The Running Reverend

Pastor Jon Heiliger spends many off hours on Bluffton trails

Pastor Jon Heiliger is never running on empty.

Every day he is serving the lord, running the Lord of the Life Lutheran Church in Bluffton.

During his off hours, he is running on the trails of Bluffton as often as his schedule permits.

Heiliger, 53, was a latecomer to running as he started in the sport in 2007 after noticing some health warning signs.

“I started running for fitness since I was so out of shape,” he said. “I would walk a mile and I was completely exerted. I started running a mile or two and built up from there.”

Seven years later, the pastor has extended his running boundaries.

He is a member of the Palmetto Running Company Club in Bluffton and typically runs every Saturday with up to 20 runners who range in age from high school students to runners in their 60s.

“I’m one of the older, slower guys,” he said. “We have an incredible quality of runners in this area.”

He said those Saturday runs range from 2 miles to 10 to 15 miles, depending if any long-distance races are coming up on his schedule.

Heiliger typically runs 4 to 6 miles at least four days a week and has participated in many 5K and 10K races.

His proudest achievements include competing in marathons in Savannah during the past four years.

“This year, I had my best time at 3:58.30, and I ran at a 9-minute mile pace,” he said proudly. “ One of the best things about running is it is always you against the clock. Anyone can have their best day.”

While running is now part of his life for health reasons, there was a time many years ago when Heiliger ran competitively for a brief period. He said he ran cross country one year in high school to get in shape for basketball season.

While involved in diverse church and running activities, variety has always been a part of the pastor’s life.

He started his career in computer graphics technology in Silicon Valley in California. He eventually moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, where he entered the commercial real estate business with his brothers.

In 1995, he said God called him to leave the commercial real estate business to become a pastor. In 1996, with his wife, Renee, and their twin daughters Elise & Lauren, he moved to Columbia, where he attended the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary and graduated in May 2000. He has been the pastor of Lord of Life for the past 14 years.

He said several members of his congregation are runners and support his recreational running efforts.