INDIANAPOLIS (Sept.17, 2019) – The Indy Women’s Half Marathon and 5K announced today that it has named two women as the recipients of the 2019 “Trailblazer Award.” This year’s honorees are Kim Heger, an avid runner and fitness enthusiast who has undergone extensive treatment for breast cancer in the past year; and Ashleigh Freda, running coach, mentor and founder of “The Running Wife Club.” The Indy Women’s Trailblazer Award programhonors women who strive to make a difference in the lives of others, women who inspire others to succeed, and women who support other women and encourage them to lead healthy lifestyles.
2019 Indy Women’s Half Marathon Trailblazer Award Winner
Kim Heger, Breast Cancer Survivor
Kim Heger was a dedicated runner who had completed four marathons and more 20 half marathons, was devoted to hot yoga, and was in excellent health with no family history of breast cancer. Because of these factors, she was not concerned when a routine mammogram test came back abnormal and required follow up tests. Kim was training with her daughter to run the 2018 Indy Women’s Half Marathon, the first half marathon the pair would run together, when Heger received the news that she had an aggressive form of breast cancer – stage 3 – that was also present in her lymph nodes. What was initially thought to be a 1-centimeter mass in her breast was actually a 7-centimeter tumor.
In September 2018 she underwent a double mastectomy. Determined to still be a part of the race with her daughter, Heger switched to the 5K and convinced her doctors to let her walk. She finished the 5K and was able to be at the finish line to see her daughter finish the half.
Throughout the next year Heger had all of her lymph nodes removed under her left arm and underwent extensive chemotherapy and radiation. A believer in treating the whole person, she embraced Integrative Oncology using holistic treatments, including acupuncture, cupping and meditation. In addition, she traveled to MD Anderson in Texas where she completed her radiation and took advantage of a number of holistic treatments. She focused on healthy eating and continued to practice hot yoga, something she says helped her immensely throughout the process.
Heger says that running has been a big part of her life, and that lessons she has learned from running and yoga helped guide her through her cancer treatments. “The perseverance you need to run a marathon is the same you need for many other challenges in life,” she said. “You know your body can do amazing things but you have to be comfortable doing the uncomfortable. You just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other.”
A little more than a month ago, on Aug. 5, Heger returned to M.D. Anderson in Texas for her first follow up scan and found that all of her tests were clear and the cancer was gone. She faced her diagnosis and treatment head on and with a positive outlook. She plans to once again join the field in the Indy Women’s 5K and has aspirations to run the half marathon again in the future.
Ashleigh Freda, Founder of The Running Wife Club
Ashleigh Freda is known to most people as “The Running Wife.” She is the creator of the Running Wife Club, an organization that helps women reach their goals in running at all levels and paces.
The Running Wife Club started as a blog when Ashleigh was training for her first marathon after having her second child. She wanted to share her struggles of training with young children in a sleep-deprived state and the challenges of finding the balance between achieving fitness goals and being a mother. She gained momentum as a runner and began sharing her training plans with others. From this sharing The Running Wife Club was born. Freda now has a newsletter that reaches more than 70,000 subscribers and has more than 70 runners in her clubs throughout Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio who she helps train and motivate through a variety of races.
Freda says she has always run to escape whatever the day had thrown at her and to release energy, whether joy or grief. “Running is my outlet,” she said. “My mind clears as my feet hit the pavement. I plan trips while I run, I write stories, create recipes, all of my creativity lets loose in the miles that I run.”
Freda says that it is important to show women of all abilities that they are capable of running, no matter what their pace or distance. “So many runners get frustrated when they cannot just go out and run for an hour on the first day and that’s not what it’s about. It’s one step, one mile, one finish line at a time.”
In addition to coaching adults, The Running Wife Club hosts a free running program in schools in Kentucky called the “Raising Runners” program, which also provides running shoes to children who need them.
“Ashleigh has a ‘no runner left behind’ mentality,” said Judith Rupp, one of the members of The Running Wife Club. “When we go on group runs, even though she is much faster, she never goes too far ahead before she loops back for those in the back so we all feel included and get personal encouragement. She has been the key to helping so many of us believe in ourselves and reach our goals.”
The Indy Women’s Half Marathon Trailblazer Award
The Indy Women’s Trailblazer Award was started in 2016 as a way to recognize women who are positively impacting the sport and women’s health through innovation, volunteerism, and/or encouraging, implementing and championing healthy lifestyles through sport. An honoree of the Indy Women’s Trailblazer Award must meet one of three criteria: she is an advocate for women’s running, she has changed her community for the better or she has overcome personal or physical adversity.
“We are honored to be able to recognize these two very inspirational women this year with our Trailblazer Award,” said Race Director Todd Oliver. “Both Kim and Ashleigh are wonderful examples of what the Indy Women’s Half Marathon is all about. They are driven, dedicated and positive influences on those around them, and they are both an inspiration to all of our runners and fans.”
Trailblazer Award honorees will be recognized at the pre-race expo on Friday, Sept. 27 and at the awards ceremonies of the Indy Women’s Half and 5K on Saturday, Sept. 28.
About the Indy Women’s Half Marathon & 5K
The Indy Women’s Half Marathon was introduced to the central Indiana running community in August 2010 as the first women’s only half marathon in Indiana. In just a few years, it has become the largest women’s running event in the state and one of the top 10 largest women's half marathons in the country. A women’s-only race offers a unique atmosphere, emotion and camaraderie from women of all ages and abilities. The race is owned and operated by Carmel, Indiana-based CRRG Events. More information can be found at www.indywomenshalfmarathon.com and on Instagram and Twitter @IndyWomensHalf.