UND grad has sights on Olympics

Heidi (Evans) Greenwood qualifies for Olympic trials in Columbus Marathon.

Heidi Greenwood — a four-time All-American — runs with the UND team before graduating in 2008. Photo courtesy of UND Athletics.

Last month, former UND volleyball player and track star Heidi (Evans) Greenwood qualified for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. She beat the ‘B’ standard by almost a minute, when she ran a personal best of 2:42.08 at the Columbus Marathon on Oct. 20. Greenwood placed second out of more than 2,400 women runners that day.

“There was never a doubt in my mind that I was going to do it; I was very confident when push came to shove that I could hold it together,” Greenwood said. “During the later half of the marathon, it gets challenging, and never once did I think ‘I can’t do this.’

“I ran the first half over two minutes faster than I had originally planned, so I knew I had some time and I just needed to relax. I knew it was just eight more miles … You know you’re a marathoner when you can say ‘oh, just eight more miles.’”

Reflecting back on the race, Greenwood, a Roseau, Minn., native, recalls her preparation for the race and is thankful for good racing conditions.

“I remember thinking to myself, ‘I have ran in probably about 20 races this year preparing myself for this.’ It’s like a year in the making and to be like, ‘Oh my gosh the time is right now, this is what I’ve been working for this whole year.’ It’s been such a cool experience, and I couldn’t have asked for better weather. It was a great day.”

Unexpectedly, when Greenwood enrolled at UND in 2003, she thought volleyball was going to be her main sport.

“When I was in high school, I never really thought I was going to run in college — I was going to play volleyball. Then the opportunity came, and I thought I would try it — at least for a year in college — and I just fell in love with it the older I got.”

Greenwood lettered in volleyball her first three years at UND and redshirted her freshman year in track. From then on, her running times improved.

In 2007, Greenwood’s first year as a cross country runner, she finished the season as an All-American. The following spring was Greenwood’s most successful season at UND when she closed her collegiate career as the NCAA Division II Outdoor Champion in the 1,500-meter run.

“I always thought of myself as a volleyball player over a runner, and I would have to say my last two years of college I kind of switched mindsets,” Greenwood said. “I had gotten more confident in myself as a runner and started to see more success, and actually that made me a better volleyball player, too.

“I think that has helped me in my development as a runner now, just doing multiple things. I feel like I still have a lot of potential. Just because I haven’t had years of real distance events, I just started doing it post collegiately. Despite that I’m going to be turning 29 soon, I feel like my running age is quite a bit lower than that. I feel like I’ve had really good coaching, even back from high school and college.”

Moving up

Upon graduating with degrees in both physical education and exercise science, Greenwood stayed in Grand Forks to pursue a master’s degree in kinesiology. After finishing graduate school, Greenwood moved to Thief River Falls, Minn., to teach elementary education for two years, a job she left just before marrying former UND football player Michael Greenwood in Fargo, N.D. The couple then moved to Ohio for Michael Greenwood’s surgical residency, which is where they currently reside.

“I set this goal last December after I ran Columbus last year,” Greenwood said. “I really surprised myself how well I did off of not training that much and working full time, so I decided that next year I was going to make it my goal to try to get that B standard. Now I’m just working part time for myself. It’s really helped me to be able to train a lot better and get the sleep I need. (Michael) knows that you do not just get good over night. You can’t fake a marathon. It’s a long process, prepping your body, and without him it just would have been impossible.”

Greenwood relies on great amounts of self discipline every day in her training because hercoach lives 1,000 miles away.

“I work out twice a day, and it’s a big commitment,” she said. “Right now, I’m being coached by Clay Twig, who actually owns the Fargo running company store, and he trains me over the Internet.”

She has increased her racing significantly over the past year as a part of her training regimen, which includes a wide span of distances.

“I ran from 5Ks all the way up to 25Ks to prepare myself for this fall just to work on my speed,” Greenwood said. “I had set personal bests in every distance this past year. I get a lot of confidence off of training and having good workouts.”

When race day came in October, the experienced Greenwood was ready to run.

“I was nervous, but it was more excitement than nervous,” she said. “I have matured so much as a runner when I was in college competing. I got first at nationals, and so I’ve been in high pressure situations and I used to put a lot of pressure on myself and it almost took the joy out of it, and now I’ve just really learned to enjoy it and be like, ‘this is a really cool opportunity that I have’ and how many people can say they’re out here doing this? I’m almost 29 and at the starting line in the best shape of my life. It’s cool to be a part of.”

Greenwood has some basic plans in place, but has time to enjoy her victory before setting anything in stone.

“It still almost feels surreal … like I can’t believe I actually did it,” Greenwood said. “And the trials aren’t for over two years, so it’s really far away and it’s kind of hard to grasp it. My coach and I have set a goal that I would like to run a certain time at the Olympic Trials. We are kind of planning the next two years around that. I for sure want to break 2:40 this next year.”

Life after the trials is even further away, but the Greenwoods have a few plans in place.

“After they are over, I’ll be starting a family,” Greenwood said. “I may still race after we have children … we’ll see. I see myself running until I’m really old. I get so much joy when I’m jogging in the morning and I see these old men, I call them the Silver Sneakers, out jogging — they’re like 75 just barely shuffling along and I’m like, that’s so awesome. I love seeing old people out running. I just have a great passion for running, I just love it and I don’t want to ever stop.”

Greenwood will be traveling to either Cincinnati, Houston or Los Angeles in early 2016 for the Olympic Trials to run with about 150 other qualifiers; the date is yet to be determined.

Marie Monson is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected].