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Trailblazer Award

About Indiana Women’s Running Festival “Trailblazer Award”

The Indy Women’s Running Festival was founded in 2011 as a way to celebrate the strength of women and promote the benefits of running, both to the individual and the community. Since 2016, the Indy Women’s Running Festival has recognized women each year with the “Trailblazer Award". This award is presented to women who are positively impacting the sport and women’s health through innovation, volunteerism, and/or encouraging, implementing and championing healthy lifestyles through sport. This year race organizers have renamed the honor the Trailblazer Award to better reflect how the honorees blaze a trail for women who come after them.


The Indy Women’s Trailblazer Award program seeks to honor women who strive to make a difference in the lives of others, women who inspire others to succeed, and women who support other women and encourage them to lead healthy lifestyles. An honoree of the Indy Women’s Trailblazer Award must meet one of three criteria: she is an advocate for women’s running, she has changed her community for the better or she has overcome personal or physical adversity.


*The Trailblazer Award was sunset in 2020 but we hope to bring it back soon.

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Past winners of the Indiana Women’s Running Festival Trailblazer Award include: 



Kim Heger - Breast Cancer Survivor - In August 2018 Kim Heger was an enthusiastic runner who was training for the Indy Women’s Running Festival. She had completed four marathons and 20 half marathons, was devoted to hot yoga, and was in excellent health. Despite these factors and no family history of breast cancer, she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of the disease that was also in her lymph nodes. In September 2018 she underwent a double mastectomy, followed by removal of all of the lymph nodes under her left arm and months of extensive chemotherapy and radiation. She embraced Integrative Oncology using holistic treatments and traveled to MD Anderson in Texas, where she completed her radiation and learned to take care of her body inside and out. On Aug. 5, 2019 Heger returned to Texas for her first follow-up scan and found that all of her tests were clear and the cancer was gone. She faced her diagnosis and treatment head on with a positive outlook. She walked the Indy Women’s 5K last year, just weeks after her mastectomy, and plans to join the race again in 2019.


Ashleigh Freda - Founder of the Running Wife Club - Ashleigh Freda is known to most people as “The Running Wife.” She is the creator of the Running Wife Club, an organization that helps women reach their goals in running at all levels and paces. The Running Wife Club started as a blog when Ashleigh was training for her first marathon after having her second child. She wanted to share her struggles of training with young children in a sleep-deprived state and the challenges of finding the balance between achieving fitness goals and being a mother. She gained momentum as a runner and began sharing her training plans with others. From this sharing The Running Wife Club was born. Freda now has a newsletter that reaches more than 70,000 subscribers and has more than 70 runners in her clubs throughout Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio who she helps train and motivate through a variety of races.



Sarah Bishop - A former All-American 800-meter runner in college, Bishop began running longer distances later in her life after a career in the Air Force and having four children. She took several years off from the sport but came back to running after realizing that she needed to do something for herself, and she encourages other women – particularly mothers – to do the same. She has since qualified for the marathon Olympic Trials with her time of 2:42.46 at the California International Marathon. She is advocate for women’s running and also helps other reach their goals through her work as a running coach.


Solange Cordeiro De Souza - De Souza, who ran the marathon in the 1996 Olympic Games for her native Brazil, is now an Indianapolis resident who overcame numerous obstacles in her quest to be a world-class runner. She faced poverty as a child and was raised by a single mother, along with her five siblings. In 1992 she qualified for the Brazilian Olympic team in the 10,000-meter run, but later had her spot on the team cut because of budget constraints. In 1996 she once again qualified for the Brazilian team with her time at the Boston Marathon, and this time she was able to represent her country. In 2018 she began running again, despite battling rheumatoid arthritis. 


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Nancy Shephard, R.N., the founder and former executive director of the Indiana Women in Need Foundation (I.W.I.N.).  "My dedication to the fight against breast cancer began several years ago with the diagnosis of breast cancer to a very good friend. It was at that time that I realized the impact treatment had on a woman. Due to the fatiguing nature of chemotherapy and the physical limitations of surgery, I recognized that even the simple things in life now became stressors, such as lifting their child and cleaning the house." - Nancy Shepard, R.N


Trena Roudebush, local women’s running advocate and an active volunteer with a number of youth and women’s organizations, including the Girl Scouts of Central Indiana, Kiwanis International, and Coburn Place Safe Haven, among others.

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Kimberlee Murray, school nurse, a breast cancer survivor, and advocate for women’s runing.



Jean Driscoll, an 8-time winner of the Boston Marathon as a wheelchair participant, four-time Paralympian and 12-time medalist in the Paralympic Games.

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Tonya Lewis Lee, activist, and producer, author and lawyer and founder and the founder and editor-in-chief of the blog “Healthy You Now.”

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Andrea Vellinga, Indiana resident who survived the tragic stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair in 2011 and made a miraculous recovery.

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