Heart of Utah: Jazz fan and runner shows off how much we all have in common
SALT LAKE CITY — You’ve probably heard that old saying, “The start to every great journey begins with a single step.” Well, Jazz fan and avid runner Bryant Heath has taken that advice pretty literally.
You may have heard about Heath when he went viral for mapping his runs down every single street in Salt Lake City. The 35-year-old husband, father and engineer literally ran past every home in Salt Lake, and he hasn’t stopped since.
His running extravaganza in Salt Lake took 118 sessions to run 994 miles around 1,435 city streets, and it all started because he realized he didn’t know the city he’s been living in for the last decade as much as he’d like to.
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He said the idea struck him while looking on Google Maps for a place to eat one night in late 2019 when he had a realization.
“I was just kind of zooming in and out of areas, and I realized, hey, I haven’t been to probably three-quarters of the city,” he said.
“It’s easy to fall into these routines where you kind of go to work, come home. Maybe you go to the three restaurants you go to, then you come back. Maybe you go to the two or three parks, you know, with your kids, and then you come back home. And it’s easy to kind of just stay in one spot.”
So he set a New Years Resolution to run every street in Salt Lake City. And he successfully fulfilled his resolution! He hadn’t clued anyone into his goal until he finished, but then he posted a timelapse of his progress to Reddit. It went viral.
From Small Lake City to all of Utah
After completing that monumental resolution, Heath said he ran up against an unexpected hurdle. He still wanted to keep exercising and running, but now, it wasn’t exciting anymore.
“It just seems so boring! Because I could still remember running the streets from a few months prior. So I thought, well, I’m pretty close to Millcreek, so let me try, you know, running all the streets of Millcreek, because it’s pretty easily accessible to me. [Then I] finished that up in April, and then I thought, well, let me try South Salt Lake.”
But it wasn’t enough. So he decided to extend his completionist goals and set out to run all the streets of one city in every county. He started with Utah Governor Spencer Cox’s hometown of Fairview.
“It has a population of about 2000 people, and I was like, oh, this will be great! I’ll spend an hour to run the streets and it turned into like a 20 Mile run,” he laughed. “Even small towns are big, and so I had to re-calibrate my goal of running all those cities. But I hope to be done at least by the end of our governor’s first term, so I think I have some time.”
So, with Sanpete County off the list, he’s also run the streets of Goshen in Utah County and Wallsburg in Wasatch County.
But no matter where he’s at, there’s always something interesting or beautiful to find.
“With each run, you do notice interesting things around all the areas and neighborhoods. There’s never a run that’s devoid of [something interesting]. You see a beautiful piece of artwork or a mural. There’s never a run where you don’t see the kind of like funny signage or interesting juxtapositions. So it’s been fun to kind of urban explore a little bit with each one of my runs around town.
“I highly encourage, like when you go around the neighborhood, maybe look with open eyes look around, not just look at your path on the sidewalk or on the road. If you’re biking. Look around a little bit and I guarantee you’ll find some interesting things and maybe explore outside the neighborhood.
“Maybe on your commute home, instead of taking like 700 East, maybe you take 600 East instead. Or instead of doing 1300 south, maybe you take one of those side streets up there. Just off of the road and I guarantee you’ll find something interesting for sure.”
#TakeNote from the Utah Jazz fan runner
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So if you thought all the rest of his big goals were enough, you’d be wrong. In addition to setting out to run a city in each one of Utah’s 29 counties, Heath is also a HUGE Utah Jazz fan. To show his deviation to the team, he took his love of running and sketch some sweet street art with his sneakers.
“I’m a big Jazz fan,” avid runner Heath said.
He moved to Utah 10 years ago from West Texas. Heath has a love for some Friday Night Lights, high school football, but he said he didn’t have any professional leagues close by to cheer for.
So when the runner got to Salt Lake, he was a hooked Jazz fan.
“I’ve been following the team pretty closely for the past decade. And for this particular year, I’m just like, very amped about the team’s performance … I really think that they can do it this year and win the championship. So I had all this energy building, you know, throughout the year, and I thought come playoff time, it’d be cool to kind of merge my love of running with the Jazz.”
And do something cool he has.
Heath has spent some time mapping out some special routes to run to prove his love for the team, and every time they win, he’ll take laps around Vivint Arena.
“As long as they are still in the playoffs, I got runs planned to keep up the energy and excitement. I fully feel that they’re going to win the championship so I’m gonna get a lot of laps in around the arena, that’s for sure.”
6th Win = 6 Laps around the Jazz Arena
— Bryant H. (@br_hea_th) June 11, 2021
One step at a time
Heath hasn’t always been a big runner. He got his start in college as a goal to help him get active and help strengthen his lungs. Heath has Asthma. He said it took a lot of time and patience to get to where he’s at now.
“I’ve been in touch with a couple of people who were inspired by it and wanted to replicate that the run,” Heath said.
“I also do get a lot of comments from people, maybe first-timers, or people who are like, ‘I can’t even run a mile, I can’t even imagine doing something like this,’ and I always tell them, I say look, you know, when I started out, I was in the same boat, I mean, I could not even do a half a mile on a treadmill at a speed that was basically walking pace.
“This is not something that you start off being an expert in, it’s something that you have to kind of work hard at be consistent with. But if you put in the time, you will improve.”
Heath said his big runs have taught him that, because after a 3 or 5 mile run on one day, it would hardly look like he had put a dent in his 1,000-mile goal. But keeping up with the consistency, after a few hundred runs, he was done.
Small Lake City
Heath said he’s in a unique position having literally spent time on every street in Utah’s biggest city, and he said it has shown him something important.
“There’s a lot of emphasis on maybe our differences. Maybe you live in a particular area, and you think of other areas being less than or just different.
“After running, collectively, everything you kind of note the similarities. You can see, when it’s Halloween time, everyone has, Jack-O-Lanterns out on their front porch, or if it’s Easter time, you know, kids are out in the front yard doing easter egg hunting, regardless of what neighborhood you are in and regardless of what city you are in.
Just like seeing and noting the similarities, I think is very, very important, especially in this kind of environment we tend to be in nowadays.”
Heath said as he’s tracked his progress on his Instagram page as well, he’s constantly getting comments from people relating their experiences across the city too.
“I always seem to get like one or two people to chime in to say, ‘Hey, that’s my neighbor’s house!’ or ‘Oh yeah, I noticed that whenever I was walking my dog!’
“So it’s interesting to me that with how vast as the area is, you can kind of think of these sites as being undiscovered, but when it comes down to it, it is a little bit like Small Lake City where you can always find someone who has come across the same thing as well.”
Jazz fan runner sends message with every mile
In addition to the running and the social media fame that’s come with it, Heath said he’s also wanted to give back and attached a dollar to every mile run.
“After I logged all the miles for the Salt Lake City, I was like, oh, this is about 1,000 miles, they’d be cool to donate, you know, $1 per mile to a nonprofit, because I know like with last year, nonprofits were hurting.”
So he donated $1,000 to Girls on the Run which helps elementary and junior high school girls get involved in running. When he finished running Millcreek, he made a donation to Best Friends of Utah and the Humane Society.
And when he went for his monster run around Vivint Arena, he donated $5 per lap to Five for the Fight.
“This is something that I’m doing personally, but I hope maybe to have other people maybe do some self-reflection and just kind of think of other areas that they might can give based on where their interests are,” he said.