41st race just after she turned 40 this year. 

Over the course of achieving that goal, she lost 110 pounds in the first 10 months — and made it a family affair.

“When I lost my weight, I’m not the only one in my family that lost weight. My husband lost. My kids, not that they needed to lose anything, they’ve maintained their weight, they’re a lot leaner, they’re a lot healthier, and now my kids are running.” she says. “This has a huge outcome for everybody when everybody makes an attempt to do something better. It’s not just the individual, but all those surrounding that individual are also impacted.”

That collective, family attitude is what prompted Jones to start a walking group in May 2018 and a running group earlier this year. The walking group, called W1N Crew, meets every Saturday and includes anywhere from one to 15 women each week looking to get a little more fit. She, Marisa Flowers and Rachelle Stone all cofounded the running group, Sole Sistas Run Madtown, in April of this year. The group runs along John Nolen Drive every Sunday morning.

“People in the walking group with us, they’ve lost maybe 10-20 (pounds), or they went down a couple of dress sizes,” she says. “I noticed that their mental health was improving, job situations were looking up. They were going to the doctor more. There’s something to this whole community-based style of fitness. It’s not expensive, you just get together, be consistent, and then come out. So I wanted to do something bigger.”

Through the walking group, Jones hopes to help people understand that fitness isn’t all that complicated.

““People are concerned about their health, I feel like they just don’t know how to go about it, or they think, ‘I got to get a gym membership,’” she says. ”They don’t realize all you have to do is put on sneakers and start walking. Get on the phone with a good girlfriend. Next thing you know, you’ll be walking for 30 minutes. Or if you can’t walk, you can get on a bike. There’s always something to do, but I think sometimes it’s being pointed in the right direction.”

Bringing it to Church

Through the inaugural Madison Gospel 5K, set for July 20, Jones hopes to bring her family, collective wellness approach to the Black faith community.

“It’s not negating anybody else’s faith or excluding. I’m targeting people of color in the faith space. One, because it’s a very protected space. Two, most people in that space are very unhealthy,” she says. “I’m trying to go into this sacred space, see if I can get the accountability of the pastors, along with the congregation members and say, ‘Come on, let’s talk across this line. Let’s see how we can do better.’ It’s not just enough to be spiritually fed, but what about our physical bodies? How can we improve those physical bodies?”

With more than 100 people already registered, Jones and the Madison Gospel 5k committee are hosting not only a 5k race from Penn Park to Olin Park and back, but a full-fledged health fair in Penn Park with information and connections to dental health, reproductive health, mental health, and much more — not to mention pre- and post-race yoga and massage, plus a special run just for the kids.

The organizations currently planning to be represented at the health fair include:

  •  Care Net Pregnancy Center of Dane County-First Care Clinic
  • Today not Tomorrow Family Resource Center
  • I9 Sports
  • Embody Yoga
  • Face Painter
  • Remedy Massage
  • Access Clinic-Dental (ACHC Dental)
  • Access Clinic-Behavioral Health
  • MSCR Fit2Go Van
  • Affordable Dental Care
  • Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired
  • NIKE Johnson Creek
  • Summit Credit Union
  • Healthy Kids Safe Routes to School
  • UW Med Students -Know Your Numbers
  • NAMI- Dane County
  • RISE-Helping Community & Family Thrive
  • Links Inc.
  • Planned Parenthood

SSM Health and Apple Wellness are the major sponsors.

“I’m not trying to reinvent the wellness wheel. What I’m trying to do is tighten up the connections so that, as families, we can have the opportunity to participate in what the different organizations have to offer,” Jones says. “More strength in numbers, with a family model in mind.”

Registration is open now.

This article has been updated to include the cofounders of Sole Sistas Run Madtown, and to correct Jones’s educational background and age.