Feb 21, 2020

A Simplistic Approach

By Dalaney Hans

Grady Sports Media

It is unlikely any of the runners competing at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials on February 29, 2020 has lived so far off of the grid like Matt Welch did when he was a child. 

In elementary school, Welch’s parents moved him and his three brothers, Ben, Zach, and Jake, to Finland, Minn., to live on a family friend’s organic farm. The Welch family learned how to live without running water or electricity, hunt with homemade bows and arrows and be efficient workers on the farm. Welch, his brothers, and the family friends’ kids were all homeschooled. This taught the children valuable lessons on how to be independent. 

“With that as it translates to running, not only did I identify my strengths,” Welch said. “I think that movement made me love movement.”

Welch was one of the top high school runners in Minnesota when he graduated in 2012, but struggled to make the transition to collegiate running while at the University of Minnesota. However, he ran a single year as a graduate transfer at the University of Portland in 2017-18, competing in NCAA championships in both cross-country and track.

When Welch finished graduate school at the University of Portland, he lived continued to live a simplistic lifestyle. For seven months, he stayed in a bus that he renovated. He eventually sold the bus and moved into an apartment. Welch appreciated the time that he spent in the bus greatly.   

“I think we live in a maximalist society that we just want more things,” Welch said. “I was happy because I didn't have to worry about those things.”

His training immediately turned to the longer distances. He finished fifth in 2:17:44 at the 2019 Twin Cities Marathon, the only race longer than a 10k he has completed. Welch trains today with McKirdy Trained, a running club in Flagstaff, Arizona. According to his coach, James McKirdy, Welch brings energy to his training every day. 

          “He’s excited, he’s passionate,” McKirdy said. “his humility is what is going to endure over this time.”

Welch will taper his workouts a week out from the trials to rest and focus on his mental preparation. He likes to visualize the bad situations that could occur during a race instead of perfect situations. So if the worst actually happens during his race, Welch believes he has the capacity to accept it and still find success. 

At the trials, Welch will rely on the life lessons he has learned in the van and on the farm. He will attempt to apply them to the second marathon of his professional career. 

          “I was fifth in the [Twin Cities] race, which is placed pretty high,” Welch said. “And I know that wasn't a true reflection of my potential as a marathoner. I think it was just the start.”

Leading up to the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Marathon, Atlanta Track Club partnered with the Grady Sports Media program at the University of Georgia to profile some of the competitors in the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials. The authors of these stories are undergraduate students enrolled in the program and have been lightly edited by the Club. See all of the stories at https://www.atlanta2020trials.com/news/uga-trials-project.