Appalachian community partner runs 400 miles in one month!

by Melissa Nix

Alexis Batausa isn’t letting the COVID-19 pandemic stop him from doing what he loves. As a strong advocate for an active lifestyle and an avid runner, Alexis is finding creative new ways to stay active these days. If you’ve been working from home and having trouble finding the motivation to stretch your legs, then you won’t want to miss this story. Make sure your sneakers are nearby, though! You’ll want to get some exercise after reading this. 

Alexis is a familiar face to any Amizade participants who’ve traveled with us to Appalachia, where he has served as the Director of Active Living at the Williamson Health and Wellness Center since 2012. As part of his work at the Health and Wellness Center, he is a well-known advocate in the community for the importance of physical activity for a healthy lifestyle. He organizes multiple community walks and walking challenges, many of which are free to increase access to more participants. 

Outside of work hours, his passion for an active lifestyle doesn’t fade. Alexis is also the president of the Tug Valley Road Runners Club, an organization dedicated to building friendships, making a difference in the community, and keeping each other motivated. The Tug Valley Road Runners Club organizes everything from weekly meetups like Tuesday Night Track (an Amizade favorite!) to annual marathons like the recent 21st Annual Hatfield McCoy Marathon, which was held virtually this year. 

Source: personal archives

Alexis is a well-respected figure in the Williamson community for his dedication and his ability to inspire others, but his journey hasn’t always been easy. His own path to healthy living started in 2008, when he was struggling with weight gain and health problems like prediabetes while also seeing his parents struggle with their own health issues. He felt the need to try to do something, to take ownership over his life and his attitude, to become more positive than negative. So he started running. Since then, running has become one of the main things that keeps Alexis feeling grounded and hopeful, even through some extremely difficult times like the loss of both of his parents. The struggles Alexis has faced on his journey have made him feel even more motivated to work with others in the community and encourage them to embrace healthier, active lifestyles.

Yet again, his dedication to running is one of the ways Alexis is coping through a difficult time with the COVID-19 pandemic. It wouldn’t be hard to lose your motivation, with stay-at-home orders, social distancing practices, and so much uncertainty in the world today, but that is not the case for Alexis. He’s still inspiring his community by running every day—and he found a great source of motivation! Friends challenged him to participate in The Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee, a long-distance race taking place online, where the goal is to run 1,021 kilometers (635 miles), the entire distance across the state of Tennessee. This challenging race lasts from May 1st to August 31st, and to complete all 1,021 kilometers, participants need to run at least 5 miles a day! Runners log their own miles and can view their progress and compete with others on an interactive map. 

Even though the participants have until the end of August to finish the race, Alexis is already done! He became the first person from West Virginia to finish The Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee, and he ran more than 400 miles in May alone. That is quite an accomplishment, but he isn’t stopping there—he’s taken on an even greater challenge: finishing another 1,021 km in the Race Back Across Tennessee.

We asked Alexis how he stays motivated, even through hard times, and this was his answer: “I go by my mantra, ‘hope, love, and happiness.’ It keeps me going no matter what I face in life. Everything to me is just one day at a time. Running saved my life and helped transform me into the person I am today. Right now, we need positive change in the world as we cope with COVID-19 and we rise together to beat racism. Deep down we all have to do the right thing as a human race.”

From the Amizade team: Good luck finishing the Race Back Across Tennessee, Alexis! You’re an inspiration to your community in Williamson and far beyond!