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Among the success stories for Unity Health System at the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Rochester is Sheila Davis (right), who was encouraged to join the team and has improved her times since, completing last year's race in 39 minutes.

Individual success helps build big team
for Unity Health at Rochester race

Unity Health's Mike Woodbury (left) with friends at Rochester's J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge.

ROCHESTER, April 10, 2013 — With a roster of 235 participants in 2012, Unity Health System has steadily built up the size of its team at the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Rochester over the last decade. But, as is always the case, numbers tell just part of the story.

As Unity Health organizes another robust-sized team for the 23rd annual running of the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Rochester on Tuesday, May 21, company captain Tom Crilly points out that each of its participants is an individual with a unique story. Some of their stories hold universal lessons about the importance of health and well-being in the workplace.

Mike Woodbury is a case in point.

Woodbury is the director of Materials Management at Unity Health, a health care system created in 1975 and serving Rochester and Monroe County.

"Competitive running was not always Mike's passion," said Crilly. "But over the past few years, he has celebrated many wellness triumphs."

Approaching his 50th birthday, Woodbury quit smoking, dropped 45 pounds and fulfilled his dream of running 5Ks, including becoming a member of the Unity Health's team at the Corporate Challenge.

"It all began in fall 2007 when he snuffed out his 23-year pack-a-day habit with a little help from the drug Chantix," said Crilly. "Soon after, he wasn't feeling quite right and he learned he had diabetes and high cholesterol."

What followed was a lesson in taking control of personal health and fitness.

Woodbury "became friends with the elliptical machine at the gym," said Crilly.

"He read about diabetes, which led to a diet overhaul — shunning sugar and focusing on high-fiber breads, chicken, wheat pasta and vegetables," Crilly said. "This knocked off the pounds, but he really trimmed down after he began running to help his daughter prepare for U.S. basic training."

In the spring of 2010, Woodbury ran the 3.5-mile Corporate Challenge at Rochester Institute of Technology.

"He knew he was ready for more (after the race experience)," said Crilly.

What followed from the fall of 2011 to the fall of 2012 was eight 5K races, an estimated 35,937 calories burned, and three worn out pairs of running shoes.

Members of the Unity Health team take advantage of great weather to pose for a photo at a recent J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Rochester.

Ahead are goals of running a half-marathon (13.1 miles), dropping 10 pounds, and running in what has become a special race for him — May's Corporate Challenge.

"What Mike loves most about running in the Corporate Challenge is the friendships and support of his friends and co-workers at Unity," said Crilly. "Running races with others and cheering for one another at the finish line is what keeps him going!"

Sheila Davis, a financial analyst, is another success story on the growing Unity Health team at the Corporate Challenge.

"The Corporate Challenge is part of the many things Unity offers that help me to challenge myself," Davis said. "If I were to summarize all that Unity has done I would say they provided healthy opportunities that I didn't know about or didn't think I could do, and there's a team atmosphere so I don't feel like I'm doing it alone."

Davis said Unity went out of its way to promote health among its own employees by sponsoring and advertising races, gym memberships, running programs and more. Eventually, that enticed her to join Unity's team at the Corporate Challenge.

"The Corporate Challenge was the first race that I participated in ever and I have challenged myself each year to do a little better than the year before, and I have," she said. "The first year it took me over an hour to walk it. Last year, I ran it in 39 minutes. That's huge coming from someone who couldn't even run one lap on a track two years ago, or even when I was a kid."

The effort brought an unexpected bonus to Davis.

"My mom happened to be in town from Mississippi for last year's Corporate Challenge and she came to the race. She said she never thought she'd ever see me, of all people, running," Davis said with a smile.

The positive impact on the lives of colleagues such as Davis and Woodbury makes the effort of organizing a growing team at Unity Health more than worth it for Crilly, Unity Health's Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. He has been doing this now for 10 years.

"Ten years!," he said. "If you go back 10 years, trying to drum up or garner interest of employees to run a race was a lot harder than it is now. Ten years ago, not as many people were engaged in walking/running or participating in a training program. It's been interesting to see fitness and the progressions of healthy living go from less mainstream to more mainstream."

And, with examples like Davis and Woodbury, it's not hard to see why.


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