Greenville’s Abbie Ballew ready to run the good race

Published 1:00 pm Wednesday, March 11, 2020

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“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint.”

These words from Isaiah 40:31 (KJV) are ones to which Abbie Gardner Ballew can readily relate.

The former teacher, who currently runs the State Farm Insurance Agency founded by her father, the late Jimmy Gardner, has always enjoyed running. Some find such exercise stressful. Not Ballew. It’s a time of contemplation that serves to feed her soul as well as condition her body.

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“I love the solitude of me, my worship music playing in my earbuds and the open road,” Ballew said. “God is good and I love spending time with him on my runs.”

Running for fun and physical and spiritual rejuvenation is one thing. Competitive running is another.

“Last year, my brother, Caleb, ran a full marathon and that just amazed me,” Ballew said. “I told him it didn’t look like much fun and I could never do something like that.”

And then, along came the opportunity to participate in the 2019 Healthy Kids 10K.

“We both ran in it — and it was very tough,” she admitted. “As a goal-oriented person, I did not like not doing well.”

So, Ballew started running as a part of her regular routine.

“Caleb told me to start by running 45 minutes and not worry about the distance,” Ballew explained. “He and I would meet on Saturday mornings and run around town. It became something I really looked forward to.”

As the runs became easier, Ballew decided to give herself a new challenge.

“I ran the Safe Project Half-Marathon in Pensacola (Fla.) and I loved it,” Ballew said. “I started toying with the idea of running in a full marathon. Caleb and I found one that fit both our schedules and I started training. In the meantime, I was able to run the Disney Princess Half-Marathon with my sister-in-law, Lindsey Ballew Jones, in Orlando — and it was amazing.”

Recently, the brother-sister team joined forces for Ballew’s first full 26-mile event, the SNICKERS marathon in Albany, Ga., another “amazing” experience, she says.

“I was so glad I had Caleb with me every mile, and so grateful that my sweet family came and cheered,” Ballew said.

With more marathons in Ballew’s future, she has some words of advice for those interested in becoming long-distance runners.

“First, get a good pair of shoes,” Ballew said. “That is so important. And second, make sure you have a great support team. My husband, Brad, watches the kids on ‘long run’ days and allows me the time to train.”

Don’t start by biting off more than you can chew, either.

“You can’t start by trying to run 10 miles,” Ballew said. “Just build up your endurance by running for 40 minutes, and then 45. Slowly move up. Drink lots of water — and have fun.”

Ballew is looking forward to hosting an enjoyable running experience for a worthy cause this weekend in Greenville with the Abbie Gardner Ballew State Farm Agency “My Cancer Hero” 5K set for Saturday, March 14.  This fundraiser for the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life is not about speed or times, though.

“Although I think it’s always fun to run and try to win, I love the My Cancer Hero 5K for different reasons,” Ballew explained. “I love that non-runners get out and walk to participate. But the number one thing for me is those names on the back of the T-shirts; that we are ‘carrying’ our heroes with us. I started this 5K to honor my daddy, who lost his cancer battle. My precious mama is a cancer survivor. I lost two grandfathers to this disease and one of my best friends is going through this fight right now. I love that we come together to celebrate, honor and remember them all.”

And when she tires while running — or
simply dealing with the trials and tribulation of everyday life — these words from the song “Confidence” by Sanctus Real offer comfort and encouragement to  Abbie Ballew:

So give me faith like Daniel in the lion’s den

Give me hope like Moses in the wilderness

Give me a heart like David, Lord, be my defense

So I can face my giants with confidence