It's easy to see why Harrisonburg is naturally a great place for outdoor recreation. With the mountains surrounding us, there are endless opportunities to be active in Rocktown. This year’s Valley Fourth Parade celebrated this very idea with the theme “Get Outdoors and Get Moving!” Leading this year’s parade were two people that motivate the Harrisonburg community to live healthier lifestyles, Kevin Gibson and Alan Maynard, the co-founders of VA Momentum.
For those of you that are thinking you don’t live an active lifestyle, you might be interested to know that Kevin and Alan weren’t always as dedicated to healthy living as they are now. They both grew up with unhealthy eating habits and very little exercise. Kevin shares that it was not until college (safe to say he was lucky and didn’t gain the freshman fifteen) that his habits changed. After unintentionally losing some weight, he simply noticed that he felt better when improving his health and wellness. Not only did he notice a difference, but the people around him did too. This unintentional weight loss motivated Kevin to run.
His method: Kevin would compile minute long excerpts of songs to listen to while he ran. He began pushing himself as he would try to complete a mile by listening to fewer songs. The less songs he heard, the less minutes that went by and the more he improved. He went on to lose about sixty pounds while he was a student at James Madison University. In 2007, Kevin got diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Running had transformed Kevin's life and now his disease could jeapordize his ability to run. He shared that running does not only help him feel better physically, but also emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. His diagnosis made him realize that he would continue to run for as long as he could and strengthened his dedication to it.
For some runners, their passion for running gives them a high that nothing else can, but for Kevin and Alan running can still seem like work. Neither Kevin nor Alan started out as runners, which is why they encourage all types people to come to their events. They focus on creating an environment where all can feel welcome since they know how difficult it is to just get started. At the heart of their mission is organizing events that they themselves would want to participate in. Their races are about much more than bettering your time; they are about bettering yourself while bettering the community.
Kevin, Alan and their families in the Valley Fourth Parade
VA Momentum partners up with businesses for their runs and then together with the business decides on the charity they will benefit. When choosing a charity to benefit, they pick a local cause that differs from the previous ones, and also has potential for a long-term partnership. They prefer to consistently benefit a charity rather than to do a one-time donation. With every race created, more charities and more people are being impacted.
Kevin and Alan are truly chasing their dream when it comes to operating VA Momentum. They believe in VA Momentum and the potential for it to impact their growing community. The two were incredibly humbled to be chosen as this years Grand Marshals. They were even a bit surprised, as they never thought of themselves as “Grand Marshal material.”
Written by Emily Faraone, James Madison University student in the School of Media Arts and Design and Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance Promotions Intern