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The Running Journey of Heather Smith

“Why would people intentionally run? I don’t even like walking.”  This was Heather Smith’s mentality about running most of her life.  Now, her calendar is filled with a race almost every weekend.  Every time she crosses a finish line she asks, “When’s the next one?!”  Read on to learn more about how one woman’s mentality changed the moment she crossed a finish line, the moment she was inspired by another beginner runner, the moment she was donated a new ACL, and the moment she volunteered.

Heather decided to get healthy about 7 years ago.  She shares that she was under a lot of stress, was overweight, and had high blood pressure.  So she decided to get on a treadmill just to see if she could run more than 1 minute – and she went for seven minutes.

“You assume you can’t, so you don’t. But then you do, and it’s like – well, okay. Never know til you try. I realized I could have been Dorothy all along. Just click my heels together, and I could have been home.”

Her first race was an Udder Mudder 1 miler in 2015. She remembers asking herself during the race, “Can I get my fat a** over these hay bales?!  I did and realized this is easier than I thought. I had so much fun and decided that’s it. I’m doing this for real.”

Heather loves obstacle and trail races the most such as the Warrior Dash and the Spartan. To prepare for her first Spartan race she had a trainer help her for 3 months, and it’s the first thing she’s every stuck with. She loved having a trainer because she pushed her and was able to show her results which were completing the race and losing 20-25 pounds.

“Don’t die” was also a motivator, she jokes. If you haven’t met Heather yet, you need to. She has the best sense of humor. :)

She is also proud to share that she has hiked the entire 23 miles of the Pine Mountain Trail which she lives close to.  Heather is clearly dedicated because she drives from Pine Mountain to Columbus a few times a week to run with the Porch Dog to Big Dog group.  She was inspired to begin the running program after seeing a video on the Big Dog Facebook page about another Porch Dog attendee, Janet.  She just loved her story and after watching Janet cross the finish line at the St. Paddy’s Day 5K she signed up for Porch Dog.  She has done the program three times this year and loves having a group to run with, plus “I paid money for it so I’m gonna show up!”

In 2018, Heather had ACL surgery and couldn’t run for 5 months, but it didn’t scare her from returning to running. If anything, it motivated her more.

“Taking away the 1 thing that keeps me sane (her face looks annoyed) – I was so grateful and dedicated to my physical therapy every single day.”

Another reason she didn’t take running for granted after surgery is because her new ACL was donated to her. After receiving a thank you note from the donor’s wife, Heather promised, “I’m USING this new knee! I feel obligated to make the most of this.”

During recovery, Heather also volunteered with the Columbus Roadrunners, and while watching the other runners go by, she told herself she wouldn’t squander an opportunity to run once she got better. Heather suggests that every runner should volunteer to give back and to experience what it takes to put on a race. She has also volunteered at obstacle course races and says,

“When you see someone who’s afraid of heights get over an 8-foot wall, it’s like watching Extreme Home Makeover and being a part of it!” 

She loves watching the runners’ faces when they conquer an obstacle or cross a finish line, especially if they are new to running. She admits that she wishes her main job could be being the loudest, most obnoxious volunteer ever!  Gotta love this woman’s spunk.

Heather admits she still doesn’t like running, but she loves the feeling when she’s done and she is in a much better place now than 7 years ago.  She jokes/not jokes, “I prefer these issues over my past issues!” You can also hear the pure happiness and excitement in her voice when she talks about racing and running.

Her final words of wisdom are, “If people are waiting for motivation, then they’re gonna keep waiting. I’m not driven or motivated, but I’m doing it. And when I’m done, I’m motivated to keep going. It’s a priority – otherwise, I feel miserable. Start moving. THEN you’ll be motivated. It’ll never happen sitting on the couch. Once you realize you can do it, you might enjoy it.” :) 

By: Charlotte Gallagher

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