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An upbeat website for a downtown school

the Southerner Online

An upbeat website for a downtown school

the Southerner Online

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Reaching new distances: junior Welch builds community through running passion

Courtesy of Melina Welch
Junior Melina Welch runs in one of her fitness groups’ more recent runs, the Hot Chocolate Run. Welch describes the community she’s found through running as the most rewarding part of a 5k race.

The sound of cheering and lively music helps push junior Melina Welch and her parents, Debra Gibson-Welch and Gregory Welch, across the finish line of their monthly 5k races. 

Melina and her parents joined the Fitness running group “Mel’s Marshmallows,” a part of Melody Marie Fitness, to run the Peachtree Road Race last July. While not originally a runner herself, the leader of the fitness group, Melody Marie, was inspired to run the summer race and invited others after a friend encouraged her. 

“I’m all about community and people doing things that’s going to keep them active and healthy,” Marie said. “Whatever the team wants to do, I’m like, ‘Let’s do it!’ That’s how it evolved from the Peachtree Road Race and became what it is today. It was organic; it was just, ‘Let’s get out there and do something great, let’s do it as a community, let’s inspire, educate and motivate each other.’”

Similar to others in the group last July, Melina Welch and her family had not trained before participating in the Peachtree Road Race. The Welchs haven’t lost the momentum since their start, running a 5k every month.

“It’s great for me,” Melina Welch said. “I really do enjoy it. I know it sounds ridiculous, but you do feel great afterward and you feel good for a whole day.”

The purpose when signing up to run with Mel’s Marshmallows in the Peachtree Road Race was not originally to make a monthly group, but has since evolved when members such as Gibson-Welch continued to ask, “When’s the next race?”

“Even though they would call me the spirit or the coach of the group, honestly, they motivate me every day to be better,” Marie said. “Everybody has their own goals. Some were saying, ‘Can I do it,’ because this is something that a lot of these people just never thought that they would do. I’m like, ‘Hey, whatever y’all want to do, I’m with you on it.’ I’m becoming a runner now because of this group.”

Creating goals for herself following the Peachtree Road Race, Gibson-Welch is motivated to persist in running. She said she relies on the support from her group and others to cross the finish line. 

“One of my favorite parts of the race was all the music that we had along the way that kept me going,” Gibson-Welch said. “The bands that were playing and all these people just cheering [for] you. I think it’s really nice to have people on the side urging you to keep going because sometimes your body might not want to give up, but you want to give up.”

Since running the six-mile Peachtree Road Race, Melina Welch has created a routine, running at least twice a week for five miles. Over the past eight months, Melina has discovered a variety of benefits from running. 

“I’ve gained a lot from running,” Melina Welch said. “I’ve gained fitness, I’m able to run without losing my breath, but also a stronger bond with my parents. It also gives me new people and running connections.”

Mel’s Marshmallows has a wide range of ages from those in their late 60s, such as Marie’s mother Reba Adams, to high schoolers like Melina Welch. Despite being the youngest in the group, Melina has been able to keep up and encourage the group. 

“I think [Melina Welch] brings freshness and an energy to the group that inspires us adults because it reminds us of when we were 16-17 years old, and we wish we would have been doing more of what she’s doing now,” Marie said. “She’s inspired everybody in this group and I think she definitely just fits right.”

Gibson-Welch said that without the running community she has gained, she wouldn’t continue to sign up for Saturday 5ks. 

“I think the whole camaraderie of running in a group is something we never did before,” Gibson-Welch said. “It means a lot more now. It’s the community part of companionship, the culture that we’ve cultivated. [Running is] more rewarding.”

Similarly, through growing and learning, Melina Welch said the community she’s gained from the experience has helped to motivate her while running. 

“There’s always a good group behind you that’s pushing you to do your best,” Melina Welch said. “It’s kind of like teachers like, ‘You got it, but I need you to actually do the work.’ You have to put in the work and effort to do something.”

Gibson-Welch said having a majority of women in Mel’s Marshmallows serves as a group of role models for Melina to learn and look up to. 

“Our group is maybe 95% women, so I think that is a good role model for [Melina Welch] to see other women doing things,” Gibson-Welch said. “It might not be easy for them to do because not everybody runs, some people walk, but they’re out there and they’re getting it done. [They’re] very positive about what they’re doing. I think it’s very good to see women in that light.”

While promoting goals and community, running has also helped bond the Welch family. 

“Usually everybody’s so busy,” Gibson-Welch said. “[Melina’s] studying, we’re working. [Running] definitely helps with communication and it’s [helped to be] in sync as a family.”

Over the months of running with the Welchs, Marie has noticed the family’s connection grow. 

“When a child can be an inspiration to the parent, that’s huge,” Marie said. “That shows leadership in her as well. I know it makes [Gibson-Welch and Gregory Welch] very proud because they’re saying, ‘Wow, our lifestyle is rubbing off on our daughter. We know she’s going to maintain a healthy fit lifestyle,’ I love the fact it seems like it’s made them closer because now they’re doing a physical fitness activity together.”

Learning the perseverance needed to finish a race is an essential skill Gibson-Welch said Melina can apply to other aspects in her life. 

“Pressure is a life lesson and it’s not how to compete, but how to survive and how to make it to the end,” Gibson-Welch said. “You might make it walking, or you might make it running, but it’s how did you make it to the end? What happens is that the mental stress takes over and you think to yourself, ‘I can’t do this.’ That’s why sports are so important.”

As a second-semester junior, Melina Welch said she is already applying skills she’s learned from running to class. 

“Running is mostly mental,” Melina Welch said. “You want to give up halfway through but you can’t. You want to give up but you know you can’t because [there’s] a project due tomorrow. So, I’m really good at mental motivation.”

Marie said she’s proud running is aiding Melina to develop important life skills she can carry past Mel’s Marshmallows. 

“[Melina Welch] shows so much focus, maturity and dedication,” Marie said. “With those characteristics, [this] young woman is destined to do great things in her life. The dedication, the discipline and the drive to be able to finish a race is the same thing she’s going to be able to carry on into life, into her career, into finishing college, into even being able to navigate through all of the details of this crazy thing called life. Just the fact that she has found something that she has in common with not only her parents but all of the other people in our gym community. She’s a leader and it speaks volumes about her.”

With only a few months left before Melina’s senior year, Gibson-Welch hopes she applies the lessons this group has taught her to the opportunities and challenges approaching. 

“When she sets her mind on something, she’s going to get it done,” Gibson-Welch said. “I think that bodes well for her future and hopefully running has a tie into forging ahead because the world is now about to really open. Having these experiences I think will help her a lot. Something we try to stress with her all the time as well is that you try to help people and help to do good things with people. Hopefully, she continues to do what she’s doing now.”

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About the Contributor
Kate Durden
Kate Durden, Lifestyle Associate Managing Editor
Kate Durden is a junior and this is her third year writing for the Southerner. She enjoys volunteering at an animal shelter, attending 21st Century Leaders meetings, making films at Midtown's cinema club and hanging out with her friends.

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  • S

    Sierra PapeMar 26, 2024 at 9:37 am

    Go Melina!!!

  • D

    Donna GenslerMar 21, 2024 at 1:52 pm

    ? Melina is awesome ?
    Great Family > Great Neighbors/Friends ?