One of our favorite traditions of the year is recognizing those in our community who inspire and make a difference by touching our lives.
When we sit down and consolidate the candidates and review our past honorees it’s always a reminder of how lucky we all are to be involved with such a great group of people. And even after having honored 96 heroes over the years, it’s still hard trimming the list down to just twelve for this year.

The following are our Heroes of 2018 – people who have caught our attention with their contribution to the sport we love. You may know some of these folks or maybe you will strive to make their acquaintance in the future, either way we think you’ll be moved and inspired by all of them. 

Andreas Bradley

Heroes Day 1: Rising Star

There is no better person to kick off our Running Heroes of 2018 than Andreas Bradley. You’ve probably seen this young man racing the RRCA Grand Prix, proudly representing the Little Rock Road Runners and you may know him as “Fast Feet”.  What you might not know is that his exceptional talents reach far beyond running – you could say they even reach to the stars!

Andreas discovered his love of running through an athletic journey – starting with AAU Track in the 2nd grade, then on to baseball where he picked up his nickname of ‘Fast Feet’ as he rounded the bases, to Taekwondo, to basketball, and then to his first 5K (the Chase Race) and he was hooked. Since then he’s been a fixture in the GP races, improving by several minutes to 20:13, and placing high overall in big races like Race for the Cure and Firecracker. But he’s not content with that. He dreams of running the Nike XC series and later in college and even allows himself to look to the Olympics!

His ‘shoot for the stars’ determination continues to bring him to even greater heights. This year he was awarded ‘Youth of the Year’ for the LR Air Force Base Youth Center – a major accomplishment writing essays and making speeches. He now represents the state of Arkansas for the Military, earning scholarships and travelling the country! After one of his speeches about his desire to work for NASA designing satellites, he was introduced to someone who does just that!! Here’s to our stargazer – fulfill his dreams on the road and in the stars.

An exceptional young man, Andreas is our Rising Star Hero of 2018 and beyond.

Heroes Day 2: Legacy

Randy TaylorH

It was April 1985. The Arkansas Razorbacks track team was on our way to the Penn Relays when we heard that a track alumnus, Randy Taylor, was running in the 10,000m that night. And he was going for some kind of record! Several of us decided to go straight to the track to do our pre-meet shakeout run and cheer him on. On a cool, blustery evening, Randy ran 31:18.3 to set an American Record for age 37. Remarkable. That record still stands as the Arkansas record for 30-39 age group.

But he wasn’t done there. A few years later, he set the American Record for age 39 in the 3000m in 8:48 at the Razorback invitational in Hot Springs. He continued running and racing and had an illustrious Masters’ career on the track winning 2 World Master Championships and 9 National Masters Championships in the 800 and 1500 distances. His record setting continued with a 50 & Up 800m record in the National Senior Games held at LSU.

Randy was on the Arkansas Razorback Track & Field and Cross Country teams from 1965-69 and he continues participating and giving back to the sport he loves – as a track meet official, on board for the Arkansas Track and Field Hall Of Fame and as part Chairman of the UofA Sports Hall of Honor.

A true hero, Randy is always quick with running advice and an exciting running story. And his legacy continues as he supports our youth by co-coaching the Lutheran Junior High cross county team – and we’re told the kids loved him! He’s our Legacy Hero of 2018.

Chris Olson

Heroes Day 3: Making a Difference

There are angels out there among us. People whom day in and day out are making a difference in the lives of others. Chris Olson is one such angel.

Most runners and athletes know him as the race director of the fun, exciting and wonderful RussVegas. Chris started the RussVegas Foot Races Foundation in 2012 and it’s especially fitting that the idea came while he was running. 

