Although the National Veterans Golden Age Games are being held virtually due to COVID-19, Phoenix area Veterans are strapping in and setting off on a 1,278-mile race.

This year, Phoenix VA has six Veterans participating in a 1,278 mile “Fitness for Life” virtual race that can be completed either on foot or cycling.

The mileage represents the distance from the starting location, Washington D.C., and the finishing location, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where the 2022 games will take place.

Dr. Alyshia Smith, Phoenix Medical Center Director, gives a fist bump to Veterans participating in the “Fitness for Life” virtual challenge.

“I’ve been participating in the games for the past five years,” said Army Veteran William Holder. “It’s something I look forward to every year. I live an active lifestyle. I try to take advantage of what the local Adaptive Sports program has to offer.”

Since this year’s games are at home, the participants rack up their miles from their own locations. The race started Aug. 16 and they will have until Oct. 11 to complete the full mileage.

Team riding builds camaraderie

In addition to logging miles on their own, race participants will meet every Wednesday to log miles as a team.  The team riding is scheduled to help motivate and build camaraderie among the golden aged athletes.

“One part of the Golden Age Games that I found so appealing was the camaraderie, Holder said. “There’s something about participating alongside your fellow brothers and sisters in arms that is comforting. It’s something only another service member would understand.”

Holder has participated in numerous events and enjoys the traveling and seeing the friends he’s made over the years.

Activity important for those of any age

“The National Veterans Golden Age Games were designed to promote lifelong fitness for Veterans over the age of 55,” said Josh Parks, a recreational therapist and the coach leading these athletes. “Physical activity and friendly competition engage the mind as well as the body and is important for those of any age.”

The popularity of the games has increased since they began in 1985. It is the only national multi-event sports and recreational seniors’ competition program designed to improve the quality of life for older Veterans with a wide range of abilities and disabilities.

Holder hopes to see more of his comrades take advantage of programs the Phoenix VA has to offer. He said he is looking forward to next year’s games. They’re planned to be held in Sioux Falls, South Dakota in July 2022.

By Darlene Seltmann is a U.S. Air Force Veteran and public affairs specialist for the Phoenix VA Health Care System

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Published on Sep. 3, 2021

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