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Citrus Hills runner maps out quests close to her heart

Heather Nagy, 67, is signed-up for all 53 American Diabetes Association runs this year. No one in the nation can match her ... or her artistic routes.
Heather Nagy, 67, poses along the Withlacoochee State Trail on Oct. 30 near Brooksville. She has run dozens of virtual 5Ks for the American Diabetes Association and is preparing for her final run later this month.
Heather Nagy, 67, poses along the Withlacoochee State Trail on Oct. 30 near Brooksville. She has run dozens of virtual 5Ks for the American Diabetes Association and is preparing for her final run later this month. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]
Published Nov. 3, 2020
Updated Nov. 3, 2020

Heather Nagy has spent the past 12 years competing for a cause.

The 67-year-old Citrus Hills runner usually signs up for four races a year — in addition to her daily workouts, often along the Withlacoochee State Trail, that range from 3 to 10 miles — while running to raise money for the American Diabetes Association. The 80 names written in Sharpie on her racing jersey help explain her motivation.

“While we have a lot of success stories, I run for all of the people in my life (who battle with diabetes),” Nagy said. “I have the names (of people) that are still in the battle and some that have passed on, but I run for all of them.”

But this year the coronavirus pandemic robbed Nagy of the opportunity to participate in her usual races in Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville, in addition to a special road trip to Seattle.

“The Tour de Cure is a magnificent event,” Nagy said. “Every single one of them are well-run and you make a lot of friends there and you miss that camaraderie and the music and the cow bells and the food and the fun that goes along with the fundraising.”

Related: Off the beaten path: 15 Tampa Bay trails to explore

Instead of cutting all of the races from the Tour de Cure circuit — the events often accommodate cyclists, runners and walkers — the American Diabetes Association waived the registration fees and turned the events into virtual runs.

Nagy is the only runner in the country who signed up for all 53 races (44 through Tour de Cure and nine through Step Up).

“It’s been quite a ride,” she chuckled. “And I’m thoroughly enjoying it.”

When you see her artistic flair for mapping out the virtual runs, you understand why. Nagy doesn’t just run the 5Ks around her neighborhood. She themes them to the sponsor cities.

A flamingo Heather Nagy designed as a running route for the  Step Out Florida race she completed.
A flamingo Heather Nagy designed as a running route for the Step Out Florida race she completed. [ Heather Nagy ]

A script Ohio for the Tour de Cure Northeast Ohio run. The Empire State Building for the Step Out New York City run. A “24” in honor of Kobe Bryant and the Lakers winning the 2020 NBA Championship for the Tour de Cure Los Angeles race. A glass and bottle of wine for the Tour de Cure Wine Country. And — what else? — a flamingo for the Step Out Florida event.

Through her fundraising efforts this year, Nagy said she has raised more than $6,000, doubling her previous best. She will finish her last three races by the end of November, concluding with a New Orleans-based run on Nov. 21.

A glass and bottle of wine Heather Nagy designed as a running route for the Tour de Cure Wine Country race she competed in.
A glass and bottle of wine Heather Nagy designed as a running route for the Tour de Cure Wine Country race she competed in. [ Heather Nagy ]

These races aren’t about speed. Nagy, who has been a lifelong runner from her days at Greco Junior High School in Temple Terrace, runs with a printed map so she knows exactly where she is supposed to turn for her image to look right.

When running the Step Out for New York City race, she was distracted by her surroundings. It didn’t click until she was 100 steps or so past her street that she missed her turn.

Nonetheless, Nagy has enjoyed her running adventures.

“I think that it’s lifted people’s spirits as they’ve seen what I’ve done for their own Tour de Cures because we’re all disappointed that we couldn’t do this in person," she said.

A running route Heather Nagy designed in the shape of Ohio State's "Script Ohio" marching band routine from the Tour de Cure Northeast Ohio race.
A running route Heather Nagy designed in the shape of Ohio State's "Script Ohio" marching band routine from the Tour de Cure Northeast Ohio race. [ Heather Nagy ]

Nagy either will lay out a physical map of the area — the same one her real estate agent gave her when she moved back to the area from Ohio 10 years ago — or use Google Maps. She said it doesn’t take long to create her routes once she decides on the figure she wants to draw. She’s an artist and her routes are usually in a grid of sorts.

“This was one way to bring us all together,” she said, “and have a little fun with it.”

Have an outdoor adventure we should try? Curious about the ins and outs of fishing seasons in Florida? Know a cool business or owner to profile? Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.