Each year, you never know what’s going to be new and exciting at the RussVegas Half Marathon – now grown to a two-day event that features a kid’s mile, 5k Glow Run, relay, and 10k. It brings more than 2,500 participants from 37 states and 4 countries into Downtown Russellville each spring. The 6thAnnual RussVegas Half Marathon Weekend will take place on April 26-27, 2019, and you know we will be there. Through events such as the RussVegas Half Marathon and RussVegas Tri and Tailgate, the foundation has given over $170,000 to Arkansas Children’s Hospital. An angel indeed!

He continues to make a difference in his community as well, where he serves as the executive director of Re-Create Russellville, a non-profit with the primary focus of bringing new vision to Russellville. In its first year, Re-Create brought updates to Russellville Downtown, began working with the Arkansas Valley Soccer Association (AVSA), and is currently working with multiple city departments and statewide organizations to bring a world class kids bike park and inclusive special needs playground to the city of Russellville. Recently, Chris was elected to continue serving his city as the Russellville City Council Ward 2, Position 2 Alderman.

Chris served in the U.S. Army Reserves from 2001-2007 as a combat medic respiratory therapist. Chris and his wife, Lisa, have been married for 13 years and have two children, Grace and Reid.

We have long wanted to honor Chris as a person who makes a difference. Always looking for ways to put others first and enriching the lives of so many. He is our hero and we know the hero of so many others.

Paul Bing

Heroes Day 4: Perseverance

There are some people you meet in life who just make your heart soar. And you think, “they truly get out and live life” – no matter the hardship. They keep their head up and preserve. Inspiring us all. One such person is @Paul Bing.

Born in the early 1960s to a loving mother, Paul Bing was an unfortunate victim of a new pregnancy drug called Thalidomide. What no one knew at the time was this new ‘wonder drug’ caused sever birth defects from blindness, deafness, and in Paul’s case – phocomelia, which is the shortening or even absence of limbs.  While growing up, Paul refused to let this hold him back. He played golf and water-skied, and he endured many surgeries.  But Paul was never one to complain.

As he grew older, his left foot became more of an issue and staying active was becoming more and more difficult.  From one surgery to the next, and one pain management technique to the next, nothing seems to work for long. In early 2016, he had to go on disability. That was the final straw for Paul, and in June that year, he elected to amputate his left leg below the knee. As anyone who has been around Paul knows, he keeps moving forward and was fitted with a prosthetic and began to walk. Then he began to run! Not only did he run with his friends, he began racing. In 2017, he ran his first race – the Go! Mile. Then in October he ran the Cossatot Trail Half Marathon and in February 2018 he completed the Sylamore 25K — all very challenging races to say the least!! And in 2018, Paul became the CHI St. Vincent “Inspiring Go! Mile Runner” running 10:18 (more than a minute and a half faster). Impressive!

Paul talks about how his friends inspire him. But it’s he we look to with admiration. He humbly deflects praise just as much as he embraces life — always with a big, infectious smile.  For all he does to uplift so many, we honor Paul Bing as one of our 2018 Heroes.

Stacey Shaver

Heroes Day 5: Performance

Our girl Stacey Shaver ran the Tahoe 205 miler this year.   

Let’s make it clear – this is not a typo. Stacey Shaver RAN the Tahoe 205 miler this year!! 

When Stacey gets it in her head to do something, she goes all in. Whether it’s making her killer “life changing” bread, getting her amazing kids into the Math & Science School, or taking on a new 100- or 200-mile trail race, Stacey is meticulously planned and particular about every detail.  And to add a little more into the record books, she even recently completed her 100th ultra distance race!  

There are many people who see some of the training, some who see part of the race or perhaps they see the amazing results, but when you work or live with someone, you understand and truly SEE the level of commitment.  Over the last year, we watched Stacey methodically come back from injury, take on a coach, get up regularly at 4am to train the 100 miles per week needed, do strength work with incredible discipline, and plan, plan, plan every tiny detail of this amazing run. She Was Going to Achieve it!!  

