Healthiest State Initiative encourages Iowans to ‘Set the Pace' in 2017

By Jami Haberl on Thursday, March 16, 2017

Innovative partnership with Grand Blue Mile incents improved community health

DES MOINES, Iowa (March 16, 2017) — The Healthiest State Initiative (HSI) and officials from Grand Blue Mile (GBM) announced the launch of their Set the Pace challenge, encouraging Iowans to develop sustainable healthy habits throughout 2017 — starting with participating in GBM, the popular one-mile walk/run through Downtown Des Moines on April 25.

As part of the challenge, the community with the highest percentage of its residents participating in GBM — measured by the number of registrants for a given zip code against its total population — will be awarded $10,000 to use on a project that promotes safe and accessible places in which to be active, such as a park, playground, or trail. 

“Because Grand Blue Mile was designed for all ages and abilities, it’s the perfect event to bring our communities together in pursuit of improved health and well-being — whether that’s running, walking, or just adding a dose of natural movement to our everyday routines,” said GBM Director Chris Verlengia. “Since the event’s inception we’ve remained committed to creating a welcoming atmosphere and experience that meets people where they’re at in their individual wellness journeys.”

For HSI, it’s that commitment that led them to create the Set the Pace challenge after several years endorsing the event. “When it comes to getting Iowans active, the Grand Blue Mile has something for everyone,” said HSI Executive Director Jami Haberl. “The fact that families with strollers in the recreational division can share the road with professional milers in the elite division speaks volumes for the widespread appeal of GBM. The event, like personal health, isn’t one size fits all, and that’s what makes it special.”  

Youth and adult registration for the Grand Blue Mile is now open, with all proceeds supporting school-based wellness programs in association with Iowa Kidstrong and the historic Drake Relays.

For more information and to register, visit


About the Grand Blue Mile

The Grand Blue Mile is an annual one-mile fitness run/walk sponsored by Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, in partnership with the Drake Relays, to engage individuals at all stages of fitness, encourage healthy habits and empower positive change. The annual wellness event includes recreational, competitive and invitational events featuring a field of elite male and female track and field athletes from around the world. Proceeds from the event benefit Iowa Kidstrong, Inc., an organization dedicated to promoting healthy, active lifestyles among youth. For more information about the Grand Blue Mile, visit