By: Steffen Cook
By his own admission, Chris Welch was, “a bit of a wild man” back in his younger days. Having spent some time in the Navy, something was always missing after he left the military.
“I’m an all or nothing type of person,” Chris says with a grin. “My midlife crisis almost killed me when I was 48. I hit a dark patch and went into a downward spiral, no exercise, no real priorities. It was an attitude of getting out of work and hitting the watering hole. I was drinking a lot of beer and eating way too much. As such, I ballooned to about 230 pounds.”
It was time for a change and as luck would have it, a chance meeting coincided with an epiphany he had about his health. He saw a recognizable Reebok Spartan Race video and it flipped a motivational switch for Chris.
“I came across something called Spartan Race and just decided to sign up after having done a couple of 5K’s with my son. My wife came home one day and I told her what I was going to do and she just laughed! I started with the weights. P90X almost killed me that first week, but knowing the Reebok Spartan Race was ahead of me, I stuck with it. The military gave me a sense of accountability and discipline which has stayed with me over the years.”
“My wife thought I was crazy, but supported me all the way, probably because I gave up booze and junk food. I easily dropped the weight, but totally surprised myself with the transformation my body was making. My first race was all about finishing, I just had to complete the whole thing and then I could go back to a “normal” life,” Welch explains. “Little did I know that once that race was behind me, I couldn’t stop. I quickly signed myself up to complete a Trifecta the next year. I am a perfect example of how a slow and steady change of lifestyle can be accomplished.”
Together with Paul Jones of the New England Spahtens and a retired Navy SEAL friend, Chris trained hard. The fruits of his labors allowed him to take on and conquer the Vermont Beast. Despite laughing about the fact that Killington, “almost killed him” and asserting that the race claimed “both of his big toenails,” he was hooked and continued pushing and training ever since.
Then, the Lake Tahoe World Championship rose into view.
“Had some injury problems; back, shoulder, ankles – I was actually going to hang it up, thinking that I’d become too old for this stuff. Then I saw the Tahoe race. A fire started burning again and so, as a warm up, I did a Super, have a Sprint in August, then it’s Tahoe bound.”
The reality is Spartan fires are never truly extinguished regardless of a racer’s history and background in the sport. Father Time may try to put out the flames, but the desire and the sense of accomplishment burns long and hard and those embers beneath the surface are bound to ignite a full-fledged fire – and that’s what keeps Chris going back for more.
“I’m not getting any younger and at my age you can’t waste time and say I’ll do it next time! The time is now! My next Trifecta hangs in balance and I’m going to hit Tahoe the only way I know how; full throttle,” Chris says. “I’ll be honest I’m horrified at the thought of Tahoe after doing Killington but fear is the ultimate motivator. If I can conquer Tahoe, not only will it mean completing the toughest race on the planet, it will give me the confidence to handle anything life can possibly throw at me!”
The reasons may change from racer to racer. Some do it for personal pride, to prove themselves and others wrong, and maybe even for something or someone else, but going back to the World Championship Beast bucks the trend of “once bitten, twice shy.” To conquer it once is remarkable – to return for more shows enormous depth of character.
See you at the finish line.