So in September, Stacey conquered the Tahoe 200 in 84 hours and 54 minutes, (sleeping only a total of 4 hours), to place 11th overall and become the FIRST Arkansas woman to complete the distance.  An amazing feat.  

Then in typical Stacey fashion, just one month later, she was a pacer in the Arkansas Traveler 100 and is now in race director mode for the Athens Big Fork trail race in January.  

For always being ready to help others, for being a pioneer, and completing the Tahoe 200, Stacey Shaver-Matson is our amazing running partner, employee, friend AND our 2018 Performance Hero. 



Bob McCullar

Heroes Day 6: Community

You can just ‘live’ in a great community, or you can ‘become a part of it’… making it continually better. Our 2018 Community Hero, Bob McCullar, does just that.

Bob is an avid and accomplished runner, with some pretty good PR’s and finishes in several marathons. But that isn’t what this is all about. Bob moved into Cammack Village, Arkansas many years ago and always had an interest in its future. A long time advocate for development in Cammack, Bob later took on the role of keeping Baker Park in good shape, and earned himself the nickname of “Ranger Bob”.

Then a little over 3 years ago, Bob (along with Cody Kees) combined his love for the community, his joy of running, and his energetic personality to create the Cammack Village 5k. He designed the race to be a celebration of the community by holding it on a holiday weekend, running the race around the local hills, using the community pool as the after race party, holding a fun run to include the local Jefferson Elementary’s Running Club, and proceeds to benefit the community. With race profits they have done major renovations to the swimming pool, tennis courts, and provided funds to the neighborhood association to put on other local village events.

To top is all off, Bob was recently elected onto the Cammack City Council and will start his tenure in January. We think, and I’m sure hundreds of the Cammack 5K runners and Cammack Village Neighborhood residents will agree that Bob McCullar is a true Community HeroH

Meg Berry

Heroes Day 7: Indomitable Spirit

Indomitable spirit. That’s our girl, Meg Berry. Right from the start, she learned how to be tough – born premature at just 27 weeks and spending the first 3 months of her life in the ICU. She had multiple complications and procedures even requiring resuscitation multiple times. The treatment that saved her life also left her with damage to her eyes that later caused glaucoma resulting in severe visual impairment.

Meg is a fighter. She has never allowed her visual impairment to affect her goals or abilities. She graduated as valedictorian from high school and was in the honors college at @UCA. She completed a master’s degree in social work and now works at the @Arkansas School for the Blind as a social worker where she helps kids every day.

Three years ago, Meg started the @Women Run Arkansas program and she took off like a rocket, even being one of our founding “@Go! Summer Runner” group members. Meg has trained with a guide and alone, through heat and freezing cold and in pouring rain. She has completed 12 races in 3 years. In fact, she just finished her second full marathon (3B26) in under 5 hours – smashing her PR by 20 min. Plus, she has two marathons planned in the coming months! Wow. There’s no stopping her now!

In addition to her grit and determination, Meg is always sweet and kind. That’s probably what led her to a career in social work. If you see her running on the River Trail yell out your name so she will recognize you, and you will get the most beautiful bright smile and a sincere wave. Meg loves running and loves all of her running friends. For all these reasons and more, Meg Berry is our Indomitable Spirit hero of 2018.

UAMS’ Running Injury Clinic

Heroes Day 8: In Your Corner

Running is a basic instinct and perhaps why many of us love this sport.  It’s so simple – just some basic gear and off you go.  So ‘innovation’ isn’t a word we use a lot around running.  However, that’s all changed with the UAMS Running Injury Clinic headed up by Dr. Michael Cassat and Chris Oholendt.  Their clinic is dedicated to not only treating and overcoming injury, but for the first time in our knowledge, they are systematically looking into the root cause of an individual’s running issues.  

