Stair Gyms to the Streets: One Physician's 5K Adventure

Sampath Prahalad, M.D., division chief of pediatric rheumatology in the Department of Pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine, is no stranger to hitting his daily steps target. With his Fitbit buzzing on his wrist, he regularly exceeds the 10,000 step goal—especially on his inpatient on-call days at Egleston.

“Every day I am on call in the hospital, I find myself choosing the stair gyms over waiting for the elevators.” He said. “I know that I’m burning more calories and it’s good for me.”

While participating in Corporate Athlete training for physicians, Dr. Prahalad learned about the Kaiser Permanente Run/Walk, Children’s largest annual employee event, and decided to sign up as part of the physician team.

“After Corporate Athlete training, I felt motivated and the race felt like something I could do,” He said.

Beyond his usual stair workouts in the hospital, Dr. Prahalad went about his preparation through light, consistent training. “In rheumatology, we tell our patients to pursue activities as tolerated, so that’s what I did.” He said.

Using his FitBit and a high school track near his home, Dr. Prahalad calculated that 11 laps around the oval equaled the length of a 5K race. Once or twice per week, he would walk and run around the track for 3.1 miles. 

“My daughters, who are ages 10 and 7, would run with me on the track and encourage me.” He said. “As I was getting near my final laps, they would walk, run or bike with me.”

On race day, Dr. Prahalad worked long clinic hours, but was determined to conquer the 5K course. He was joined at the starting line by other clinical staff members he works with on a regular basis.

“It was amazing to see the Children’s staff tent so full of life and activity and people making a healthy choice for themselves,” He said. “There were so many nurses I work with and they were all running, too.”

Dr. Prahalad took off running with the Children’s team and bumped into a friend of his on the course. They ran alongside each other for most of the race. As he made his way down the final hill, his family was there to cheer him on at the finish line.

“The goal of completing the race helped me keep going and kept my family engaged.” He said. “I could have decided not to do it, but my wife and family encouraged me to do it.”

Already looking ahead to next year, Dr. Prahalad anticipates beating his 2016 race time.

“I will be back at the KP next year, I already know.” He said. “For me, it was a new experience and I am glad I tried it out. I look back and it was a lot of fun – a really nice day.

Until then, you can find him back in the stair gym at Egleston on his on-call days, hitting his step goals on his way to see patients.