Dave Roberson and Ghee Wilson have been friends for about 15 years. But it wasn’t until a couple years ago that fitness started playing a role in their friendship.
Now, the men are hoping that their individual health and fitness goals can help the community as well.
Roberson, a captain with the Floyd County Sheriff’s Department and Wilson, a special agent with the Georgia Department of Corrections, met and became friends 15 years ago when Roberson was Wilson’s first supervisor at the Sheriff’s office.
Since then, the men’s careers have diverged a bit but their friendship remains strong. And it wasn’t until recently that they found another common interest — the desire to become healthier and more active.
“I’ve always been up and down with my diet,” Roberson said. “And I always told myself that I would get healthier by the time I reached 40. So right before I turned 40 I made a more conscious effort to eat a little better and start exercising.”
He also wanted to be better at his job, saying become more physically fit is important in his line of work and helps him serve the public better.
Now 44, Roberson says he feels fitter than he has in years.
Wilson said his motivation for a healthier lifestyle was a bit more urgent.
“I was a diabetic and after I started taking insulin I put on a lot of weight,” he said. “I battled that for a couple years and even thought I tried to work out I still couldn’t all the weight off.”
In 2014 Wilson underwent gastric bypass surgery and is quick to emphasize that he never thought of the procedure as a miracle answer to weight loss.
“I did it to help with my diabetes,” he said. “But I always knew that to truly become healthier I needed a lifestyle change. I started walking and working out and slowly jogging and then slowly running and realized I was losing weight and keeping it off.”
Wilson now goes to the gym four or five times a week.
But running soon became something the friends could do together. They tell of a disastrous first attempt years ago at a Race for the Fallen at Red Top Mountain State Park.
“This was years ago and we thought it was a race for police officers,” Roberson said. “We weren’t runners by any means but we wanted to support the cause and we knew it was for police officers so we felt good about it.”
Much to their dismay, Wilson and Roberson realized they had showed up for a grueling 13.1 half marathon and they were the only police officers participating.
“We finished but it wasn’t pretty,” Wilson said. “We may or may not have taken some shortcuts. We had no idea what we had gotten ourselves into.”
But Roberson wanted to give running another shot. In 2015 he signed up for a 5k in Las Vegas and that was the beginning of his running journey.
He convinced Wilson to participate in last year’s Roman Rumble 5k which was Wilson’s first race since the disastrous half marathon years ago.
Since then, the two have been trying to find races (mostly local) that they can participate in together. Their goal for 2018 is to do 12 races — 5ks — and their first will be the Berry races in March.
“If we find something before then that’s for a good cause we’ll definitely do it,” Roberson said. “But for now it looks like that will be our first for the year.”
While the races serve as a way to be active and get healthier for the men, they said it’s also very important to both of them that the events in which they participate help and advance community organizations or bring awareness to important issues.
Together they’ve run the Harbin Clinic Hero Hustle 5k, a superhero/villain-themed race benefitting the services of Rome-Floyd Parks and Recreation; the Roman Rumble 5k which benefits Harbor House Child Advocacy Center; and Run for the Shelter, an event benefiting the William S. Davies Homeless Shelter.
But they want to run even more races this year — races which will have an impact on them and on the community.
“We sit and decide which ones make a difference,” Roberson said. “There’s tons of races out there but we really want to give our money and our support to events that will help the people and organizations of Rome and Floyd County. This is our community. It ties into what we do in law enforcement. We want to help make the community a better place and this is just one more way we can do that.”
Wilson, who once weighed as much as 360 lbs., added that they’d love to see more of their friends, neighbors and fellow Floyd County residents participate in these events.
“It took me 22 minutes to run my first mile,” he said. “That's really slow. But it gets easier. A big part of it is mental. I’m not trying to get out there and win races. I’m just trying to get out there. That’s the first step.”