every runner has a story

Meet Brian Heipp

Brian Heipp’s journey into running quickly transformed from a supportive gesture for his wife into a passion that led him to become a leader and coach in the Lakeland Runners Club. His willingness to lead and encourage others has not only strengthened the running community but also provided countless runners with an opportunity to improve.

Brian Heipp’s journey into the world of running began as a way to support his wife but it quickly became a passion that transformed his life. Originally from Naperville, IL, a suburb of Chicago, Brian moved to Lakeland to be closer to Yolanda’s family, making it their home for over 41 years.

Running started for Brian in 2013 when he joined Yolanda as she trained for her first half marathon, the Red Ribbon Half. “I know it is not fair, but running came very easy,” Brian admits. His natural aptitude for the sport, combined with his enjoyment of group training, led him to deeper involvement with the local running community. 

Brian’s first LRC race was the Mayfaire 5k, and although he doesn’t have a favorite race, he cherishes the camaraderie and conversations during group runs. He and Yolanda’s dedication to running has reshaped their mornings, often beginning as early as 4 am. This commitment has also refined their diet, enhancing their overall well-being.

Training with a local group called “The Pack” since 2014, Brian credits John Hodgkinson for laying the foundation of his running knowledge. After John left in 2015, Brian led the pack runs and became an RRCA (Road Runners Club of America) certified coach in 2019. In 2020, he started to coach the Tuesday Interval Workouts for the Lakeland Runners Club, a role he enjoys immensely. “It has been gratifying to see so many of our regulars become stronger runners,” he shares.

Brian has endured several injuries, including meniscus tears in both knees requiring surgery, Brian remains resilient. “Run, learn, adapt is my motto for all setbacks,” he states, emphasizing the importance of cross-training and listening to his body.

Among the highlight reel from the past 10 years, qualifying for the Boston Marathon in 2017 stands out. Additionally, Brian was part of a team that competed in the Keys 100 relay race, achieving progressively better results each year, including first place in their final year. His favorite distance is the half marathon, and he prefers running locally.

The marathon is known for handing out lessons, and Brian’s toughest running experience was the Jacksonville Marathon, his first attempt at that distance.  He trained through a plantar issue, and his volume wasn’t sufficient for the distance.  He advises new runners to avoid doing too much too fast. He emphasizes the importance of incremental improvement and the value of joining a training program to learn and grow safely.

Looking ahead, Brian is optimistic about his recovery from knee surgery and arthritis, hopeful to return to running with his former groups. In addition to volunteering as a coach for the LRC, Brian has also served on the Board of Directors since 2020. 

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