Today’s guest is someone that enjoys a good run as much as any of us, but his best runs are never a solo endeavor.
He and his wife are co-founders of Team Hoyt Oklahoma.
I am looking forward to going a few easy miles today with Erik Heine.
Always A Runner
Erik Heine has been a runner for as long as he can remember.
He played soccer from an early age and then transitioned to baseball.
His inability to hit a curveball pushed him to join the track team during his sophomore year of high school.
Erik loved running and switched his fall sport from soccer to cross country.
Once Erik got to college, running went on the back burner for a few years.
As the years went on, Erik tried to pick running back up on a few separate occasions before it finally stuck for good.
Running finally took hold while Erik was living in Austin, Texas working on his doctorate degree.
He attributes his consistency to taking part in the Austin Distance Challenge, an 8 race series that culminates in a marathon.
Ignoring His Body And Paying A Price
One month before Erik ran his first marathon, he ran a 30k race, part of the Austin Distance Challenge.
His legs began to hurt midway through the race and the pain continued in the following days.
Erik knew that the pain wasn’t normal muscle soreness, yet he decided to continue with his training plan and ran a half marathon two weeks later.
Erik dealt with the pain and completed both the half and the full marathons.
At that point, his leg pain was impossible to ignore and he finally went to see a doctor.
An x-ray of both legs showed that he had a stress fracture in both femurs.
Erik was immediately prohibited from running for the next 18 months.
Never Debated Giving Up Running
Looking back on his injury, the diagnosis Erik received was never on his radar.
Even with 18 months of zero running, he never once debated leaving the sport for good.
Naturally, he was terrified about his return to running, for fear of getting injured again.
In the time since he has been back to running, Erik has developed habits that have kept him healthy.
Erik has placed a huge focus on strength, nutrition, and sleep.
Following his injury, he has moved to Oklahoma and become more consistent with running with each passing year.
Since 2014, Erik has routinely run over 2,000 miles per year and stayed relatively injury-free.
Running With A Purpose
Erik has been running while pushing his son Stephen in a wheelchair since late 2014.
Stephen’s story began like so many other children, with a normal pregnancy.
Around the time Stephen was 18 months old he was diagnosed with Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome.
The genetic syndrome is characterized in part by gross motor delays along with cognitive delays.
Stephen didn’t learn to walk until he was around 3 years old and walking doesn’t come easy.
He is non-speaking and uses an IPad to communicate.
From an early age, Stephen loved to watch his dad race and cheer on others.
Stephen was born in 2006, but wouldn’t “run” with his dad until 2014.
In 2014, Erik had a sabbatical semester off from teaching.
During his time away from the classroom, he managed to squeeze in a 24-hour race on a one-mile looped course.
A local running club was at the race and saw Erik along with his wife and son cheering him on.
The member of the run club approached Erik’s wife and mentioned a program sponsored by the club.
The program helped enable runners to push disabled people in specialized running wheelchairs during races.
Erik and his wife didn’t hesitate to take part in the program.
December of 2014, is when Stephen “ran” his first race with his dad.
The weather was freezing but that didn’t take away any of the joy that both Erik and Stephen experienced that day.
Move To Include
After that first race together, Erik and Stephen upgraded the wheelchair and continued to run races.
Erik has a good friend that started a non-profit called Move to Include.
The company’s goal is to promote inclusion in a variety of ways.
Move to Include had 7 running wheelchairs that they allowed people nearby to use for races.
Erik loved that idea and wanted to find a way to do something similar in the future.
During his time running with Stephen, he also managed to run a Boston qualifying time.
Erik planned his entire trip to Boston around seeing Dick and Rick Hoyt, a long-time wheelchair duo team, speak at the expo.
While Erik was waiting to hear them speak, he noticed Team Hoyt shirts throughout the room from all over the country and an idea was born.
Team Hoyt Oklahoma
Erik knew immediately that he wanted to pitch the idea about forming a Team Hoyt Oklahoma.
In the month following Boston, Erik was able to get the ball rolling and in May of 2018, he got the approval for Team Hoyt Oklahoma.
In September of 2018, they became an official non-profit and currently have 7 extra chairs available for use in any race in Oklahoma.
Erik generally runs with Stephen as much as possible when their schedules allow.
He has found that it’s hard for him to run outside without the wheelchair because there is nothing in it for him.
Erik’s body has adapted to pushing the chair, which now feels more normal than running without it.
Erik and Stephen love to run races because it gets them away from their usual routes and surrounds them with the energy from the crowds.
Along with the positives of races, there are also a lot of details that Erik needs to research before signing up.
Running with a wheelchair can come with a lot of challenges depending on the course.
Erik avoids any race that doesn’t have paved roads because any other surface can be hazardous.
Out and back routes can be dangerous when it comes to running in the opposite direction of a big crowd.
Frequently Erik will contact the race director prior to the race to work out the details to ensure a safer experience for all.
Through experience, Erik has found that there is a lot of planning that goes on behind the scenes.
Above All, Be NICE
Over the years, Erik and Stephen have run multiple races together with most of them being great experiences.
Occasionally, they encounter some negative incidents.
The biggest takeaway that Erik wants everyone participating in races is to be nice.
There should be a common courtesy with all involved because they’re all trying to do the same thing and cover the same distance.
Terminology matters with how spectators refer to the wheelchair he pushes Stephen in.
The chair Erik pushes is NOT a stroller.
Erik doesn’t like to be referred to as superhuman for pushing Stephen.
He is doing what any other parent would do in supporting their child in doing an activity they love.
The Best Part Of The Day
The time that Erik spends running with his son Stephen is often the best part of both their days.
It’s something that they can share and that they both look forward to.
Stephen has the same needs and desires as anyone else.
He wants to be active and have experiences much like other kids his age.
Running with Stephen has given them both so much and Erik is grateful to be able to allow others the opportunity to do the same through Team Hoyt Oklahoma.
Mentioned In This Episode:
- Team Hoyt Oklahoma
- Move To Include
- Austin Distance Challenge
- Running Punks
- Squirrels Nut Butter
Stay connected with Erik Heine by following him on Twitter.
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