February 10, 2020

Our DIO is a busy man with a lot of responsibilities. Building one of the largest graduate medical education programs in the state of Georgia takes tenacity, a vast amount of knowledge, and an ability to handle high levels of stress. Learn how our DIO finds time to manage it all-and realize that putting your physical and mental health first is a necessity for success.

How did you become a runner?

My wife and I were looking for something fun to do together. We had both run when we were younger, but lost interest over time. We decided that it would be fun to sign up for a race, so with no training at all, we signed up and ran the Great American Bacon Race in 2015. They literally served fried bacon on the course with the water and Gatorade!  After that, we decided that we would try to do a half-marathon – but we would train this time. I’m proud to say we completed the Key West Half in 2016. At this point, we were hooked, racing every month somewhere new. Running now has evolved into a family affair. Our younger daughter also runs now, but she is much faster than me! It’s a lot of fun seeing her place in the top three in her age group and earn a medal.

What do you enjoy about running?

I enjoy running for both the physical and mental benefits. Since I started running seriously in 2016, I have lost weight and drastically improved my cardiovascular fitness. My first race was a 5K and I could not even run the full three miles! However, as I have gotten stronger physically, I have started to notice the amazing psychological benefits as well – running is a tremendous stress reliever. I simply feel better after a run.

How do you make time to train?

Training is all about prioritizing your activities. I like to run after work (before dinner) during the week. I typically do my “long” runs (8-20 miles) on the weekends. I’ll admit, it’s harder in the winter when it’s cold, but thankfully living in Georgia, the winters are short and sweet! You just have to stick with it.

Dr. Delzell and his wife in Magic Kingdom.

So work/life balance does exist?

There is always time for what you want to do, you simply must do the things you love and make them a priority. As a family, we have started planning race-cations. In 2018, we went to Disney World with three of our kids. We ran the Star Wars 5K race, then we enjoyed Magic Kingdom and rode the rides – the kids had a great time and we earned medals as well!

Whether you enjoy running, walking, cooking, or paying the kazoo – make time to find and do what releases stress in your life. Remember – “…above all, do no harm” and that includes ourselves!

Tell us more about RunDisney?

RunDisney is the running/racing arm of Walt Disney. The Disney Marathon has been around for 27 years in Orlando. Ten years ago, they created the Dopey Challenge during Marathon Week in Orlando. The idea is to run four races in four days, progressively getting longer and obviously more difficult, culminating in the Marathon on Sunday. On Thursday you run the 5K, Friday the 10K, Saturday the Half Marathon, and Sunday the Marathon. In all it is 48.6 miles of running in four days! Running this series of races was a big challenge for me and my wife, but it was so much fun and very rewarding. I would say it’s a bucket list kind of thing for sure – not something I would do every year, but cool to do once.

How long did you train? 

We started training for Dopey in June. To get ready, we ran four races including the Atlanta Peachtree Road Race (a 10K), the PNC 10 miler in Atlanta, the Thanksgiving Day Half Marathon in Atlanta, and the Huntsville Rocket City Half Marathon. Most weeks we ran Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, with walks or lifting on Wednesday and Friday – Monday was rest day.

Dr. Delzell and his wife in the medal booth!

How did you feel after those four days?

My knees were sore on Sunday after the marathon – and my quads were shot!  But overall, I felt great. We had enough energy to go out to EPCOT for dinner that night!

More about John E. Delzell, Jr. MD, MSPH

More about Northeast Georgia Medical Center

Since 1951, Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) has been on a mission of improving the health of our community in all we do. With hospitals located in Gainesville, Braselton, Winder and Dahlonega, the four NGMC campuses have a total of more than 700 beds and more than 1,100 medical staff members representing more than 50 specialties. NGMC is part of Northeast Georgia Health System, a non-profit that cares for more than 1 million people across more than 18 counties. Learn more at