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‘She’s my hero’

Nimrod woman stays active, continues to run 5Ks into her 70s

By Nancy Leasman

It was a simple introduction to running. Janice Hiedeman of Nimrod carried her nephew on her back while her sister ran. It was 38 years ago and the sisters lived three miles apart. It wasn’t long before Janice was a runner, too.

Janice Hiedeman of Nimrod running in a 5K a couple years ago. Contributed photo

Janice’s husband, Ray, was a runner in high school. He competed in track events and felt comfortable lacing up running shoes and hitting the trail.

In the 1970s, Ray ran the Hopkins Raspberry Festival 5 mile run. “It was the third week of July. It was hot, uphill both ways,” or so it seemed to Ray.

When the couple moved to rural Nimrod, they continued to run and joined some local 5K events.

Janice remembered her first unofficial Nimrod run.

“It was while we were building our home up here,” she said. “I walked and ran to Nimrod. There were people along the roadside staring at me. I didn’t know there was a run going on. So it looked like I was starting late. I headed homeward but had to cross the finish line on the way. They told me ‘I won!’” She hadn’t registered for that run but would in subsequent years.

It was 1990 and Janice was 43 years old when she did her first official run. There were about 57 runners in the 5K, she remembers. Janice has carefully documented the couple’s participation in every run. They ran the 1990 Nimrod run and Janice has run every one since then. Ray’s running days ended in 2017 when he fell out of a tree.

Of course climbing trees isn’t usually part of running though Janice may have considered that a time or two. We’ll get to that later. But when Ray fell from the tree, he injured his knee. “I did the Staples race that summer and overdid it. My doctor said, ‘No more running.’” So that ended it for him.

Ray and Janice Hiedeman of Nimrod look back at of their running adventures and awards. Photo by Nancy Leasman

But Janice, now 73 (Ray is 3 years older), keeps on running. She doesn’t train in the traditional sense for 5Ks. She rarely misses a day of walking, though, putting in 4 or 5 miles at a time. She may ski in the winter but is committed to daily practice. “Even when it’s really cold, I go,” she said, adding that a scarf and hood usually are the only extra clothing needed in super cold weather. She usually wears two layers of socks, or double layer socks, for foot comfort anyway.

Janice likes to get out early in the day. “It’s cooler and quiet at 6:30 in the morning,” she said. There isn’t that much traffic on the gravel roads near her home at that time, but she has had encounters with wildlife. “I was out running one day and saw a bear up ahead, going in the same direction I was going.” Though she may have considered climbing a tree, she held her ground. “It looked at me and took off.”

Another time a neighbor drove up beside her and said, “Did you see that bear behind you?” She hadn’t and didn’t let it worry her.

Mosquitoes, deer flies and dogs are more troublesome to her. The insects are fewer in more open areas but she’s resorted to wearing laundry softener sheets as repellents, a net over her head, and long sleeves. Dogs are more insistent problems but with a stern reprimand they usually leave her alone.

Janice is a creative scrapbooker and can look back on the couple’s running record. Janice ran the Nimrod Jubilee Run 31 times and Ray 25; the Sebeka Red Eye River Run 3 times, 2 for Ray; the Staples Railroad Days Dash 10 times and Ray 7; Janice ran the Tonka Turkey Trot (Minnetonka) twice, and they did the Twin Cities run once, in 2013. Their son Darrell, his wife Nicole and their daughters Jordan and Lauren have done a few, too.

Ray and Janice Hiedeman of Nimrod surrounded by memorabilia from their runs, including plenty of ribbons and medals. Photo by Nancy Leasman

Janice and Nicole were running in a 5K two years ago. She remembers, to her chagrin, “We passed two women who were in the 30-40 age range. I heard one say, ‘How old is she? About 90?’” Nicole heard the other one’s comment, “She’s my hero!”

In a similar vein after a Staples race, a woman said to her, “Last year you passed me. You were my inspiration. I beat you this year.”

Janice is fine with others “beating” her. All age categories run together and at the upper ages, there are few competitors. “It’s so rewarding. I get so much encouragement.”

In 2000, Janice joined the Sebeka TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly). She achieved her goal of losing 30 pounds in a year and a half and has since been a member of KOPS (Keep Off Pounds Sensibly). She keeps records of her walking and has received prizes in the TOPS sponsored Walk Across Minnesota contest. She has logged between 1,527 miles and 1,985 miles each year since 2000.

Janice and Ray have quite a display of medals, ribbons, T-shirts, and other memorabilia from their runs. Janice will continue to add to her personal collection. Ray is happy to be in support mode.

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