Tracie decided to start running again on her 39th birthday. She hadn’t really felt healthy for years, as family responsibilities took up more of her time and medical complications from a pregnancy pushed up her blood pressure. “I decided it was going to be the ‘year of me’,” she says. Just three days before turning 40, she completed her first 5k.

Determined to keep running, Tracie looked for a “carrot” to help her through Portland’s fall and winter months. “I wanted to find a group where I felt comfortable,” she says. That’s when she found Heart to Start, the 5k running and walking training program, sponsored by Providence Heart Institute and led by cardiologist James Beckerman, M.D.

“I was amazed at how welcome I felt at Heart to Start,” says Tracie. “There were people of every size, health, age, and experience.” Tracie was ready to start small and finish remarkable.

According to Dr. Beckerman, Tracie is doing one of the best things possible for her heart. “We know that 80 percent of heart disease is preventable through education and lifestyle changes,” he says. “We call this the ‘80 percent opportunity,’ and we intend to help more people capture it.”

Tracie is just warming up. She’s completed a 50k ultra marathon, earning a gold coin to prove it. She has her eyes on an even bigger prize: the 100k. “I need a belt buckle to go with my gold coin,” she smiles.

If you’re looking for the kind of heart-friendly community Tracie found in Heart to Start, join her and Dr. Beckerman at the Basecamp Community Open House. The event is from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Friday, Feb. 24, Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, Mother Joseph Plaza, 9427 SW Barnes Road, Portland Oregon 97225. (See the article “Journey to greater heart health” for more about Basecamp.)