If you can’t tell by my recent posts…I’ve learned about Priscilla Welch and have taken quite a liking to her running career. I think it’s pretty amazing that she could take up the sport at the age of 35 and become one of the greatest marathoners of all-time.
But, one story I read about her completely blows my mind…
Taken from Running with the Legends…
A key development in Welch’s life came in July 1981, when she and Dave (husband) moved to the Shetland Islands, where he was to be stationed for the next two years.
The Islands are about 200 miles west of Norway and 200 miles from the coast of Scotland. The Shetlands, Dave jokes again, are “a place of volcanic rock that protrudes from the ocean, with a peat bog on top, 180,000 sheep and 180,000 alcoholics. It’s not the ideal running environment.”
But it was that very isolation that spurred Priscilla’s running. Because there wasn’t a whole of to do there, Dave started a running club. Here Priscilla started her serious training, building a base that would propel her to the top of women’s marathoning. It was not easy training, because of the poor weather conditions.
“There was several inches of ice on the roads all winter,” says Dave, so he and the runners he was coaching ran in rubber boots with nails pounded through them. Priscilla got stronger and stronger through Dave’s insistence on building a base. That turned out to be good strategy, since they couldn’t run fast in the bad conditions. She was putting in roughly 50 miles per week.
“One afternoon we ran down to the store,” recalls Dave. “It was 3 miles and took us 39 minutes, because of the ice and wind. Training there was a tremendous experience for getting strong. You had to literally poke your head out of the window, to see if you could do the training or not.”
The average winter temperature was 33 degrees with 25 to 150 mile-per-hour winds. Ice was everywhere on the roads. There are no road lights at all, just one lane roads, twisting, with bad surface. When you walk out of the door of your house, it’s complete blackness. There is no moonlight and you can’t see anything. It’s like closing your eyes.
Can you imagine putting in work in those conditions?
I can’t, but I’m also not one of the all-time greats.