Tap, tap... is this thing on? It's hard to believe it's been over a year since my last interview. Every time I go to a race or look at race results, I'm reminded of how many great runners are out there that still have stories to tell. One such runner is 40-year-old Eagan resident, Willie Tibbetts. Last year Tibbetts earned her first Runner of the Year title in the 35-39 age group. And halfway through 2011 she finds herself atop the 40-44 age group. In addition to running, the Argosy University employee competes in body building competitions as well. In fact, earlier this year she brought home three 1st place trophies at the Gopher State Bodybuilding Championships.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say you don’t have a typical runner’s build. Which came first, bodybuilding or running?
Ha! I did not see this question coming, but a good one as I receive similar questions at races. “Are you sure you’re a distance runner?” Running came first as I ran my first race at a park picnic when I was 5 years old. I’ve always loved to run and need no reason other than having a pair running shoes on my feet.
How do the two sports compliment one another?
For me the two sports compliment my training as my strength has increased, my form and mechanics have improved which has enhanced my efficiency and power. Cardio is an integral factor for the final stages of a bodybuilding competition. As a runner, it doesn’t take much to persuade me to get out and run twice a day, I’m more than happy to put in the time. From my competition experience, I have also learned the importance of nutrition and properly fueling the body for optimal training and competing. It’s not all about depletion and cutting calories to make your race or event day weight. One should be cognizant of the nutrients of the diet to ensure the body can make use of what you feed it and be able to give you the results you are training for.
How are you able to balance two such time-consuming activities?
If I have two workouts scheduled, I will wake up at 4am for the first session so I can be home before my family wakes up. I manage the shorter training session over my lunch break in attempts to make the best of my time. I prefer not to schedule training after work, as I enjoy spending time with my family. My family is supportive and enthusiastic for my participation in these competitive events and they attend with me as often as they can. They also participate in many of the running events and possible physique competitions in the future. For instance, I just registered my 5 year old daughter for a USATF membership for the Track and Field Junior Olympics because she said, “she’s ready to run like a big girl.”
What types of bodybuilding competitions have you competed in and what are some of the accolades you’ve earned?
2010 NPC North Star: 5th Place Figure B Division.
2011 Gopher State Bodybuilding: 1st Place Lightweight Division, 1st Place Masters Division, 1st Place Overall Champion.
Speaking of accolades, last year you tied Katie Koski for your first Runner of the Year title in the 35-39 age group. Is winning that title one of your goals for the year?
Yes, it is one of my goals for 2011. I was not even aware of my ranking until I received a email with the final standings last year. This year I want to be more involved in the circuit, as it’s motivating and inspiring to be involved in this friendly and local competition. I thrive on the hometown environment, so the MDRA Grand Prix and the USATF Minnesota Team Circuit races are a perfect fit for my running schedule.
What other goals do you have for the year?
Maintain my health and injury free status. My big goal, with special thanks to the connection from Perry Bach, I recently started training with Ben Kampf, who is also on the Run N Fun racing team. Together we are collaborating a plan to run a PR at the 2011 Twin Cities Marathon. Next spring I have the notion to return to North Dakota as I’m a huge fan of Fargo. I will definitely be training towards an improved performance for the 2012 Fargo Marathon. Depending on the timing of events, I’d like to revisit bodybuilding or a new division in the physique competition, stay tuned.
What are your PRs and how much can you bench press?
Ok this makes me laugh! My bench press ranges from 120 – 150 lbs in my non-marathon season. During marathon program, my strength training is focused on function, not weight, to assist in my need for speed to reach the finish line faster.
In a running life a long, long time ago I ran 2:42 at the 1995 Chicago Marathon and then ran 2:48 at the 1996 Olympic Marathon Trials. Those are my favorite PR’s.
My Minnesota PRs
½ Marathon 1:25:40
What is your favorite race distance?
I do not have a favorite distance, as I appreciate the challenge each distance has to offer. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to compete in track events and also to be able hold my own in the marathon.
What do you consider your strengths? Weaknesses?
My strength is my strength. My weakness is mileage base as I don’t have the depth of distance that many marathoners log each week. If my endurance falls apart during a race, I’ll attempt to muscle my way through the final few miles and hope for the best.
What is your fondest memory from running?
My fondest PR memory was completing my first marathon at Chicago and qualifying for the trials on the same day. Honestly, I have fond memories of every race, the good, the bad and the ugly. I’m honored to be on the course with my running friends, to see my family along the way or from the stage and waving them the Hi-5, and then being able to call my mom on the way home the share my experience because I know she’d be there if she could. My fondest moments of accomplishment is making it to the final stretch or final call out knowing that all those mornings, miles and all that chicken, asparagus and sweet potatoes was worth it.
If you could run with any Minnesotan, past or present, who would it be?
Presently, I am privileged to be a part of the Minnesota running community. I’ve met so many amazing people of all paces, from organizers, volunteers, pacers and racers who I can’t begin to thank for making this sport an experience that gets better each mile.
Finally, what do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started running?
That it’s ok and actually recommended to have more than one pair of running shoes.