The UAMS Running Injury Clinic has invested into a tool called, “3D Gait Analysis”. It will analyze your running gait or form by comparing it to the norm based from millions of others who have been tested around the world. The runner (or patient) has multiple reflectors attached to their limbs and joints for cameras to record up to 500 images a second while they run on a treadmill.  This running skeleton shows up on a screen, but it’s the data that it produces that tells the real story. Dr. Cassat explains, “If you are a far outlier from the norm, we use that data to build a physical therapy regimen to strengthen that area in order to correct it.”

Dr. Cassat, Occupational Therapist Chris Oholendt, physical therapist Caitlin Mallinger,  and Paul Stover (administrator for the department) are all runners so this innovative approach to running injury and prevention is fueled out of their passion of the sport combined with their mission as health care providers.

For taking a chance investing in our amazing running community, to revolutionize how injuries are treated and prevented, UAMS Running Injury Clinic and its staff are our In Your Corner Heroes of 2018.H

John Lawson

Heroes Day 9: Rising Above

For most people, taking the first step out of your comfort zone is the hardest part about making a change. John Lawson is the epitome of making a 180 in life.  To see John now, you would think he’s always been this amazing athlete, always on the go, always looking for a challenge.  What you may not know is that his journey began just a few short years ago.

When you work long hours and travel for your job, eating right and exercise are not often a top priority. Diagnosed as overweight and diabetic, John knew he had to do something and do it now. In January 2016, in a motel gym, he took that first step.  With hard work, diet change, dedication and support from family and friends, he changed his life and consequently the lives of those around him.  He joined a running group and never looked back.  John lost nearly 80 lbs., but gained more than that with a healthier body, more energy and a whole new extended family.

He can be found most often on running or cycling on River Trail. He finished Ironman 70.3 Ohio last year and is scheduled to do the Ironman in Muncie this year.  And has been spotted recently inspiring the little’s, getting his newest grandson in the kid’s runs!

Not only did he step out of his comfort zone and make a change in life, he pushes and encourages others to do the same. John is a passionate advocate and runner for Ainsley’s Angels of America, and you will often see him assisting Angel Rider’s like “Rissa” in their goal to participate in races.

His love for everyone is obvious and he truly works to encourage others in their pursuit of fitness. John is always there when you need a word of encouragement, a pat on the back, a “congratulations”, or even just a quirky smile! Has he encouraged you somewhere? If not, you can be sure he will sure try!  Helping others not let anything stand in their way to a health life, makes John our Rising Above hero of 2018. (Special Thanks to Julie Ingle for helping to write this amazing post!)

Carissa Garner

Heroes Day 10: Determination

Some people would say being born on a Friday the 13th is a bit unlucky, but for the Garner family, they would say it was the best day of their lives. That’s the day Carissa Garner was born. A mom will tell you about their child’s eyes, or hands or smile, but Pam Garner will tell you about her child’s fighting spirit. Carissa was born with Spina Bifida and was med-flighted from UAMS to Arkansas Children’s Hospital where she had surgery when she was 3 hours old. Pam was told she would never walk or talk and a lot of other things, “but wow did they have it wrong,” says Pam. “God had it right!”

Even at 3 years old, Carissa was determined. She was crowned ‘Lil Miss Wheelchair Arkansas. When she was 13, she became Arkansas’ first Jr. Miss Wheelchair Arkansas. She said she simply wanted everyone to see that she was just like them – only with cooler accessories!  In August of 2018 she was named Ms. Wheelchair America Ambassador!

She loves letting people experience life with wheels and race them (knowing she’s going to win every time) BUT hopefully teach them something about breaking barriers and bridging the gap at the same time.  

In 2017, Carissa competed in the LR Marathon as part of Ainsley’s Angels of America where Rissa is and Angel Rider. That led to training with her new friends at Go! Running and meeting John Lawson, Meghan Lewis, Anita Shuptrine and Val Pearcy Clark. That of course led to other races and even to the 2018 Go! Mile – Rissa’s very first race to start and complete independently. A quarter of a mile in, her hands were blistered and bleeding but she was determined to see it through and finish on her own – which she did with a time of 13:50! John Lawson gave her the name, ‘Lil Miss Need for Speed’. He was spot on. She loves rolling through life as fast as possible, breaking every barrier she comes across and bridging each gap that gets in her way.  

