100 Alabama Miles Challenge charges on without usual gatherings

100 Alabama Miles Challenge charges on without usual gatherings
Participants in the 2019 100 Miles Challenge get active. The program is back in motion this year, although right now social distancing is preventing some group activities that are usually part of the fun. (contributed)

A program encouraging Alabamians to reach 100 miles of physical activity during 2020 is underway, even if the official kickoff had to be postponed because of health concerns.

Known as the 100 Alabama Miles Challenge, and sponsored by the University of Alabama Center for Economic Development and its partners, the program urges activity and exploration.

Participants can walk, run, hike, bike, swim, paddle, ride or roll to their 100-mile goal, and while they can participate at home or in their neighborhood — and perhaps eventually at their favorite gym — the program encourages them to also visit Alabama’s parks, nature preserves and rivers. Since the program’s launch in 2018, participants have logged more than 100,000 miles.

“Alabama is blessed with so many unique and beautiful outdoor recreational destinations that offer fantastic opportunities for Alabamians to be active,” said Brian Rushing, the program’s coordinator and director of economic development initiatives in UA’s Center for Economic Development. “At 36%, Alabama has the fifth-highest obesity rate in the nation, and this is due, in part, to a lack of physical activity.

“This program is designed to inspire people who aren’t as active as they should be to get outside and take advantage of the great resources our state has to offer,” Rushing said.

Ruffner Mountain’s 14-plus miles of trails remain open for hiking, although normal staffing is unavailable. Visitors must observe social distancing. (Dennis Washington/Alabama NewsCenter)

This year’s program was to have kicked off with a public gathering at Birmingham’s Railroad Park this month, but that event was postponed indefinitely because of the need for social distancing to reduce spread of the coronavirus.

Organizers invite the public to register for the 100 Alabama Miles Challenge at 100alabamamiles.org, where they will earn electronic badges for milestones reached and places visited while logging their miles. The website’s visitors can find statewide recreational trails, track progress individually and by teams, and obtain safety and wellness information.

Participants are encouraged to share photos and experiences on social media using the hashtag #100ALMiles.

While the large group activities that are usually part of the challenge are on hold for now, the organization is encouraging people to continue working toward their goals. A recent post on the group’s Facebook page urges participants, “Keep getting out there! These are trying times but the outdoors is there for us to record our #100ALMILES and to keep us sane. Just make sure you keep a responsible distance from others and continue to contact land managers about potential trail/park/track closures.”

Partnering with UA’s Center for Economic Development in developing and sustaining this program are the Alabama Trails Foundation, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, Lakeshore Foundation, Governor’s Commission on Physical Fitness and Sports, Jefferson County Department of Health, AARP, Alabama Department of Public Health and the Alabama Obesity Task Force.

These partners designed the 100 Alabama Miles program to support public health and to enhance economic development through recreational tourism.

This story originally appeared on the University of Alabama’s website. Alabama NewsCenter staff updated the story with recent information from the 100 Alabama Miles Challenge.

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