Strava Track Club members are engaged in a wide variety of vocational and other pursuits in addition to their running. Find out more about our team in our new weekly feature, Meet the Team. This week's female athlete is a two time Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier, who joined our team when her active duty military husband was stationed in Monterey, California. After a few years here, service took their family to Fort Sumter, South Carolina, where she has begun her latest competitive chapter as a masters athlete. Meet Heather Hunt.
Hi. My name is Heather (Vande Brake) Hunt and I was born and raised at the foot of the Rockies in Englewood, CO. I was blessed to have supportive, caring parents who let me try every activity under the sun when I was a kid, so I could explore all the options of what life has to offer. Turns out I was able to excel at many things, but running always rose to the surface. As a kid, soccer was my first love, but nobody beat down my door in high school for soccer scholarships to college. It’s okay. God had a great plan for me to run in college and for many years to come.
In 1992, I packed my bags and traveled to Greenville, SC to my college dorm room at Furman University. Coach Gene Mullin was my first recruiter. Turns out he would convince me to come and run as a Paladin. I had a happy and successful career at Furman. I was able to set many school records in both cross country and track. I traveled to Canada for the Jr. Pan Am Games as a freshman. I captained the team for three years, won several Southern Conference titles and left with no injuries, no burn out, no negativity towards running whatsoever. In fact, when I left FU, my best running still lay ahead.
In 2000, my husband and I were visiting his family in Columbia SC and I happened to enter the 5k race as part of the Olympic Women’s Marathon Trials held there that year. Once my race was over, we stayed to watch the women compete. I knew nothing about the Trials race or process for choosing Olympians at that time. But I did know that I had it in me to run like they did. And I’m grateful to God to be able to say that I’ve competed in two Olympic Marathon trials in my career: 2004 and 2008. It was a great experience for me and one I hoped to do a third time in 2012 (but had a baby instead).
Last month, I competed in my first marathon since the 2008 Olympic Trials. I ran the Disney Marathon in 2:54 for 2nd place. It was a good day. I had hoped to skirt under the 2:50 mark, but think some “rookie" mistakes and less than perfect course conditions made the race a tougher pill to swallow. It was also my first marathon where my training was not at altitude. I (re)learned a lot and hope to have a marathon or two still left in me before the wheels totally come off.
Currently, I’m crossing new ground as a master’s division competitor. That means I’m getting older, wearing down, slowing up. But happily, God continues to provide opportunities to train and race as a healthy, strong, and blessed wife and mama of four (plus an exchange student living with us from China). My husband cheers me on/watches the kids, my friends act interested when I tell them of my exploits, and I find the time to hit the treadmill between toddler naps, school pick-up and cooking dinner for seven. I would not change a thing! I pray for many more years of joyful, healthy running and hope the same for you. God is my strength and my daily training partner. I give Him the credit for all the goodness in my life.