Breaking berries, and building smiles – man you have to meet this smart, determined girl we all know and love. Rissa’s life will be full and rich, positive and accomplished – because she will certainly make it happen. She has her sights set on accomplishing a Triathlon. Our Determination Hero of 2018, Rissa Lynne Garner will no doubt make it happen. H

George Peterka

Heroes Day 11: Giving Back

If you love trail running, you’ve probably volunteered on a workday or at a trail race. Like all races, a trail race has volunteers – lots of them – and we salute each of you. But there’s the few who truly go above and beyond. Who are passionate enough to make sure that people have a good trail experience, not just a good run. There’s not many who continually volunteer on the day of the races, as well as for the days and weeks and months leading up to prepare for the race, AND be the RD for races, AND oversee a racing Club while maintaining a race series website, and somehow in his spare time maintain the local trails (not for a race), but just because he appreciates their beauty and understands their value. There aren’t many… but George Peterka is certainly one of them.

President of Arkansas Ultra Running Association since 2014, he handles the AURA website and newsletter, oversees the Ultra Trail Series, and is creator and race director of the Hot Springs National Park 18 mile trail run.  He works tirelessly to help maintain trails all over the state such as the Sunset Trail in Hot Springs, Athens-Big Fork, and the Ouachita Trail west of Little Rock – even when there is no race coming up. George likes to think beyond to the multitude of people who will get to enjoy the trails, to enjoy being in nature all because of a little time given back to the sport we love so much. George leads by example and generally runs most of the UTS races along with many other ultra races.

While he’s doing all this, George is building a very strong running resume, too. Competing in many trail ultras and road marathons, including: the Big Horn 100, Hurt 100 Hawaii, Wasatch 100 in Utah, and The Leadville 100.  He’s also qualified for Western States twice!

The Arkansas trail running community holds a huge debt of gratitude for the work George does and the vision he has. This pioneer is renowned for being the first to show up to a race and the last to leave helping the RD and committee set up and pack up after the event, many times giving up the opportunity to run in the event in order to man an aid station or sweep the course. And he continues to give back by leaving a legacy: his youngest son, Alex, has grown up in the trail community and like his dad, volunteers at many of the trail races. For all these unbelievable reasons, we honor George Peterka as our 2018 Giving Back Hero. H

Marc Gill

Heroes Day 12: Kids’ Hero

Running means something different for each runner or walker: a cause, a goal or perhaps a purpose. Marc Gill sees running as a way to help and connect with others.

A fast and accomplished runner in his own right, Marc has run over a dozen ultras and over 50 marathons including Boston Marathon and TCS New York City Marathon, with an enviable PR of 2:54. However, when you see Marc really smiling is when he’s running with a “Pacer” sign in his hand followed by a swift group of runners who are achieving their goals and having a great time doing it. Wonder how much he loves it? Almost half of the marathons he’s run have been as a pacer, leading groups between 3:05 and 3:30.

Recently Marc, who is an elementary school teacher, decided to start a kid’s running program earlier this fall – The Lakewood Marathon Kids Club. Due to Marc’s amazing enthusiasm, 100 kids signed up!! The program introduces kids to running and little by little they can achieve completing a marathon – a little at a time. Marc has a logbook for each kid to track their progress, and through Nike Running they get a prize when they run the required 26.2 miles – a t-shirt or a pair of laces – and some have already made it! But the real gift they receive from Marc is learning his passion for a healthy, lifetime sport. The program also makes it possible for the kids to take part in the Little Rockers portion of the Little Rock Marathon weekend.

For giving to kids the opportunity to get out and run with the wind in their hair, Marc Gill is our Kids’ Hero of 2018.