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Pella resident mixes faith with fitness

Churches sponsoring ‘More Than Conquerors’ Mud Run

For some, fitness simply is a way of life — something to do after work to stay in shape and sneak the occasional bowl of ice cream after dinner. For others, it’s a never-ending journey; a dream realized only after a certain degree of personal loss.

For Pella resident Heather Spong, fitness became her quest after the early passing of her brother at just 31 years old.

“It was obesity (listed) on his death certificate,” Spong, a stay-at-home mother of two, said. His death, combined with her own depression after gaining baby weight, were the catalysts that jump-started her newfound healthy lifestyle.

“A lot of people just have every excuse in the book not to get fit,” Spong said. “Now, I’m big into fitness. I bodybuild and I run and I bike.”

She even began teaching classes in January at the Newton Church of the Way as part of a weight loss program the church hosted, which has since turned into a whole fitness program including Zumba, kickboxing, cardio weight lifting, boot camp and step classes. All classes are free.

“I was not raised a Christian. I’m kind of a baby Christian to be honest, and I have just found that fitness and faith are a great combination,” Spong said. “My goal with the whole program was to try to reach out to people who were on the edge with their faith but were too scared to reach out to the regular church. My goal is really to help Newton out because it seems to be a town that could use such a program.”

This Saturday, The Way is teaming up with other area churches, including Third Reformed Church in Pella and Community Heights Alliance Church to host the “More Than Conquerors” Mud Run at the I-80 Farms in Colfax. The event is set to begin at 9 a.m. and will be 3.5 miles of dirty, muddy fun.

“Dave Talsma is actually my cousin, so I spoke with him about loaning us the land. They’ve mowed it and helped us get it all ready,” Spong said.

According to Spong, the race is based off the popular Warrior Dash, but with a more reasonable price tag at just $20 per runner. Participants will face obstacles throughout the event — such as climbing hay bales, leaping over fire and climbing under barbed wire — and will get plenty dirty running down the already low river.

Prizes will be awarded to the top finishers. Runners still can register online at or in person at The Way, Community Heights or at Crossfit in Pella.

Spong hopes that the event goes well enough this year to hold a similar race next year.

“We kind of put this run together fairly quick starting in July, so I have a feeling that if we do it again next year, which I hope we will, we’ll have more involvement. My goal is to have several different faiths involved,” she said.

Amy Martens can be contacted at (641) 792-3121 ext. 426 or via email at

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