Live Event: December 6, 2018 at 1:00pm Eastern (US)
Heather Kampf is a professional Runner for Team USA Minnesota and is sponsored by ASICS America. She is also a coach, public speaker, and has a degree in Kinesiology, the study of body movement, which she uses to master her sport.
Name: Heather Kampf
Title: Professional Runner
Layman’s Title (ie. Biologist):
Company: ASICS America/Team USA Minnesota
Years in this organization/position?
I have been running professionally since December of 2009, so just closing out on my 9th year!
What does your organization do?
I run for a post-collegiate professional running team called Team USA Minnesota that is based out of Minneapolis, MN. My team is a non-profit that supports athletes who want to continue chasing their running dreams of competing in national/international competition. ASICS America is also my sponsor, they provide me with a stipend to help pay for my daily life stuff, plus great running shoes/equipment that I proudly wear to represent the brand, and even a travel budget to help cover my expenses when I go to races all over the world.
What is your role in the organization?
As an athlete it’s my job to train, race, and live life to the best of my ability to represent my sponsors and supporters.
Describe your work and how it is important to society:
It might sound super silly, but I do think my running can make a difference in society. I share my story through everyday encounters, coaching, speaking engagements, and on social media to encourage and inspire others who are interested in my sport, and share what I learn to help others reach their own goals. I think it’s pretty rare for people to wholeheartedly chase after big dreams, so in doing so I hope to demonstrate that there is no shame in getting after what you want in life, and even that the pain of regret (for not trying) hurts so much more than the pain of failure if you don’t reach all your aspirations.
What type of science, technology, engineering or math do you use in your career? And how often do you use them?
I like to be a student of the sport, so as such, I find physiology and biomechanics super important. I think that I get more out of my training if I can visualize the physical adaptations that happen in my body during certain types of workouts, and understanding how my body moves most efficiently (to be fast and injury-free!) is also something I pay attention to. Most of my math is honestly just calculating splits, goal paces and times for workouts/races.
What accomplishments are you most proud of in your current role?
I am most proud of my personal best times in the mile (4:19.8), the 800m (2:00.04), and also for having won the USA Road Mile Championships 4 times as a pro thus far. Pro running is all about bettering your best, but I’m also very proud of having made it through some very tough injuries and obstacles that have stood in the way of my ‘usual’ training and competing.
What projects or goals are you currently pursuing?
Currently I am on my ‘comeback tour’ after almost 2 years of on-and-off injuries in my low back. My goal is to safely return to good form and then start chasing the goals I had prior to this saga. I really want to make the World Outdoor Track and Field Championship team next summer, break 2:00 in the 800m, break 4:03 in the 1500m, and HOPEFULLY be in contention for the Team USA for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?
The biggest challenge I have faced was injury- I got a stress fracture in my sacrum after falling on the ice one winter (just walking my dogs), and it is very difficult to be patient, and diligently do all the less ‘glamorous’ parts of the job (physical therapy, cross training in the pool to keep some fitness while you can’t run, etc), but mostly it was a mental and spiritual challenge for me to see my teammates training when I couldn’t, watching my favorite races come and go when I wasn’t able to compete, and worry about whether my sponsors will still want to support me when I wasn’t physically able to ‘represent them’ in the way I usually did. The other major challenge of professional running is the sacrifices you make on a daily basis to put your sport first- we constantly are making choices, and being a pro athlete means you are doing your best to consistently make the best choices for your body and your performance- this is a challenge, but if you are passionate about what you do then it doesn’t feel as hard to mold your lifestyle to your profession.
What is the most exciting, most amazing, or scariest thing that has happened to you during your work?
This race I ran in college is still probably what I am most well known for when it comes to exciting/amazing things: https://youtu.be/RQ4GjqNT-l4 – I fell down with one lap to go in an indoor 600m Big Ten Championship final, but came back to win it!
As far as scary things go, I once thought I was being stalked during an early morning (dark) track workout, and feared that I would be be abducted. I’ve never felt so threatened, and learned an important lesson about prioritizing my safety over getting in my workout.
Highest degree attained/ Schools attended?
BS Kinesiology- University of Minnesota (also minored in psychology)
What educational accomplishments are you most proud of?
I was my class salutatorian in High School, and had nearly a 4.0 GPA in college taking challenging pre-physical therapy science classes and competing at a very high level in Division 1 athletics. I’m mostly proud of the balance I found to still take care of myself, get good sleep, grow my faith, and enjoy my friendships throughout the sports/academic life in college.
What kinds of challenges did you overcome during your education?
Honestly, I think I was my biggest challenge. I’m a bit of a perfectionist so I’d often stress myself out over trying to get perfect grades, ace every test, write every sentence perfectly in my papers. I got one A- in high school, and when the world didn’t end, I realized I was holding myself to unnecessarily high standards and I needed to relax and enjoy/be present for my education, rather than just worrying about how I was being evaluated. I was pretty lucky that learning generally came pretty easily to me, but I probably struggled most with Calculus in college.
