Heather Starr Fiedler is a loving wife, Mother of the Year, Point Park University professor, and part-time philanthropist. She's also an avid runner. Like many others, in 2020 Heather found herself spending more time outdoors, staying active as she quarantined with her family at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. As she navigated the coronavirus, Heather also faced another obstacle: a fractured hip sustained during one of her daily COVID-19 runs.
"When my family and I first quarantined and were home all the time, I started running much more than usual. In April, I averaged five miles a day. It was too much all at once. By the end of the month, my hip began hurting," Heather explained. "Throughout the next few weeks, the pain became unbearable, and an MRI revealed a femoral neck fracture. It started a stress fracture from the sudden increase in miles, but it had gotten bad enough that I needed surgery to repair it."
In late May, Heather had three screws put in her hip to stabilize the bone with the promise from her orthopedist that it was not a career-ending injury and that with a bit of patience she could begin running again in three to four months.
The healing process was slow and gradual, and for an avid runner like Heather, she was ready to get back to her passion.
"Eight weeks after my surgery, I was allowed to run just a tenth of a mile (.1) at a time. If I could do that three times with no pain, I could move up to .2 miles, and so forth," Heather explained. "It was a long process and patience is not my strong suit, so it was hard not to run more. But I knew I needed to trust the plan. My main focus was to be able to run regularly again and set a goal of running a mile on my birthday in late September, so I didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize that."
Although fracturing her hip was a trying experience, it allowed Heather to slowly embrace her time outdoors and experience the beauty and adventures of Pittsburgh's parks.
"This year has been all about exploring new outdoor spaces, not only for running but also for our family hikes and bike rides. We try and go somewhere new to explore every weekend. My husband and I run together every week, usually at North Park or on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail," Heather said. "Recently, we wanted to switch up our routine and check out the trails around Schenley Park. I was surprised at how much I loved running the trails (usually we stick to streets or crushed limestone). That run through Schenley felt great. Every new distance that I reach feels like a victory. We enjoyed it so much we took our kids back the next week to hike the trails," Heather explained.
Not only did exploring new trails offer Heather an opportunity to get back to running, but it also afforded her the chance to spend more time with her husband, Mike.
"We love our weekly running dates. It’s our time to get out in nature and spend time together without the kids. We had the opportunity to run the roads in Schenley Park for the past few summers, while my son was taking lessons at the Bob O’Connor golf course. We have always enjoyed the park but never spent too much time on the trails," Heather said.
"I've never been much of a trail runner in the past, but after running the Greenfield Glide on the trails two years ago, I’ve wanted to explore more. On one of our recent runs, we decided to cover some new ground and hit the trails at Schenley. I was shocked at how many different trails and options there are, how well maintained the trails are, and how peaceful it was to run in the woods. I love the new challenge and my goal this year is to do a lot more trail running," Heather explained.
As runners, Heather and Mike have completed dozens of local races. The Citipark race series is one of their favorites, which formally introduced them to the trails in Schenley, Riverview, and Frick Park.
"The Run Around the Square (in Frick Park) is one of our favorite events all year," Heather said. "The Riverview 5K is held right on our anniversary, so we try and do it every year, often wearing black (him) and white (me) to celebrate our wedding attire in the most cheesy way ever."
As for where her running adventures will take her next, she's hoping to explore one park per month alongside her family.
"I want to put aside my worry about getting lost in the woods and explore more of the trails in the parks," Heather said. "I want to continue exploring the regional parks like Schenley, Frick, Highland, and Riverview while also learning more about Emerald View and discovering some of the other 160 parks. Sticking to the streets has been great, but taking to the woods to run with my husband or hike with our kids on the trails is my goal for 2021."