The Run Of My Life

The Run of My Life!

Some of you I have known for many years, since I was a skinny kid and ran through the middle of town and the back country roads of the towns where major coon hound, beagle and bird dog events were being held, way back in my early years at Wick Outdoor Works when I lived the life of a gypsy. Some are from my “van” days, when I headed west to hunt coyotes, disappeared from society for two years, and bought an old video camera out of a paper in Idaho and began filming my adventures. Some are new friends, and for all of you, this is the story behind The Run of My Life!

Late last year, Dr.Naseer Nasser gave my life back to me after a six hour heart procedure fixed an irregular heartbeat that had for several years, left me heavily medicated and overweight. Early this Spring, Dr. Neelam Patel weaned me off of several medications which instantly made me feel better and then told me I needed to lose weight.

As this was happening I got an e-mail from a co-worker by the name of Warner Smith. Most of you have not been lucky enough to ever meet Warner. In truth, we were never big buddies when we worked together in Tucson, Arizona, but when Tri-Tronics was purchased by Garmin, Warner and Gary Williams and I formed a bond or “brotherhood” over the next couple of years as we transitioned into full time Garmin employees.

If you have won a sponsorship prize from Tri-Tronics in the past 10 years or from Garmin Tri-Tronics in the past 3 years, Warner Smith is the guy that has helped put those contracts together with the dog registries and organizations to ensure that coon hunters, bird hunters, beaglers, retriever, K-9 and working dog folks across the country got the best prize sponsorships available after winning or participating in a major or worthwhile event.

Although we did not start off as buddies, one thing is for sure, I have always highly respected Warner because he is just so damn humble.  While many folks are like the character Uncle Rico, in one of my all time favorite movies, Napoleon Dynamite, Warner is the real deal. You would never know he played Division I football on a full scholarship to the University of Arizona or for the NFL Colts, because he just doesn’t bring it up or brag about, as many of us would do. But after you know him a bit and he brings up a little of his past, you just can’t help but listen to his sports stories as he nonchalantly talks about different teammates and stadiums and adventures. When the U of A was damn good during the Dick Thome and “Desert Swarm” years, that big red headed Warner was in the middle of it.

Anyway, as I was beginning to feel good and my health was improving daily, I got an e-mail from Warner that said, “I’ve been diagnosed with ALS, aka Lou Gehrig’s disease.  I really don’t have any information to offer.  I need to take a couple of days to absorb this news and process this with my family.  I will work from home this week.”

At 41 years old, with a wife, Becky, and a four year old daughter, Carlee, our buddy, Warner Smith, was diagnosed with ALS.

Major issues going on in my life at that moment suddenly seemed insignificant, small and petty. “What is the right thing to do in a situation like this?”  I asked myself.

I really did not know and still am not sure. Warner has a great attitude and is working everyday as if nothing is wrong, fighting the good fight, just as you would expect a former All American, tough offensive lineman, husband and father to do.

The next day, I cut the top part out of a “Team Realtree” hat that Dodd Clifton down in Columbus, Georgia had given to me, to ensure that I had a good sun visor and that heat could easily escape my head, put on a pair of hiking boots and Cabela’s shorts and an old t-shirt and began “running” . Two miles at sixteen minutes per mile is where I started, and it damn near killed me.  Several months, many bottles of Ibuprofen, four pairs of new running shoes and hundreds and hundreds of miles later, got me down to twelve minute miles for fifteen mile stretches through the countryside.  Alone, out on the road, step after step, mile after mile, I cleared my head, lost fifty pounds and figured out many things that have eluded me the past few years but are truly important in life. One of them is to try to do something for everybody’s buddy, Warner Smith.

With that in mind, Steve Smith from Garmin and I have made a decision to earn some college money for Warner’s 4 year old daughter, but we cannot do it without your help.  Money earned and donated will be put into a  fund which will help pay for college courses for Warner’s daughter years down the road  from now, when it is her time to begin to leave her mark and a bright spot on the world.

So, I hope you will join me in heart, spirit and if possible,   a donation as I head to St. Louis , Missouri on October 19th, 2014 for “The Run of My Life” , a 26.2 mile Marathon. That’s a long way for an old, semi- fat guy like me, but with your help, I am sure I can make it.

Steve Smith is going attempting a half Marathon that same day.

If you can send .50 cents, it will be appreciated and no amount is too small.

A Foundation or 5013c, with a board to oversee it is presently being set up for these donations.

Please make any checks payable to:

Carlee Smith College Fund

@ Mark Zepp

11935W, 710N

Middlebury, IN 46540

An article out of The Arizona Star by highly respected sports writer Greg Hansen is included below.

Hansen: Ice Bucket Challenge gives ex-Cat warm feeling

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Warner Smith

Warner Smith, a former Arizona Wildcats offensive lineman, high school official and outdoorsman, has been diagnosed with ALS.

