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RADJournals: Heidi Nadeau's running journey started with the Javelin Olympic Trials

I have always wanted to be a distance runner ever since I can remember. 

Let’s start from the beginning, when I was younger, I played many team sports, soccer, basketball, field hockey and softball and then dabbled in summer track.  As I entered middle school, I developed exercise-induced asthma so when the cold NH winters hit, long distance training outside wasn’t favorable.  Luckily when I was doing summer youth track, I won the state softball throw which had high school coaches asking me to try javelin in high school. Who knew I would get recruited for spear chucking!

By the end of my freshman year, I was ranked in the top ten in the state, and I kept getting odd injuries in soccer like concussions and MCL tears so along with my parents' encouragement, I started to go all-in on non-contact sports like track and field. I was lucky my sophomore year as one of our English teachers became the javelin coach and she had thrown at UNC Chapel Hill alongside the current U.S. record holder. With her assistance and eye, I went from throwing just over 100 feet to almost 130 feet and made nationals, placing 12th my sophomore year and then 4th my junior year.  Now you may ask, how does distance running fit in?  The national meets don’t draw too many athletes from New Hampshire, so at states we would all get to know each other and cheer at the event.  Most athletes were running events of at least 800 meters up to the two mile. I developed friendships with all of these distance runners, and thoroughly enjoyed cheering for their successes because I knew my asthma would not let me do the same.  I would joke and say that when I grew up, I wanted to be a distance runner.

My 4th place finish in the javelin at Nationals had me well recruited by many schools all over the U.S. but I chose to be a Nittany Lion at Penn State because their team felt like a family.  It was funny, most athletes go to a football game on their recruiting visit, and they brought me to the biggest fall cross country meet, the Penn State National, and I was sold.  All four years I enjoyed volunteering at every cross country meet and cheering intensely by riding my bike to as many checkpoints as possible. This joy for the sport and work ethic from high school brought me to also succeed at Penn State scholastically, placing at the Big Ten championships 5th, 2nd and 7th respectfully, qualifying for the NCAA Finals and placing 11th, qualifying for the US Championships and placing 9th and qualifying for the Olympic Trials with a throw of 167-2 to then place 16th at the 2008 Trials.  As a Prefontaine enthusiast, seeing your own face on the jumbotron at old Hayward field is quite the surreal experience. 

However, there is not much of a market for professional javelin throwers, and I wanted to stay in shape post-college so my first goal was to run the RNR Arizona half marathon while I was in massage school.  I loved running so I figured I would take it slow, try to break 2 hours, and hopefully within the year, I could get my lungs strong enough to no longer take asthma medications.  I exceeded my own expectations after building up to 30 miles per week and I finished the race in 1:48:49. I was hooked and I was no longer using asthma medications.  Over the next ten years, I continued to run road races in the USATF circuit and by 2019, I was able to run with the Boston Athletic Association ("BAA") Club team and represent them in the Boston Marathon.  I was really enjoying myself and all that Boston had to offer as a running city, however, I knew I wanted to run as long as I could and that eventually switching over to trails would be the best choice for me, even though a year ago they were definitely not my strength.

In August 2020, I moved to Flagstaff, Arizona in the middle of the pandemic for work for Whole Foods and my goal was to become a decent trail runner.  I made some of the most amazing friends who have pushed me to levels of climbing and descending that I did not know I had in me.  We ran to the river in the Grand Canyon. We ran to Observation Point at Zion. We ran to Fisher Point in Flagstaff in the snow. During these journeys, I built the confidence to run multiple 5 hour runs in Chamonix while my partner was there for CCC.  All this led up to a remarkable day in the Arizona high plains, where I race and won my first ever ultra, the Stagecoach 55k.  Most of these girlfriends who I train with are rabbits and I think there was just something associated with the brand that brought our friendship together. I cannot say how many times in the last year I have said to them, "I am living my best life." I have always wanted to be a distance runner and rabbit has been a huge part of that. This is why I am a RADrabbit. 

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