“I don’t see myself as an inspiration,” says Leeney Greenwell, 46. “I don’t know why you want to interview me.” And yet, she has inspired her sister, son, friends, and people from church to live healthier and start running.
Maybe it’s got something to do with her past. Leeney agrees – her personal revolution has been tumultuous at times. She had just come out of a rough divorce, had needed to use a walker, and took numerous medicines. But, more importantly, she also had a bucket list.
“I wanted to begin living,” she said. Her bucket list contained everything from traveling to to growing her nails out again to trying frog legs. Running topped her list, so she joined Ultramax’s Couch to 3.1 program in 2011. There, she found a positive social group that brought out the best in her, even when she didn’t feel it.
“It’s empowering [to run] because I was told I couldn’t,” she said. “It’s a mindset.”
When she completed the Jay Dix Run, her first race, she wore a tiara and had her leg wrapped due to a blood clot condition/leg disease.
“I cried. It was a mental victory doing it all with my leg wrapped up. It was hot. I wanted to stop.” But her fellow runners passed her with words of encouragement. “They told me, ‘You have the heart of a runner.’”
She went on to finish two more races that year. She fell in love with Columbia’s trails, especially the bridges and trails covered with snow. “It’s great to see the footprints of the people that have gone before you,” she said.
At the onset of joining the group, she won the first Couch to 3.1 Spirit Award. Later that year, she won a coveted Blockie award. Leeney decided to pay it forward and decorated the award with a sports bra decorated with ribbons, ‘diva,’ and her name on it. You’ve got big cups to fill, she told the next recipient.
2012 brought a new set of challenges, but Leeney continued to overcome. Initially, she wanted to double her 2011 goal and run six races. Her health condition kept her from running until May, but she still finished seven races for the year.
“I did two in one weekend,” she said with a conspiratorial smile. “I wasn’t supposed to, but I wanted to. I didn’t tell anyone about the second race.”
This year, she’ll continue pounding the trails she loves. Is a half marathon in her future?
“Not yet. But definitely before I’m 50,” she says. “Anything is possible.”