What is “heart”?

You hear it all the time. People who do amazing things because they have “heart.” Even when people don’t want to push themselves, they say, “I don’t have the heart to do it.”

But what is it? How do you obtain it? In this instance, “heart” can be translated into “courage.”

When I was a police officer, I thought I had courage. I would face criminals on a daily basis in the roughest parts of Montgomery, AL. I remember the foot chases and vehicle pursuits like it was yesterday. Did it take courage? Certainly, but nothing like the young lady I’m about to tell you about. Her name is Natalie Twedell.

zoeNatalie was the thirteenth runner to join I Run For… (IR4). She had been paired with the wonderful Zoe, daughter of Heather Redington. On the surface, Natalie looks just like any other loving mother and wife. Her profile picture is with her husband and two children, all acting silly (it truly is an adorable picture). But life for her hasn’t always been blissful.

Eleven years ago, Natalie was married to Drew Laird, a highly motivated individual – an avid runner who became a Blackhawk helicopter pilot at the age of twenty-two. When Drew was twenty-three, two major things happened in his life – he and Natalie became first-time parents with the birth of their son Caeden. Secondly, he was deployed to Iraq for 18 months.

When Drew returned home from his deployment, he shared with Natalie that he wished to be come one of the military’s elite – he wanted to become a Navy SEAL. His self training became very intense – he began “training and running and swimming even harder than he ever had before.”

20080529_111449_cd29drew_laird_200On May, 19th 2008, he ran his first marathon – the Colfax Marathon. When he crossed the finish line, Natalie was there to cheer him on. By her own admission, she “had little motivation so instead I would cheer him on!”

“It was a really sweet time,” Natalie confessed. They were pregnant with their second son, Ethan, and Drew had completed his first Navy SEAL assessment. They decided to take Memorial weekend to visit a nearby National Cemetery to honor fallen heroes.

During somber moments like that, we tend to think of our own mortality. This couple was no exception. They discussed what would happen if Drew should pass away. “He reminded me gently that he loved Jesus and he would be in heaven with the Lord, so I would need to do whatever helped me here.”

The following day it was business as usual. Drew was at the local training center training on his own for a 50-meter underwater swim without oxygen. “It is called Shallowater blackout,” according to the Coroner. “He had been holding his breath for too long and would not even have felt lightheaded. On May 27th, 2008, he went to be with Jesus at age twenty-five.”

Looking back, Natalie says she was grateful that God had prepared her for this tragic event during their trip to the National Cemetery the day before the accident. Natalie recalls a scripture Drew would always quote to her – it was Hebrews 12:1:

1. Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.

Two years later, Natalie started running the race set before her. She had started training for her first marathon – the first marathon Drew had run – the Colfax. “So with many tears, I ran the Colfax Marathon with my sister, three years after Drew died.”

During her training, God had another surprise for her. She had met a wonderful man, Matt. The two are now happily married. As for Natalie, she has completed two marathons since – one being the Rock and Roll Marathon in Denver.


So what is “heart”? In Natalie’s case, it’s the will to pick up the pieces and run the race God has set before us. So I have to ask… who do YOU run for?

Categories: General

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