Previous employers and positions that have lead to your current role:
In addition to running professionally, I am a high school cross country coach (2010 to present), I work at a running specialty store, and I worked as a personal care assistant to people with disabilities during college. The coaching and working at a running store help me stay plugged into my local running community, I get to give back and share my knowledge with young girls at the high school level and encourage them to chase their own big dreams. At the store, I oftentimes get to help fit customers for their first-ever pair of running shoes, provide guidance on how to get started, and support them on their path. These things may take some time away from my training and recovery, but they balance and enrich my life- I am constantly impressed and inspired by other people’s running stories!
Other positions not necessarily related to your current career:
I am a wife, a dog-mom (I have two dogs, Ellie and Dewey), a daughter, a sister, a teammate, and a friend. These aren’t necessarily ‘jobs’ per se, but I take these roles very seriously and always want to invest in my relationships and put people first.
Best job you’ve ever had and why/Worst job you’ve ever had and why:
Best job is exactly what I am doing- I get to use my gift to chase big dreams and I have such a wonderful support team to help me do it. Worst job- I worked at Subway as a high schooler, the work itself wasn’t the worst thing ever, but my work clothes permanently smelled like the restaurant, and I didn’t connect very well with my co-workers so it felt lonely working there.
What were you like as a kid?
I was a pretty shy, imaginative kid. I loved to play pretend, I was always pretty athletic so I’d pretend I was an Olympic gymnast, or basketball player, or race my bike up and down the driveway like I was a race car. I didn’t get into much trouble and always took my education pretty seriously. My mom has always said I was ‘mature’ and wise beyond my years, asking really deep questions and connecting with older kids/adults when I was still pretty little.
Favorite classes/coursework in elementary school, middle school, high school, college:
Beside the obvious love of Phy Ed class as an athlete, I was very musical, so I loved Band (I played the flute). In college I loved the History and Philosophy of Sport, Sport Psychology, Physiology, and Biomechanics.
What were your favorite books/shows/movies when you were a kid?
I loved the book Hatchet as a kid (story of survival in the wild after a plane crash), I watched Garfield every morning before elementary school, and loved everything Disney as far as movies go.
What did you think you were going to be when you grew up at age 12? At age 15? At age 18?
12- Grocery store checkout lady
18- Physical Therapist
When did you know you wanted to pursue your current career, and what drove you towards it?
After I won an NCAA Championship as a freshman in college, I thought to myself, if I can compete amongst the best in the country in college, could I perhaps run professionally, and run against some of the best in the country overall (or in the world). I love pushing myself and seeing what I am made of, after I graduated I still felt like I had more potential to explore in this sport, and felt like it was my calling to honor this God-given gift.
If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, what other career(s) might you have pursued?
I had gone to school and did all my undergraduate work in college to become a physical therapist- I still might pursue that when I am done competing professionally, but I also really enjoy coaching, public speaking, and could see myself doing a number of other things and still being very happy.
What are your favorite hobbies or activities you do for fun?
My husband and I love spoiling our dogs and taking them on adventure walks, I love doing anything in outdoors in the summer (boating/waterskiing especially), cooking good meals, spending time with family and friends, etc.
Do you play any musical instruments or play any sports?
I played the flute and still pick it up to play for a family wedding or funeral from time to time, I also did Dance, Gymnastics, Swimming/Diving, and Cross Country, but I definitely found my home in track.
What is your favorite non-science book, magazine, or blog?
Most recently loved this book- How Bad Do You Want It- by Matt Fitzgerald
What’s your most frequently played song?
Oh my goodness, I drive my husband crazy because I constantly am finding a ‘new favorite song’, I over-play it for a few weeks and then move on the next favorite song.
Who do you look up to and admire?
My parents- they are living examples of a strong marriage, putting family first, and they both worked very hard to support themselves/our family and save for the future. I also really admire my coaches- the way they’ve connected with me and inspired me to be my best is something I want to do for the athletes I coach.
What advice would you give a student interested in pursuing your career?
Only do it if you love it and you’re passionate about it, that’s what makes the diligence/sacrifice/hard work worth it!
What advice would you give students in general?
Give you best in all you do, try to worry less about what people think of you and own/be proud of who you are. Surround yourself with good people and don’t let the fear of failure stop you from being great!
What are some interesting places you’ve traveled?
I’ve gotten to travel all over the world for racing- China, Italy, Morocco, Switzerland, Norway, Belgium, Mexico, Bermuda, Brazil, Canada, Hawaii, Washington DC, NYC, and so many more. That’s one of the coolest things about my job. Switzerland was perhaps the most memorable place I’ve raced- it was so beautiful it barely felt real.