The sport that became Heidi Swartz’s profession wasn’t one in which she participated in her youth.
“I participated in gymnastics, ice skating, and golf growing up. However, it was not until I was an adult that I got involved in running,” she emailed. “I started running after I started working for The Cowtown in order to help me understand the runners’ needs when producing the event.”
Swartz has since become an experienced racer, completing two full marathons along with dozens of half marathons, 10Ks, and 5Ks while also participating in yoga, hiking, and swimming. In that time, she has also become an accomplished race administrator, rising from assistant director at the Cowtown Marathon to become Executive Director in 2004. She credits Title IX, the landmark 1972 legislation aimed in part at ensuring athletic opportunities for women, and the change in mindset to which it contributed with setting the stage for her success.
“Women in the sporting industry are very inclusive. We invite people to the table and help mentor them."
“Title IX has made it possible for women from all walks of life to have opportunities they never would have otherwise, not only in competing or participating in sports, but also working in the sporting industry. When I began working in the industry 25 years ago, there was myself and around two or three other females in the running industry field nationally as race directors. It was a very lonely place to be as a woman trying to build a sport and brand. We have come a long way since then and it is evident everywhere I turn. Women are now completely involved in the sport from managing courses to the administrative end. In the early 2000's when attending conferences, the women in the room were not even recognized or called on, but now, in 2022, we are the speakers at the conferences. The opportunities are great and they will continue to improve from here on out.”
Her experience competing taught Heidi lessons that have benefited her in her career.
“In sports, it is a personal journey. You are not necessarily competing against other people but competing against yourself. It has taught me determination, patience, and commitment, which are important values for all things in life,” she said. “My inspiration growing up was the Olympians, watching them compete at such high levels in gymnastics and ice skating. They inspired me to reach my own personal goals.”
It hasn’t been easy for Heidi, and not just because she was breaking ground for her gender as she built her career. She also suffers from a painful musculoskeletal disorder more common in women than men. But she hasn’t let it hold her back.
“I have struggled my entire life with illness with fibromyalgia and debilitating chronic migraines. But to be able to participate in an activity knowing the hurdles I have gone through to reach my goals proves that no matter what walls stand in front of you, if you have the will, you can accomplish them.”
Her accomplishments include growing the Cowtown event to one that includes more than 25,000 participants in multiple events, including an ultramarathon. Her tenure has also seen the establishment of the organization’s associated nonprofit, Children's Activities for Life and Fitness. C.A.L.F. works with schools across North Texas annually to train students in proper running techniques and educating them about living an active lifestyle, while also providing low-income children new running shoes and grants to make race entry fees more affordable. Through the program, the Cowtown has distributed over 47,000 pairs of running shoes and financial grants to children in need over the past thirteen years and expects to hit over 50,000 shoes by the end of May 2022. For Heidi, that sort of outreach, and cultivating more opportunities for women in the busines, comes with the territory.
“Women in the sporting industry are very inclusive,” she explained. “We invite people to the table and help mentor them. We must continue to do this and support the other women working their way up and show them the way.”
Fort Worth Sports has created a series of blog posts in conjunction with the 50th year of Title IX. Each article will profile a woman who has made substantial contributions to the vibrant Fort Worth sports scene.