Upper Midwest runner set for US Olympic marathon trials

SIOUX FALLS (AP) -- Heidi Greenwood is ready to run in the U.S. Olympic marathon trials Saturday in Los Angeles, but after two years of intense training for the biggest race in her life, there's one thing missing.

SIOUX FALLS (AP) - Heidi Greenwood is ready to run in the U.S. Olympic marathon trials Saturday in Los Angeles, but after two years of intense training for the biggest race in her life, there's one thing missing.

"I don't feel any pressure at all, to be honest," said the Minnesota native and former University of North Dakota athlete.

Greenwood's career as a marathoner was never a long-term plan. She started college as a volleyball player first, and while she had a highly successful career as a college runner, it was in middle-distance events. But Greenwood is addicted to the feeling of improvement, and running marathons has shown her almost nothing but that.

When Greenwood, who is living and training in Sioux Falls while her husband completes an ophthalmology fellowship at Vance Thompson Vision, runs in the trials, it will be the culmination of a career that has rarely evolved according to plan.

"I never envisioned this," Greenwood told the Argus Leader. "It was never my goal when I was 23 years old to be like 'Hey, maybe in 2016, when I'm 31, I'm going to qualify for the Olympic Trials in the marathon.'"


Greenwood came from Roseau, Minnesota, to the University of North Dakota as a volleyball player, and the only time the Fighting Hawks track and field coaches recruited her was during Greenwood's official visit for volleyball. She had a successful career at UND, winning a national title in the 1500 meter run, and while Greenwood had always kicked around the idea of a marathon, it was more of a "bucket list" goal than the next step of her competitive career.

"It would have been very interesting to see if she decided to keep running the 1500 after college," said Cley Twigg, Greenwood's coach. "I think she probably could have made an Olympic trial there as well."

Greenwood bumped up her mileage the summer after her senior year in preparation for the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon. For the first half, she ran with a friend.

"I was feeling really good," Greenwood said. "So then I was like 'Yeah, I think I'm going to speed up,' and I ran the second half on my own."

She ran the last 13.1 miles almost 10 minutes faster than the first, a huge split for a first-time marathoner. Greenwood still wasn't totally sold on marathons, but her time of 3:10:54 had qualified her for the Boston Marathon, so she ran it the following spring and the one after that.

Greenwood's times dropped with every race she ran, but she still held a bit of doubt. She had gotten married and moved to Cleveland, and with the long hours Greenwood was working as a personal trainer and health club manager, she hadn't dedicated herself to a specific marathon training regimen. She considered making the Nationwide Children's Hospital Columbus Marathon in 2012 her last race before taking a long break.

That was until Greenwood ran it in 2:47:45, less than two minutes away from the Olympic trials qualifying standard. Instead of taking a break, she did the opposite, starting to work with Twigg and dedicating the next year to hitting the standard, which she did with a 2:42:08 time back in Columbus in 2013.

Since then, she's run just one other marathon, dedicating the rest of her time to preparing for the trials.


Training in Sioux Falls has its share of challenges. Greenwood has lived most of her life dealing with vicious upper Midwestern winters, but she said they don't get any easier to run in, especially after the relative balminess of Ohio. She also has been alone during almost all of her training in Sioux Falls.

"One of the hardest challenges of marathon training is staying mentally focused and engaged and not losing your motivation," Greenwood said. "Because it's so mind-numbing, almost. That's how to become a successful marathon runner: It's training your mind to be able to handle that amount of work at a time."

Greenwood has the perfect type of mentality to handle that workload, though. She doesn't describe herself as a competitive person, as least with other runners. Her main drive is improving her own performance; setting a goal, working toward it and getting better with every repetition.

"I'm really just so self-motivated that it's me versus me," Greenwood said. "And I need to get out of my own head some times and try to race that girl down."

The trials could be Greenwood's last marathon for a while, as she and her husband are moving up to Fargo, North Dakota, in July and want to start a family soon.

"After the trials, I might take some downtime," Greenwood said. "And I'll probably see if anybody wants to go running."

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