Interview with Sole Inspirer - Kristen Smith
Let’s meet Kristen Smith
Kristen is a physical therapist by trade, runner by choice and a cat lover to the core. While doing what she loves, Kristen had a near death experience, which caused her to put up her running shoes for months. Inspired to service for others and especially moved by veterans, Kristen pulled out her running shoes and ran 1,400+ miles, over a 4 month period, to honor and remember fallen heroes with Run For The Fallen (RFTF). Kristen says there were so many times during this run that she knew GOD was present and she shares these moments and how this journey changed her life.
Running is mental fortitude.
The thing that hurt the most was my heart.
SI | We are so inspired by your story, can you tell our readers a little more about yourself and your journey this year?
Kristen | I’m a physical therapist by trade and a runner by choice. This past year, I personally ran 1,400 + miles over the course of 4 months to honor and remember fallen heroes, with America’s Run For The Fallen (RFTF) organization. RFTF is the most comprehensive fallen veteran tribute. The tribute started April 7, 2018 in Fort Irwin, CA and concluded August 5, 2018 in Arlington, VA. The tribute covered 6,000 miles over 120 days through 19 states honoring over 20,000 service members.
SI | WOW. 1,400 miles, that’s a lot of running.
Kristen | I love to run, especially to honor veterans and the military. I ran competitively, until May 2015.
SI | Why did you stop running competitively in 2015?
Kristen | On my 28th birthday, during a marathon, I had a severe heat stroke and passed out after crossing the finish line. Honestly, I can’t remember anything past mile 16. I was in the hospital for a couple days and was told that I could have died. I was afraid to run marathons again. It wasn’t until a friend asked me to run the Marine Corp marathon in October 2015, as her pacer, that I decided to run again.
SI | Kristen, I’m glad you are ok and running for a wonderful cause. How did you select Run For The Fallen as an organization you wanted to support?
Kristen | I’m a huge military supporter, so in June 2016 when New York Run for the Fallen was looking for volunteers, I volunteered as a core runner. I am inspired to service for others. I am especially moved by veterans. When you think of the ultimate sacrifice of the fallen and their families, it’s very emotional. For the family, every day of their life is service, because they lost their loved one. So when I was asked again to run in 2018, for the largest tribute ever, I said YES!
SI | I know first-hand as a Gold star wife, how true this is; so first and foremost; I thank you for acknowledging the sacrifice. Based on the amount of miles you ran and the number of fallen heroes you honored, how did you motivate yourself to forge ahead, mentally and physically?
Kristen | Running is majority mental fortitude. The thing that hurt the most was my heart. Saying each fallen heroes name out loud at every mile marker was emotional. The families want to hear their name and they don’t ever want them to be forgotten. They sacrificed their life for this country, so running hundreds of miles and carrying that flag is the least I can do.
SI | Is there one or two days during your run that stood out the most? If so, please share why.
Kristen | There were so many divine moments during the 120 days, but I will try to pick a couple.
We were in constant contact with a fallen hero’s family, who wanted to meet us at the mile marker to honor their loved one. The marker was originally supposed to be in Indiana but it was changed to Tennessee. As we are going down the road, the family member says, “This is the road where my son’s funeral procession was”. When we stopped the truck for the mile marker presentation, the mom points across the street and says, this is the funeral home where we had my son’s funeral. We all looked at each other in disbelief. Remember, this was not the original location for this presentation. This was no coincidence.
Another moment that stood out was a family we met in Indiana that had 40+ family and friends at the mile marker for their loved one. The family was so happy that we were honoring and remembering their loved one. His cousin gave me a t-shirt with his name on it and told me I was more like family than I realized. Their loved one’s date of death was December 2017, so it was more recent and towards the end of our run journey. Now here is what stood out. In October 2018 of this year, the family was planning on running Marine Corps Marathon in his honor, and invited me to run with them. I decided to wear the t-shirt they had given me and run with the honor and remember flag. I met up with his family that morning and I pulled up my first layer (long-sleeve) to show his mom the t-shirt underneath. I saw the tears in his mom’s eyes. A few weeks later, his mom tagged me in a photo on social media and I got a notification. As I opened the photo, it was a Facebook memory for her, from 2015, and I got a lump in my throat! It was a photo of her son running, and just a few feet away, was me, running the same marathon!! It was the 2015 Marine Corps Marathon that my friend had asked me to pace her for.
SI | Are you serious?
Kristen | Yes, I’m serious. The RFTF journey this year has been one I will never forget. I’ve been doing a lot of writing this year. Through my writing, I’ve learned more about myself. I’ve had a spiritual journey and awakening. I’ve released control of things that I have no control over. There were so many times during this run that I knew GOD was with us. I’ve pushed this notion away in the past, but now I know I’ve been given a second chance at life. I know that everything that happened over the past year was for a reason. On December 9, 2018, I am getting baptized, as I’m definitely a believer.
SI | I am sitting here with chill bumps. This is nothing but GOD! Thank you for sharing, as this truly is your testimony. Lastly I want to thank you for the sacrifice you’ve made of your time, talents and financial resources to honor and remember our fallen heroes. You are an inspiration to me and I know your acts of service and kindness will be an inspiration to others. Thank you so much.
Runner by Choice
Meet Kristen’s twins!