Local sports star trades hoops for hills

Abby Oliver turns to running after closing door on her basketball career

ROANOKE, Va. – It's known for being one of the toughest road races in the world, and last year Abby Oliver ran the Blue Ridge Marathon for the first time. This year, the former Hidden Valley and University of Richmond basketball standout is tackling the mountains for the second time, training for the half marathon.

"When my basketball season and career were over, I decided I just wanted to stay fit and the way to do that is running for me, so I just started running and I've loved it ever since and continued with it, and I wanted to try to challenge myself with the race," Oliver explained.

Abby won back-to-back state titles as a Titan, was first team all-conference for the University of Richmond, then played a year overseas before serving as an assistant coach for the women's basketball team at Radford. She is a motivated athlete who strives to be at the top of her game, whether as a player, coach or runner.

"Basketball has definitely helped me in my running, I was very disciplined as a player and that has transferred over into my running. It's hard for me to miss a workout or not run so I try to run or do some sort of fitness activity every day. So that discipline has definitely carried over into running," Oliver said.

She works at Foot Levelers, the marathon's title sponsor. Foot Levelers specializes in custom orthotics, and while the company promotes a healthy lifestyle through its products, it also leads by example.

"The more people like Abby that can help mentor others or be a great example of what you can accomplish when you really put your mind to it is everything. There's so many benefits of exercise besides the exercise. Of course you get healthier, yes you might lose some weight but mentally I think it makes you sharper, it gives you a feeling of accomplishment and anytime people can see a real winner like Abby, it's an inspiration for everybody," said Foot Levelers CEO Kent Greenawalt.

Foot Levelers doesn't just encourage exercise, it endorses it. The company has a "workout for payout" program that inspires employees by giving them incentives for exercising, including covering costs for health insurance.

"The program is free, you get your insurance free, we pay you to work out, we got a trainer for you but in addition to all that we have gift cards. We have some clothing and products we have here we provide," Greenawalt added.

"As a society it's really important for everybody to get out moving and be fit, and Foot Levelers really helps everyone do that. You'll see people here in the workout room on their breaks or lunch walking or running, so it's a great program for us to have," Oliver said.

On Saturday, Oliver will join thousands from across the country in a race that scales Roanoke's mountainous terrain on one of the most scenic, yet difficult,  courses, of course with Foot Levelers support.