bank of america chicago marathon

Mom of 9 sets to fulfill Chicago Marathon dream 14 years after promise to young son

Nicole Bubolz started running after giving birth to nine children, including three sets of twins

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Fourteen years ago, Nicole Bubolz was standing along the Chicago Marathon course with her 8-year-old son, having just started running after giving birth to nine children, including three sets of twins.

She was cheering on a friend in the race and had brought her son to downtown Chicago with her.

"I looked at Simon at one point ... I looked at him and just said, 'I'm gonna do this someday. I'm gonna run this marathon. I just feel it in my gut,'" she said.

Bubolz started running as she worked to recover from several pregnancies, including three consecutive sets of twins.

"I was 20 and had our first child. And we had three singleton's each two years apart. And then we had three sets of twins in a row right after that. And that is always the first part of my story that everybody finds fascinating," Bubolz said. "So then, from there, I, you know, obviously after a third set of twins, you've gained some weight. And you're not exactly happy and content in your body anymore. And so you begin to look for your way to lose some weight and how to do it."

So 15 years after her first baby was born, Bubolz said she started with walking, and saw some success. But at some point, her success plateaued.

"I had a friend say to me, 'What about running?' and I thought she was crazy. And so I said, 'Okay, I'll give it a try,' and went out and ran my first mile and fell in love with it from there on and never looked back," Bubolz said.

Bubolz climbed from 5Ks to 10Ks to half marathons to, now, marathons.

"I didn't really have a lot that was just for me, because I always had my children and, you know, nine little ones running around. They were very close in age and they were busy, but it was time that my husband and the kids they gave to me for me," Bubolz said. "So sorry, I get emotional about that. Because it just became... I wasn't just the mom anymore. Now, I was I was an athlete, and I had never been an athlete before. So it really meant a lot to me."

Bubolz and her family moved to Florida 10 years after she began her running journey -- the same year she was about to run her first Chicago Marathon.

"I was signed up for marathon in Chicago at the time and was really sad that I was going to miss it because I couldn't get back up because we had just moved in June and the marathon was going to be in September. So I was really sad about that," Bubolz said. "And my husband inspired me to just find one down here in Florida. And so my first one was here in Florida about, I think it was six years ago I ran the Disney marathon."

Finally, in 2020, Bubolz was set to run the Chicago Marathon. But the coronavirus pandemic forced the race to turn virtual.

"I ended up taking my money back, and put my name in the hat again this year because I felt like I was ready," Bubolz said. "And when I got in I was, of course everybody at work, in my whole family, everybody knew about it because I was so excited to run around telling everybody that I got in. Then of course, the work starts in June when you have to start to training and it has been a quite an adventure, but I have loved every second of it."

Bubolz has been waking up around 3:15 a.m. every Friday to do her long runs in training -- and she doesn't do it alone.

"I have a group of women who I run with who've been very sweet and kind and sacrificed and gotten up with me and met me at 4 a.m. to get me through some of the miles and then the rest of would meet me at the other half for the rest of the miles. And it's been an adventure so but I'm ready. I'm very ready," she said.

As Bubolz now prepares to celebrate her 50th birthday, she says the real gift will come when she crosses the finish line with her family waiting for her.

"It literally means the world to me. I try not to get emotional about it, but I keep telling myself don't do the ugly cry when you cross the finish line because I want to try to hold it together, at least for pictures," Bubolz said. "But, you know, when I mentioned it to them, I said, 'Look, nobody has to come. This is for me. I'm not doing it to for anybody else. No offense against anybody, but I just I do it for me.' And as they were all booking their tickets, it made me very emotional. It means a lot because they're sacrificing their own time and money to come up and see me do this. So it literally means the world. I can't wait to take that finish line picture with them there. I know they can't be at the finish line. But at the post race party, we're going to take a ton of pictures."

Among those who will be at the finish line is her son, now 22, who will see her fulfill the promise she made 14 years ago.

Bubolz hopes her story can help other women and moms find something that can be just for them.

"I'm going to tell you what my motto has been since I started having twins," Bubolz said. "So obviously, when you have three single babies, that's normal ... When I was pregnant with my first set of twins, and I had to reach that first point of realizing one that I had to have help from other people - and that was hard for me - and once the babies were born, I think my motto has always just been 'Just take it a day at a time.' Don't stress about what's going to happen tomorrow. Just worry about today and what can you do today? And that even goes in with losing weight or starting to run, I tell myself take it a step at a time. I can run, I can move one foot in front of the other. I can't control what other people are going to do, or what somebody else is going to do tomorrow, but I can control my moving my own feet, and putting my own self in my in good headspace. So take it a day at a time and take it a step at a time. And you can do it because I did it. And I just feel like you just have to own it for yourself and who you are and decide who you want to be. And if that's it, then take it a day at a time."

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