The launch event for Black Men Run, Black Men Cycle and Black Men Hike Madison is scheduled for March 25th


Aaron Perry founded the Men’s Health and Education Center within JP Hair Design after noticing that many of the black male clients who had their hair cut at JP often spoke about their health issues but did not see a doctor. The center has grown significantly since its inception and now hosts inspirational programs that bring Black men from across the region together to focus on their health, such as Black Men Run, Black Men Cycle and Black Men Hike.

The kickoff for the 2023 season of these initiatives will be on Saturday, March 25 at 11 a.m. at the Men’s Health & Education Center, 588 Grand Canyon Drive, on the west side of Madison. Lunch is served by David’s Jamaican Cuisine.

“This is just a continuation of our efforts to continue improving the health of black men in Dane County,” Perry told Madison365. “Someone asked the question the other day: Is this kickoff event just for back men? No, actually it isn’t. Anyone can come and join us. But our focus is on Black men because the numbers and difference continue to show that we are in a crisis and therefore this event is just a reaction or wake-up call for men who may be leading sedentary lifestyles. It’s time to get up and move and this is an opportunity for them to do that.”

Aaron Perry

Perry, the first African American diabetic to ever complete an Ironman competition, is nationally known for his work to reduce racial disparities in men’s health and is the CEO and founder of the Rebalanced-Life Wellness Association.

“When we started Black Men Run Madison, we actually got permission from the National Black Men Run organization in 2015,” Perry recalls. “So we’ve been blessed with a chapter here, and that’s always been my goal — to try to diversify Madison’s running community. Because there were times when I was doing Ironman and training and I just didn’t see a lot of people who looked like me on the course. So my goal was to diversify Madison’s running community.”

But then the pandemic hit and the Black Men Run group were forced to stay indoors or if they went outside they had to maintain social distancing. At that time other initiatives were started.

“So the launch of Black Men Hike and Black Men Cycle Madison was an opportunity for all of us to stay together. But at the same time, we can move while still social distancing,” says Perry. “And this is where all three events come into play together.

“Finally, we know that 19 percent of adults in Dane County reported not engaging in physical activity outside of work,” Perry continues. “What we do know is that a large portion of that percentage are black males. So we’re just trying to let the guys know that those opportunities are available. We’re trying to do them at times when anyone can come out and join us… so that’s the goal for the day.”

Black Men Hike: The Black Men Northwoods Retreat group explores the Ice Age Trail in northern Wisconsin. Aaron Perry is on the far right.

At the kickoff event, James Mills, outdoor journalist, independent media producer, author and avid outdoor enthusiast, will lead trail walks.

“James Mills coordinated this Ice Age Trail hike up north. So we drove about three hours north and hiked the Ice Age Trail, and it was a phenomenal experience,” says Perry. “We have a cabin; we stayed the night. We talked about black people hiking. James is phenomenal. He will lead that part of the hike.”

Retired University of Wisconsin Police Officer Fred Conley will lead the morning walks of the Black Men Run.

“I was working with Fred as a police officer back then at UW. He’s in his early 70s now,” says Perry. “He will lead our walks on Saturday morning. And then Mr. Dino Lucas will lead the bike tours. He was a triathlete. He has completed almost every Ironman in the world.

“Dino had a prosthetic hip. So he can show people once again that even if you have something like a knee or hip replacement, it doesn’t mean you have to give up your training.”

Black men cycle Madison

Perry says there are five specific health goals they are trying to achieve in 2023.

“We want men to reach a point where they’re less than 40 inches with their waist measurement,” he says. “With their blood pressure, we want the guys to keep that 120/80 blood pressure. We want men to get their LDL cholesterol below 70 mg/dL and their triglycerides below 150 mg/dL. Obviously blood sugar is the biggest and we want the guys to be under 100 mg/dL and that’s fasting.

“We’re focusing on those things, specifically blood sugar and diabetes, because we know that 93 million people in the United States are living with prediabetes without even knowing it,” Perry adds. “Unfortunately, many of the people who unfortunately have a cut that doesn’t heal are only then aware that they have diabetes, which can sometimes lead to foot/toe amputation. So, everything we do… it has a purpose and we just want the boys not only to get healthy, but to stay healthy.”

Perry adds that since the Black Men Run started in 2015, over 520 men have come out and participated with them.

“People always ask me: How do you know how many people you’ve had over the years? You know what, I have photos,” laughs Perry. “Every time we do something, we take pictures… and we counted. So we had about 520 guys that came out and ran/walked with us. We grew the Black Men Cycle Madison group to about 49 guys and then with our hiking group about 12 guys came out and hiked with us. So we just want to keep that momentum going.”

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