Once upon a time before the pandemic, Atlanta Braves fans cheered on “The Freeze” sprinter as he raced challengers between innings. The person inside of the costume, Durran Dunn, would give a fan a head start in a foot race around the race track inside of the Braves stadium as part of a promotion by RaceTrac.
On rare occasions, the competitor would beat “The Freeze.”
Dunn has since gone from simply running on foot to also running his own business. The sprinter recently became a gym owner in Cobb County and cut the ribbon on the Anytime Fitness location earlier this month.
His current opponent: coronavirus.
“I was the one who saw the building burning, and I decided to walk into it,” Dunn said in response to opening a gym during a global pandemic.
Many people have gotten creative at home with their workout routines since the rise of COVID-19 cases, which forced gyms to shut down in March.
Georgia was one of the first states to reopen after a temporary shutdown in April. The reopening of gyms was in the first phase.
Dunn said the COVID pandemic prompted a huge alarm among fitness gurus and gym owners. Dunn said he did some research and found the disease is carried mostly from person to person, rather than from person to object or vice versa. But he still is aware of the severity of the virus and has implemented safety plans for his employees and members.
Dunn insists members be greeted with a temperature check and personalized sanitizing basket upon entrance. All employees are required to wear masks and people have the option to work out in open or closed spaces.
Dunn wears a lot of hats: Atlanta accountant, competing sprinter and “The Freeze” at Atlanta Braves games. He said he never thought of owning his own business until now.
“I’m somebody from Kingston, Jamaica, and never even talked about college,” Dunn said. “I couldn’t fathom owning a business. I was just blessed and highly favored by God to even have a shot.”
Dunn’s business opened during an extraordinary time in history. Black-owned businesses have been hit substantially harder by the coronavirus pandemic than companies overall, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
However, opportunities for Black-owned businesses are thriving, according to the U.S. Small Business Association. That’s thanks to promotion and awareness on social media as well as the Black Lives Matter movement.
Dunn said it’s important for Black businesses to be normalized in communities. He said he hopes to be a beacon of light for younger generations and those who are afraid to take a leap of faith to open their own business.
“Representation is critical because if you don’t see it, it’s harder to achieve,” he said.
“Representation is critical because if you don’t see it, it’s harder to achieve.”
While the Black community has seen success economically, many in it have seen poorer outcomes regarding health. A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on some Georgia COVID-19 cases found that Black Georgians were more likely to be hospitalized, highlighting the demographic disparity in how the virus is affecting the state.
Additionally, studies suggest Black people are more obese and depressed than their white counterparts.
Dunn said he’s working to help his community become healthier — especially during the pandemic, election and racial/social justice movement. With people enduring so much stress, he hopes people use the gym as an outlet to release it.
“I think the gym allows that space for people to come together,” he said. “It’s one place you don’t have to worry about being marginalized because of race. The gym is the perfect place to temporarily step away from the realities of life.”
Dunn also makes efforts in inclusion and diversity with his campaign and among his staff.
Dunn said opening the gym wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t challenging. He credits his accounting background and experience in corporate America with the transition. He said he is also thankful for the support of his team at Anytime Fitness.
As for his philosophy on entrepreneurship, he believes the greatest risk in life is not taking one at all. “I may not be the most talented in the room, but you will not outwork me,” he said. “I’m the first in the room and the last to leave. I stay ready for anything.”