Woodruff Quartet Serves Others Through Ministry and Physical Fitness
By: Garrett Mitchell, Staff Writer
Morgan Smith is always looking for ways to help others.
Smith, who completed a 100-mile race in April in support of Camp Spearhead, needed a new challenge. He also needed partners to make his next adventure a reality.
Smith, with the help of former Woodruff High School classmates and longtime friends Jay Phillips and Nathan Craig, set out to embrace challenges of endurance and physical fitness, all for charitable causes throughout the Woodruff, Enoree, and Cross Anchor communities and beyond.
From that desire to push themselves physically while helping others, Team Heart and Soul was born.
“After my 100-mile run in April, I began to look for my next adventure,” said Smith. “I was scrolling through videos one night and saw a video of a man completing an Ironman challenge. The sense of accomplishment and satisfaction after completing such an extreme event hooked me. I immediately thought, ‘That’s it, that’s what I’m doing.’ I sent Jay a message telling him my plan, and he said he was in to do it with me. We messaged Nathan Craig and Josh Hyman, and after some convincing, they joined in as well. The name Heart and Soul came from our friends, Rocky and Staci Howard’s barn. There is a group of us, including Team Heart and Soul, who have been working out together there for years. On the wall of the barn is a bible verse from 1 Samuel 14:7, stating, ‘Do all that you have in mind.I am with you heart and soul.’ That has been our motto at the barn, we began to use it in training, and it is now the name of our triathlon team.”
Smith, Phillips, Craig, and Hyman are all passionate about fitness, but more so, they are passionate about helping others.
The goal of Team Heart and Soul, said Smith, is to compete in races and triathlon competitions with sponsorships from the community, with the money raised from their efforts going towards a charitable cause at the end of each year.
“Team Heart and Soul is far more than just a group of guys training for an Ironman,” he said. “At the core, the mission for Team Heart and Soul is to raise money through our fitness events, mainly triathlons, to bless a charitable organization, individual, or family at the end of each year. Our goal for 2020 is to raise $8,000.”
Phillips said when Smith approached him about a new venture that would help people in need, he did not hesitate to join his friend.
“Morgan’s 100-mile race was the first time we all got to partner with him in something that was a legitimate team effort,” said Phillips. “Nathan and I stayed up every second of the race with him to offer support in any way that we could, food, running with him, conversation, hydration, and keeping him safe in the middle of the night. This is where we developed real sweat equity in our friendships. Seeing Morgan pushing himself that hard and having moments where he had to have a team around him to finish is where Team Heart and Soul was created because it wasn’t just an idea, it was a necessity. God created us for community and brotherhood. We are just walking in his design.”
Craig admits that he was not immediately sold on the physical aspects of training for an Ironman competition, but like Smith and Phillips, helping others and filling the needs of others are an important part of his core values.
He knew he could not let his friends embark on their new journey without him.
“Before Team Heart and Soul was even an idea, I was very defiant in agreeing to train for an Ironman,” Craig said. “I originally bought a road bike with the intentions of just training with Morgan and Jay on their bike days. However, seeing Morgan prepare for the 100-mile race and being there with him throughout the race, motivated me to take the leap. Once I agreed to begin training and committed to doing the Ironman, Team Heart and Soul was exactly what I felt like we needed to do. I believe that much like life training isn’t meant to be done alone. We are all stronger together. We wanted to give others an opportunity to partner with us, through training, prayer, donating or just supporting a worthy cause.”
Smith, Phillips, and Craig were joined by Hyman to form the Team Heart and Soul quartet. Due to his busy schedule and the arrival of he and wife Paige’s second child, Hyman has not been able to participate in as much training, however, he competes in triathlons alongside his friends.
“I underestimated the time needed in switching from one kid to two under two years old so (training) has been spotty for me since June,” said Hyman. “We were still able to participate together in our first event in Greenville and the experience was awesome. It was a tough event for sure, especially having been off track for about two months, but definitely made it worth crossing the finish line with those guys all there to celebrate. The common ground of being Wolverines was great to start the friendship, but it’s having our families and kids hang out together and talk about how crazy we all are that has been the coolest part so far.”
Despite being in the early stages of their efforts the support from across the Upstate, said Smith, has been overwhelming.
“The 100-mile race was instrumental in beginning this journey for Team Heart and Soul,” he said. “The way the community rallied around supporting me, and the effort to pray for each other, those that are sick or in need in our community, and the leadership fired me up. After talking with Jay and Nathan, when the event was over, we wanted to carry that momentum into a way to raise money for the community and surrounding areas. We just really believe that we can use our Ironman journey as a way to serve others.”
Craig added that local interest is growing and that he often gets asked about Team Heart and Soul and how people can lend their support. It is an ongoing effort, he says, that is beginning to blossom.
“While I don’t know that we are having massive impact on the community yet, I would say currently the biggest positive impact we are having is just the overall attraction to what we are doing,” said Craig. “I get asked constantly about what and why we are doing what we are doing, and that is giving us an opportunity to share our why and how we plan to bless others. In a way, I think the best way to describe it is that we are building momentum to a goal of blessing others, and we are dreaming big.”
Team Heart and Soul has already had a big start.
To date, Smith, Phillips, and Craig have completed three triathlon events including a marathon relay, the Carolina Reaper Challenge, and a sprint triathlon in Greenville known as Andy’s Race where they were also joined by Hyman.
Team Heart and Soul was signed up for a half Ironman in Augusta at the end of September which was unfortunately cancelled but plan to complete a half Ironman in Daytona Beach, Fla. in December. Additionally, they plan to complete a century ride of 100 miles at some point in the near future.
The ultimate goal, said Craig, is to compete in a full Ironman event in 2021.
Phillips added, “The most challenging aspect has been developing the disciplines this kind of training requires. We get up almost every morning around 4:30 to swim, bike, run, or strength train. That kind of commitment is something that you have to want really bad. Also, the training is extremely hard. This schedule has been incredible for my physical health, yes, but we are growing mentally and spiritually more than anything. You have a lot of time in your own head to think, pray, dream, and process. God meets me in those moments and speaks into my life.”
A normal week of training for Team Heart and Soul includes two swim days, one long and one technique based, two brick days, specific bike time directly into a run, one weight training day, a long run day and a rest day. They have been on this training regimen since May and have slowly increased their distances each week, they said.
Smith is happy to be bettering himself, helping others, and doing it with men that he is proud to call his brothers.
“Jay and Nathan are true brothers in every sense of the word,” said Smith. “The most rewarding part of working with them is having men beside you who you know have your best interest at heart and will push you to be better. When you start a fundraising effort like this, you want people around you who have the highest character, a love for people, and an unwavering love of Jesus. These men check every one of those boxes and I’m glad to be a part of Team Heart and Soul with them.”
All of Team Heart and Soul’s goals are still in front of them. Smith added that Team Heart and Soul has been set up and approved as a business so that received donations are tax deductible. Donations can be made through their website (heartandsoul.team) or to any of the four members in the form of cash or check.
People can also follow their progress across several social media platforms including Facebook and YouTube where they post video blogs that chronicle their training and competition.
“The long-term goal of Team Heart and Soul is to bless the absolute mess out of people and to give away a lot of money,” said Phillips. “The races, the video blogs, and social media are all vehicles to create awareness to get more people involved and to donate towards something that can absolutely change a life and can impact eternity. We will host races, events, and group training days next year to get more of the community active and involved, but as a team, we are setting our 2021 goals and races, and trust me, they are going to be extremely hard. We aren’t going to ask people to be a part of something they can support if we do not do the hard work ourselves.”