Running Medicine, an activity-based program led by University of New Mexico physician Anthony Fleg, is among the 2020 winners of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Sports Award. The winners will receive a $25,000 cash award and were honored during a virtual ceremony that aired live on the RWJF Facebook page.

This award recognizes and honors those in sport who display an innovative and collaborative approach to making their communities a healthier place to live. This includes sports teams, athletes and community-based organizations that use sports as a platform to address many of the root causes that influence health and health equity.

“I'm inspired by this year's winners who show us the power of sports to connect us and make us healthier, no matter our race, gender, abilities or economic background,” said Julie Morita, RWJF executive vice president. “Playing sports unites people, and that's a wonderful vision for a healthier, more just, more equitable world for everyone.”

Running Medicine empowers families and communities to mind, body and spirit wellness through movement. The Albuquerque group includes many in the UNM community, with 70-100 runners at any given meetup, says Fleg, an associate professor in the UNM Department of Family & Community Medicine.

“We don’t call them practices, but rather ‘celebrations,’” Fleg says. “We are celebrating health and life. We are celebrating what community can do together to build wellness.”

Running Medicine groups have also started in nearly a dozen communities in the past years, with groups currently at Acoma, Laguna and Zuni Pueblos, as well as at the Albuquerque Veterans Association.

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In the pandemic, the groups have continued motivating families to move, using creativity and flexibility to guide their work amidst the pandemic, Fleg says. This month, the Reindeer Dash Challenge offers extra motivation to move during the holiday season. 

“If anything, this is the time we need movement the most – keep moving, and find those trails and open spaces that will bring joy, gratitude and wellness,” Fleg says.

This year’s RWJF Sports Award winners also include AGE UP, Border Youth Tennis Exchange, Soccer in the Streets and the United States Association of Blind Athletes.

Past winners include the Chattanooga Football Club, Chicago Fire Foundation, Doc Wayne, Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism, Figure Skating in Harlem, InnerCity Weightlifting, MaliVai Washington Youth Foundation, MLSE Foundation, PeacePlayers International, San Francisco Giants Community Fund, Soccer Without Borders, The Moyer Foundation, The Sanneh Foundation, Tony Hawk Foundation and the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy.