He puts his heart into running | PostIndependent.com

He puts his heart into running

Dale Shrull
Special to the Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Jeff Caspersen Post IndependentSteve Vanderhoof jets down the stretch of Sunday's Strawberry Shortcut 10K race.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Steve Vanderhoof is focused. His life has focus. Steve Vanderhoof is healthy, happy and faster than ever.

The Glenwood Springs native is 53 and coming up on the three-year anniversary of a stroke that nearly cost him his life.

In Sunday’s Strawberry Shortcut, he ran his fastest 10K ever. He flashes a big smile when he thinks about it. “44:10,” he says proudly. “And last week I ran my fastest 5K ever.”

He tries to remember the exact date that he nearly died. Late August or early September 2008, he thinks. “It’s not something I want to remember.”

He laughs.

Vanderhoof was on a family vacation in Colorado Springs with his wife and two daughters when the stroke ripped through his body. As he collapsed and then rushed to the hospital, he knew what was wrong.

Back in 1990, he was diagnosed with a hole in his heart. Eighteen years later, that hole was bigger.

Surgery closed the one-inch hole and Vanderhoof opened a new chapter in his life.

“I knew I had to concentrate on getting healthy. I quit my job because I knew I would go in all the time,” he says. “I needed to do nothing else but worry about me and getting healthy.”

A stroke can be a wake-up call for many, but a stroke at 50 could have easily given Vanderhoof a reason to hit the snooze button.

But that’s not how he thinks.

To understand what running means to him and what kind of focus Vanderhoof has, the 1990 diagnosis puts it into perspective.

“The doctor told me that I would never be able to run a marathon again,” he says, then smiles. “The first thing I did was run a marathon.”

The life-changing stroke put life into a sharp perspective for Vanderhoof.

“I didn’t really think about running [following the stroke]. Now it’s more about spending time with my family and enjoying life,” he says.

After the stroke, he went from a walker to a cane to walking, and then, of course, running.

He says that he still has some occasional minor speech problems and he has a bit of a blank spot with his sight when he looks to the left, but otherwise, the stroke was just a speed bump in his life.

The changes in his life are more about choices than physical limitations – as his 44:10 in Sunday’s 10K illustrates.

He always exercised and ate well, so after the stroke, it was just doing things better.

“I exercise smarter now and eat better.”

The biggest thing about being faster at 53 as he pounds the pavement is the pounds he shed since the stroke.

“I’ve lost 20 pounds and feel great,” he says about now being a lean 140 pounds.

He’s run a marathon since the stroke and continues to find as many races as possible through the running season.

He’s now more into cross-training, doing things like lifting weights, cycling and trail running.

Vanderhoof says that running will always be his passion but his focus in life has changed.

“I try to have more fun now,” he says. “Spending time with my family is the most important thing.”

He returned to work after six months and now works for U.S. Bank in Glenwood Springs.

He smiles when he talks about how his stress level has dropped and how life has become more enjoyable since the stroke.

He and Wendy are on the road many weekends, taking their daughters Kendall, 12, and Kaitlyn, 10, to swim meets.

Life has hit a special stride for Vanderhoof since his close call. Family, fun and staying healthy are the priorities now.

Running will always be a big focus in Steve’s life. But running is his passion, not racing, he says.

Although, after cranking out a 44:10 at 53 years old, he’s not ready to put his competitiveness on the shelf yet.

“I think I can run faster,” he says with a laugh.

The hole in his heart is now fixed. And that means his heart is full of what’s important in life: family, fun, health and running.

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