First-time marathoner Bobbi Welch: Mom of four who's out the door (by 4:00 a.m.)

Many individuals who want to run a marathon – and can’t or don’t – typically say: “I don’t have time to train.” After you read Bobbi’s story, you may second guess that excuse! Bobbi Welch, a mom of four small children, lives in Beach Park, Illinois, and is running the Chicago Marathon on 10/10/10. Not only is she grappling with a lack of time, but she is also overcoming health issues and injuries! An amazing inspiration, I am happy to introduce Bobbi as one of my amazing volunteers in my marathon book.

Why/how did you decide to run a marathon?

I first thought about running a marathon when my friend ran Chicago in 2005. But life circumstances got in the way of my training plans each time I attempted it – pregnancy, winter, school, etc. My life was chaos with 2 kids in school, and 2 kids 2 and under, and I just couldn’t seem to get it together. Last summer, though, I dropped a bunch of weight – I actually got down to my goal of 150 pounds. Then after adding 15 pounds right back on over the course of last winter, I visited my doctor and got confirmation of what I already knew – things needed to change. But because of my previous failed efforts, I knew I needed something big looming to KEEP me on the right track. So I paid the Chicago Marathon race fee and told EVERYONE I KNEW. I needed to get healthy and make fitness a part of my everyday life.

What did you hear from your doctor in February? Has running helped?

To begin with, I have a family history of type II diabetes and high cholesterol. My cholesterol has been high since college – and I’ve been on medication since I finished nursing my youngest child. My doctor increased my dosage after that February appointment (I had been doing better about controlling it on the lowest possible dosage prior to that) and I started running in March. Since then, I’ve been able to drop it 50 points and all my other numbers (HDL, LDL, ratio, Triglycerides) are WAY more in control now.

Tell me about your training schedule.

I looked at a lot of training programs. I am really slow, so I wanted a program based in mileage not minutes – I didn’t want to feel like I was shortchanging my training because I couldn’t run a mile as fast as others (and therefore log fewer miles on a 60 minute run than someone who is faster than I). I ended up liking the program on the Chicago marathon website the best (it was developed by Jenny Hadfield – I’m following the beginner runner program), and it is comparable to the one in the coaching section of the Nike+ website that I use for tracking miles. I run 4 days a week, with my long run on Saturday. So far, I’ve been really happy with the schedule – it’s tough without being impossible.

How do you juggle training with caring for four small children?

Ha! Sometimes I don’t! But my philosophy is, “do it FIRST or it doesn’t get done.” So I get up at 4 or 4:30 a.m. to run in the dark. It wasn’t bad during the summer, but it’s tougher now that school has begun again. I am on a much stricter time cutoff to get everyone up, fed, dressed, and out the door. So I often drop them off in sweaty running clothes and the shower waits. You do what you have to do!

I understand your children keep you motivated in another way.

Yep! They hold me really accountable. They ask me every day if I ran, and if my answer is “no” they want to know why…

Do you ever run with others?

Because of my “butt-crack of dawn” training schedule, I cannot run with an organized group. I’ve used several races as training runs so far (especially for long runs). I tend to stress out over details, so these were really helpful to me to logistically learn how an expo and a race are handled, and as a way to get a long run in without getting bored in the middle. I also did two 5K runs when I first started training just to get a feel for the race environment.

Sounds like you experienced an injury in the middle of training? Tell us more.

Being injured in the middle of a training cycle stinks. I ran my very first half marathon on 8/1 and basically didn’t run again until the first week of September. I saw a kinesiotherapist for some massage and stretching recommendations, and it seemed to help work out my “kinks,” so to speak. I never actually confirmed if I had runner’s knee or a muscle strain in my quad right ABOVE my knee, but my hips were a mess. I blame a lot of this injury on doing too much too soon – I wasn’t extremely surprised by it. And I didn’t handle fueling or post-run stretching and icing properly after my first half, so it took forever to recover from it. Lessons learned – I did much better after my half marathon on 9/4.

Do you cross-train to help alleviate aches and pains?

I tried to cross-train as much as I could stand on my elliptical, and started doing a bunch of beginner core exercises. But truthfully, I have been really bad about getting it done. It all comes down to scheduling it – I tended to think of my non-running days as “vacations” from having to get up so early, so I told myself that I’d do it later in the day, and then of course I didn’t. That said, I still think cross-training is extremely important. I need to work on my hips, glutes, adductors a lot. My next training cycle will be much more balanced, because it killed me to not be able to run.

You have a rather interesting pre-race meal plan. Can you share it with us?

I learned this by accident actually –my favorite fast food restaurant is Taco Bell. My regular order is a steak Grilled Stufft Burrito and a Double-Decker Taco Supreme. After a while I realized that I always had my BEST runs after eating this meal (I know – probably awful for me, but it’s a treat) so I started using it as my pre-race meal. It has yet to fail me (and I’m totally nervous about NOT being able to eat it before the marathon…it’s going to do a number on me psychologically, I know).

The Chicago marathon is less than two months way. What are you most excited about? Nervous about? What are your expectations?

Excited about? FINISHING! Proving to myself that I CAN do it! Nervous about? Finishing! Hehe…and I’m nervous about race weekend logistics – it’s my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary that day, and their party is the evening before the race. Less than ideal, but what can you do? It DOES mean, though, that my sister and her family will be here to cheer me on, too, so I’m super excited about that. My expectations are to HAVE A GREAT TIME.

Really – I just want to take it all in and enjoy every second of the experience. Racing my half in Chicago was like a little preview – the crowds are AMAZING. I can’t wait for that part of it.

Good luck Bobbi and thanks for sharing your story!

Melinda Hinson