CHAMPAIGN, IL - URBANA -- April 25 has special meaning for one Champaign County woman. Eight years ago, it was a day that changed her life. Now that date is helping motivate her to move forward.
Heidi Carmichael spends her days speaking Spanish. She's a bilingual teaching assistant at Leal Elementary in Urbana, but her influence isn't limited to the classroom. An accident back in 2008 turned her into a runner after it knocked her off her feet. She was volunteering at a consignment sale when a piece of plywood came loose.
"The wind caught it, it sailed into the air and just landed right at base of skull and knocked me out, threw me into a concrete parking lot," said Heidi. "My brain basically was ricocheting inside my head, so I ended up with a traumatic brain injury."
Heidi had a bulging disc in her back and other issues because of it. She started to recover, but it was a slow process.
"Once I was not paralyzed by pain, I was paralyzed by fear and I just didn't want to move," said Heidi. "I didn't want to do anything. I was afraid I was going to hurt myself."
By 2014, Heidi was finally feeling better. She felt inspired to run the Christie Clinic 5K since it happened to fall on the anniversary of her accident.
"I was like, okay. It's time to start getting my life back," said Heidi.
Then last year, April 25 was the day of the 10K and other events, so she decided to tackle the half marathon. Now she's ready for a the full 26.2 miler. Heidi's students know she's a runner now and some want to follow in her footsteps, but she says she's learning from them too.
"I feel like I am more fluent now than when I started, thanks to the help of my little students," said Heidi.
And as more times passes, she's moving forward from her accident with a new passion that she loves.
"I feel like it really was an answered prayer in many ways, just over time, finding healing from that horrible place I was in," said Heidi.
Heidi's has a few goals for marathon weekend. Her first is just to finish. If she can do that, she also hopes to do it in less than four and a half hours. Then if she's really feeling good, Heidi says she hopes to qualify for Boston. And she's trying to remind herself to smile.