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CLINE: A good case of the blues

Special Photo
 Gwinnett Medical Center’s Duluth campus running team has become easily recognizable in blue outfits at area running events, including the “Water for the World” on April 30 in Johns Creek. 

Special Photo Gwinnett Medical Center’s Duluth campus running team has become easily recognizable in blue outfits at area running events, including the “Water for the World” on April 30 in Johns Creek. 

LAWRENCEVILLE — There were plenty of familiar sights at Saturday’s inaugural American Cancer Society/Gwinnett Braves 5K run around Coolray Field. Runners running to win, those looking for personal-best times and others just happy to participate and support a good cause.

And then there was a group that is making its mark at area races. A group that stood out due to both its numbers and blue running shirts. And by the end of Saturday’s event, everyone knew the blue shirts as the folks from Gwinnett Medical Center’s Duluth campus.

“We’ve gotten to the point that once we’ve been at an event, (people) see the blue and they know who we are,” said Lea Bay, president of GMC — Duluth.

Bay wasn’t able to participate at Saturday’s run, but the running group is her creation. She came up with the inspiration for the team while running in a road race and admiring T-shirts with funny sayings sported by other runners. It dawned on her that having a running team at GMC — Duluth made sense on many levels.

“The Duluth campus is known for its sports medicine,” Bay said. “And it’s a great way to build relationships around us, develop camaraderie and promote the hospital. And we’re usually supporting a good, worthy cause in the community.”

The team debuted in September 2009, running at the Duluth Fall Festival 5K in its home city. Since that time, Bay has built an email list of about 70, with an average of 20 runners representing GMC — Duluth at each race.

The team, which participates in about one 5K per month, includes runners of various levels, ranging from some in their 20s all the way up to 65. Members also span all occupations at the medical center, from ICU and ER nurses to physicians, administrators and telcom techs like Denis Conlin, who ran Saturday in the ACS race.

“It’s nice because we encourage each other and come out for each race and run as a team,” said Conlin, a Lilburn resident. “I’m not the most avid runner, but I am avid about fitness and Lea inspired me to get back into running.”

Though you are likely to see multiple GMC — Duluth runners accepting awards for their age groups after races (including Bay), the club caters as much to novice runners as accomplished ones. It’s all about participation and feeling part of a group.

“One thing this does is show our employees that it’s something everyone can do, no matter what their age,” Bay said. “It’s fun to compete and get your personal best, but it’s also fun to do something for the first time.”

So next time you’re at a local road race, keep an eye out for the blue crew.

Email Todd Cline at todd.cline@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Wednesdays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/toddcline.