Between full- and part-time jobs, active involvement in his church and passions for cooking and photography, Garry Floyd, 50, doesn’t have a lot of time to stop and smell his roses – but he has learned to enjoy them in motion.

“Walking has really helped me to see the town and how beautiful things are,” he says. “Everywhere I walk, I take a picture and tweet it.”

Relatively new to the world of walking, Floyd credits his introduction to CHI Health’s Sidewalk Marathon program, a 30-day challenge that inspires participants to walk at least a mile a day, ultimately covering marathon distance (26.2 miles) and then some.

“Our mission is to get people healthy and keep them healthy and out of our hospitals. And, we all know the benefits of walking,” says Mary Williams, director of public relations for CHI Health.

A regional sales manager for Professional Research Consultants and a part-time OPPD employee, Floyd was far from sedentary before his first Sidewalk Marathon in 2016, the year the program launched. He was an avid runner, something he took up years ago to ward off a family history of heart disease and diabetes.

“We are stewards of this machine (our bodies). I’m trying to take good care of it as long as I have it,” he says.

Floyd says walking offers a balance to his running. It’s another tool in his health journey “arsenal” and something he can do well into old age. Plus, it's enjoyable. “I will walk wherever. I take my phone and actually say hello to people.”

CHI Health's third Sidewalk Marathon, tentatively planned for early 2019, will start at Omaha’s convention center and arena, to be known as CHI Health Center Omaha, effective Sept. 1.

“We’re going to expand upon everything we’ve done – just bigger and better – and open it up to the masses,” Williams says.

The Sidewalk Marathon, which runs on the honor system, is free to participants. Resources include week-by-week beginner, intermediate and advanced Sidewalk Marathon guides and fit goals, as well as education and advice from CHI Health wellness coaches via email and social media, including weekly Facebook Live sessions.

Across CHI Health’s 14 hospitals in Nebraska and Iowa, almost 1,900 people signed up for the inaugural Sidewalk Marathon in September 2016.

Connie Mangano, 63, joined 3,300 people a year later.

“It doesn’t matter where you are in terms of fitness level. Most everyone can do this,” she says.

Mangano was active before registering for the Sidewalk Marathon, but she welcomed the organized motivation to keep at it. As an added perk, she and her friends were able to socialize as they completed each day’s mileage together: “We always call it our therapy.”

Over the course of the 2017 Sidewalk Marathon, Mangano, a retired physical education teacher, estimates she walked 150 miles – an above-and-beyond effort. She won an Apple Watch in one of the weekly contests on social media. (Sidewalk Marathon contest tip: Pictures of cute dogs in walking shoes can win prizes.)

Mangano is looking forward to participating in year three: “It’s something different and something everyone can be successful at.”

Floyd also exceeded the 30-day goal last year, logging about 80 miles between walking and running. (He, too, won an Apple Watch; a social media post of his Mango Bango Salmon dish sealed it.) Hooked on the benefits of activity, he says he’ll be signing up again next year: “You can always walk. You can walk around your office space. You can park your car a little further. There’s all these opportunities for walking that you don’t shy away from because you have to get that mile in.”

He slows just enough to snap a photo of his roses along the way. “The neat thing is ... CHI Health has helped me discover what my roses are,” he says.

For more information about CHI Health’s Sidewalk Marathon, including a look at the multilevel walking and walk-running guides, check outchihealth.com/sidewalk-marathon.

This story is part of an ongoing series sponsored by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska to help people lead their very best lives. See more here.

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