2014-08-21T19:00:00Z2014-08-21T20:45:38ZHansen: Ice Bucket Challenge gives ex-Cat warm feelingGreg Hansen Arizona Daily StarArizona Daily Star

August 21, 2014 7:00 pm • By Greg Hansen

Greg Hansen

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Many of Warner Smith’s ol’ Desert Swarm teammates are doing the Ice Bucket Challenge, but it’s not about being macho or getting some Facebook time.

Most of the ex-Wildcats end their challenge with the same message: “Get well, Warner.”

The Ice Bucket Challenge is about fighting a horrific disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Warner Smith has ALS.

You would never know it to look at Smith or to hear his perpetually cheery voice. He looks much the same as he did as a first-team All-Pac-10 guard in 1994, pictured in Sports Illustrated kneeling in front of the open-pit mine in his hometown, San Manuel.

Smith is an outdoorsman of note, recently home from a hunting trip to South Africa, and before that fishing’s Bassmaster Classic and before that some hog hunting in Texas and on and on.

He has been one of Tucson’s leading high school football and basketball referees for the last seven years and is a part of the chain-gang crew when his old team, the Arizona Wildcats, are at home.

“I’m pretty much full-go,” he says. He works for Garmin, a GPS engineering and software firm, is married and, he laughs, “I’ve got a 4-year-old redheaded fireball at home. Charlee keeps me smilin’. ”

<;p>ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, isn’t a smilin’-type disease. It attacks your neuromuscular system and cripples you. There is no known cure. At 41, Warner Smith knows what he is getting into. He has chosen to dig in and take his cuts.


Nagged by cramps in his lower left leg, Smith visited an orthopedic specialist last spring, believing the discomfort was related to some old football injuries. The doctor told him it wasn’t related to football at all. Smith looked at the doctor’s face.

“I knew it wasn’t good,” he remembers. By May, he was diagnosed with ALS, one of 5,600 Americans so diagnosed each year.

“It took a few days to get off the mat; I was feeling miserable about it,” he says. “But I came to the realization that time is precious and I can’t waste any of it. I know all about Lou Gehrig. It’s better for me to get this in the open and deal with it. I’m good.”

Smith checks the ALS website most days and is encouraged by the numbers: a week ago, the Ice Bucket Challenge raised $10 million for ALS research. By Wednesday it was at $30 million and rising.

A year ago, ALS raised $1.9 million, total. Now it seems to make that much every 24 hours.

On the surface, the Ice Bucket Challenge is fun. TV anchors get doused with freezing water and turn it into promotional footage. Football coaches do it to help in team-bonding. Michael Jordan did it this week. So did the U.S. Ryder Cup golf team.

But ideally, the challenge isn’t for famous people (or some guy down the street) to get wet as much as it is to donate to ALS research. Smith’s doctors told him that the beat-ALS medicine he uses to diminish leg cramps and allow him a good night’s sleep has been developed in the last few years.

If that’s not encouraging, what is?

And then there was this development: While desperate to get full and effective treatment, Smith encountered difficulty gaining access to leading ALS experts. His former Desert Swarm teammates, especially Joe Smigiel, Charlie Camp and Eric Johnson, got involved. They called former UA coach Dick Tomey.

Could he help?

“Early the next morning, I saw the Hawaii area code on my cellphone and knew it was Coach Tomey,” Smith says. “I told him I was frustrated. He said, ‘I’ll take care of it.’”

Tomey called UA coach Rich Rodriguez and together they connected the dots. In a few days, Smith had an appointment with Dr. Katalin Scherer, the Arizona Medical Center’s associate professor of neurology, and a ranking expert in ALS research.

Each of Smith’s appointments is a four-hour process. The fight has begun.

“As I look back now, when I was a 17-year-old kid from San Manuel, I realized that I made the right choice to attend Arizona,” he says. “My support system at the UA kicked in 20 years after I played my last game there.”

ALS specialists have told Smith that the disease is thus far slow moving. Beyond that, it’s anybody’s guess. Some with ALS live a bare two or three years. Others can live 10 and even 20 years.

Smith says he has begun to knock off some “bucket list” items, one of which was hunting wildebeest and oryx in South Africa. He won the Arizona (hunting) lottery, successfully drawing a permit to hunt bull elk for the first time next month.

And as the days go by, watching the Ice Bucket Challenge donations to ALS grow and grow, Smith doesn’t dwell on the grim prognosis.

“There aren’t many people in America who aren’t aware of the fight against ALS any longer,” he says. “A lot of people are freezing to give me a warm feeling.”

Rick Wiley / Tucson Citizen 1994

Warner Smith, right, a first-team All-Pac-10 guard in 1994, says his support system includes former Desert Swarm teammates and coach Dick Tomey.



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