Fleet Feet in Huntsville to honor 2 athletes who have special stories of strength

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Fleet Feet in Huntsville will honor two athletes Sunday, each nominated for Power of Running awards. Organizers say Rick Greif and Jennifer Carroll Smith are inspirational and their community nominated them for continuing to push through adversity to make a difference through sport.

Jennifer Smith (formerly Jennifer Carroll, having changed her name due to her recent marriage) was one of two cyclists involved in a wreck on Redstone Arsenal more than two years ago. She and her friend Joanna Whisenant, both experienced cyclists, were involved in a collision with a pickup truck.

Smith said she doesn't remember much about that moment. "All I remember is seeing headlights, bright headlights, surrounding me," she said, "and being pushed forward. It didn't hurt in this memory, but someone pushing you. And then I woke up in the hospital. But when I woke up in the hospital, I knew exactly what happened. I was like, 'Oh, I just got hit by a truck.'"

It's been a long road of recovery for her since then. In the past two years, she's fought through rehabilitation and training, trying to gain back the muscle she lost while in the hospital. The pain still haunts her today, but she is always working to beat the truck that hit her.

"I just started swimming," she said. "I started doing spin classes, I do the elliptical. Every day I'm out doing something."

She said her goal is still her passion: racing. "I knew I wanted to get back to racing as quickly as possible, because that's what I love. I love to race," she told WHNT News 19.

She can't pinpoint the part of her that is motivated to do that, and has gotten her through walking again, training, and eventually completing races since then: "I can't explain it. It was just something in me going, 'I'm not going to get any stronger just sitting around,'" she explained.

For Rick Greif, it's all about running and a positive attitude. He's a 15-time Ironman, now battling Multiple Myeloma. His community says he's always encouraging others and he's getting through his poor health with his love of running.

Fleet Feet in Huntsville will honor Jennifer Smith and Rick Greif for all they've done to inspire people who may be in similar situations. The event is at Fleet Feet Huntsville of Carl T. Jones, at 5 PM on October 30th. Here's a link to the Facebook event. The community is invited to celebrate Smith and Greif.

Smith said she'd like to be an inspiration to someone, and being nominated for this award is very special to her. To anyone in her situation, she offers this advice: "Just keep going. It gets better, it does, it just takes patience. I was not blessed with that, to be honest! And time. It'll get better."

She also urges you to wear your helmet when riding a bike, because that's what she believes saved her life.