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News | Nov. 6, 2015

No Dead Ends, but Plenty of Zombies at NSA Monster Dash 5K

On Oct. 30, Wonder Woman, Batman, the whole Scooby-Doo squad, a few dozen minions, and nearly 1,000 others gathered outside turnstiles of NSA's headquarters building, and shot off the finish line to the sound of a bullhorn.

The Monster Dash 5k race, an annual occurrence for the seventh year this fall, is an initiative of the Civilian Welfare Fund (CWF) in support of NSA's welfare and morale.

"It is a great event promoting fitness, and also teamwork, fun, and comradery, which bolsters morale," NSA's Chief of Logistics Dan Thomas said.

NSA employees participated in the race on their own time, off the clock, Thomas said, but many offices took advantage of the opportunity to have fun with their colleagues.

"Many organizations had coordinated themed group costumes, and they were having a blast. It really brings people together in a venue outside the office, which strengthens ties when folks return to their desks and work together as a team," Thomas said.

"NSA really allows for its employees to stay healthy and in shape. They try to get people moving here," said Mary Lou Korbel-Burgett, an NSA senior systems engineer who ran the 5K for the second time.

"I do a lot of engineering analysis and operational testing. I'm always reading long requirement documents. I can be at my desk for hours and hours. I take time to get up and walk," Korbel-Burgett said.

"I think much of our workforce understands the importance of health and fitness," Thomas said. "Of course, the personal challenge is often opportunity. Because of this, when we are able to provide either special events like these, or regularly scheduled fitness classes and onsite, cost-free fitness facilities, employees react positively and participate."

The availability of fitness facilities free-of-charge to employees, Thomas said, has been a huge success at NSA since the initiative's launch in April of this year. Use of the campus fitness facilities more than quadrupled, Thomas said, pointing out that the push came from top Agency leadership.

"It was the Director, Deputy Director, Chief of Staff, and Associate Director of Installations and Logistics who promoted it," Thomas said.

"Liz Brooks, NSA's Chief of Staff, is a huge advocate for being active," Korbel-Burgett said. "She really lives what she says."

"Take advantage of even little opportunities like walking stairs or walking around the buildings," NSA's Chief of Staff Liz Brooks said. "Every little bit helps."

Andrew White, an accountability officer at NSA, runs the Monster Dash every year. This year was his personal best: 22:30. He said his work role and experience at NSA aids him in his pursuit of a healthful lifestyle.

"I think NSA is doing more to encourage fitness," White said. "I run around NSA's campus, so having expanded sidewalks is great. Opening up the campus fitness facilities for everyone was a great idea."

Another movement-minded NSA initiative, the Codewalkers, marks areas of NSA's campus and buildings with distances so that employees on their way to meetings or stretching their legs can know the distances they've walked. Many NSA organizations and offices regularly hold Codewalker competitions, to see which teams can walk the most in a set period, Korbel-Burgett said.

Korbel-Burgett is registered for a half-marathon next year in Paris, France. She chose to dress as Wonder Woman for the costumed occasion of the Monster Dash.

"Last time I ran this race, in fall of 2013, I was the Muppets' Swedish Chef," she said, laughing. "That's the transformation for you."

Korbel-Burgett's motivation to be fit also has stimulated healthful choices in her family. Her husband, Jim, also works at the agency and wears a fitness tracker to help him focus on being more active.

"I told my husband I want to go into my golden years with you. I want to live, quite frankly," she said. "This workplace encourages people to be healthy," and she's glad employees take advantage of it, Korbel-Burgett said. "It breaks my heart when they don't — it doesn't have to be that way."