Uchenna Jones: Birthing Babies and Inspiring New Runners

By Laura Anne Bird | Photography by Hillary Schave, Shot on location at Madison Youth Arts Center (MYArts)

On a Sunday morning in February 2003, a grease fire started in 22-year-old Uchenna Jones’ apartment building. As the blaze spread, she was stranded on the second floor.

Jones knew she had to save herself, so she leaped from a window. Landing in the snow below, she suffered compound fractures in her tibia and fibula. “People are supposed to be in the prime of life in their twenties, but I was fighting for mine,” she says. “I underwent nine surgeries to repair my shattered right leg and was told I wouldn’t be able to do much more than walk.”

Jones didn’t like the sound of that, so she found a personal trainer, who ultimately helped her “reclaim her body” and she fell in love with running. “For someone who wasn’t supposed to run, I’ve now completed over 80 races, consisting of 5Ks, 10Ks, half-marathons, marathons and one ultramarathon.”

When she’s not pounding the pavement in her Nikes, Brooks or Hokas, Jones has worked as a doula and registered labor and delivery nurse. She admits that she learned how to serve patients by being a patient first. Jones is also studying to be a midwife. “When a baby comes, a whole generation is birthed. I’m a guardian of life.”

Jones’ passion for holistic health and wellness inspired her to establish the Madison Gospel 5K Foundation five years ago. “This role allows me to guard life, too,” she says.

In 2019, Jones organized the foundation’s first 5K.

“I started with zero dollars in my budget, but over 200 people showed up to run and walk the route, which crossed four parks on the south side. Some were running their first race, while others were experienced athletes. We did it on our own terms.”

Since its inception, the Madison Gospel 5K has steadily grown. Jones has added prizes, a 10K, mentoring opportunities, a health fair and a meal program. She also coordinates a walking group, which meets every Saturday, regardless of weather.

The 2024 Madison Gospel 5K is set for July 13, and Jones’ goal is to double participation from 2023. Expanding from 300 to 600 people is a significant leap, but she’s confident she can make it happen, thanks in large part to the extensive community collaborations she’s formed.

“‘Gospel’ means ‘good news,’” Jones says, patting her right leg affectionately. “And that’s what we do. We spread good news with every step we take.”

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