“Yes, the Olympics. What is it like to be in the Olympics?”
“Breathtaking. Breathtaking in a number of ways. In one way, it’s so terrifying it takes your breath away. At the same time, it’s breathtaking because the experience is so joyous.”
“Yes. At one point I looked down at my USA shirt and I thought, ‘I’m representing the entire United States, my entire country.’ That’s terrifying. And then, in the next moment I saw my mom with tears running down her face, and I thought, ‘OK, no matter what she’s proud of me. No matter what, I made it here.’ It’s a situation of extremes.”
Julie Isphording started running when she was 17 years old, initially to enhance her tennis game. She was a natural, and soon started racing competitively. She made the Olympic trials in 1984 and ran in the first ever women’s Olympic Marathon. She continued to run professionally, winning numerous marathons, and overcoming extreme injuries (including 5 back surgeries).
Today, Julie is a marketing consultant, keynote speaker, author, and pilates instructor, teaching both group classes and private reformer classes in her home. In addition, Julie is the Executive Director of Cincinnati’s Thanksgiving Day Race, which is a massive undertaking.
I asked Julie for the best piece of advice she ever received. She responded, “1984, Los Angeles, before my Olympic race.” Julie’s mom said, “I’ll see you at the finish line. Don’t forget to breathe.”
With the Flying Pig quickly approaching, we asked Julie to share her best advice for runners embarking on the full, the half, or perhaps their first 5k. Here’s what she shared:
You’ve trained a gazillion moments for this moment.
For 12-15 weeks, you did the hill workouts, speed intervals, and long runs. You thought about your daily nutrition, what to eat during the race, and buying the right shoes. You’ve put in the work. Now, take it all in. Put on your shoes, stand on the starting line, and smile. Feel grateful that you’ve made it this far. You did it.
Come race day don’t change anything.
Stick to what you know. Eat the same old spaghetti you’ve been eating. Wear the the same shoes and the same socks. Don’t test out those new shoes you bought at the expo. Be boring in your race preparation.
Training is physical. Race day is mental.
Plan your race mentally, make it even. Don’t try and build a cushion. Keep your adrenaline in check. Pace yourself. Don’t do mental math.
Realize you’re going to want to quit 3 times during the race.
Our bodies go through a physical and mental breakdown at certain points during the race. It happens at really weird points, and your head starts playing games with you.
When you want to quit:
Focus on someone in front of you, or find someone to run with, or pace yourself with.
Make a list in your mind of everything you’re grateful for.
Set things you’re looking forward to like, “my kids are coming up at mile 15” or “my parents are right around the bend after mile 8.”
Check in with your body’s needs. This may be the perfect time to take that goo or get some water.
Cheer for other people. Get the focus off you and back to others. Embrace the ‘we’re all in this together’ mentality.
Accept that sometimes it’s OK to walk. Just because you walk for a while doesn’t mean anything. Just run again when you’re ready.
Give some love to the fans.
I can’t say enough about fan support. You look at someone cheering for you and you just want to thank them. It’s like a chemical reaction in your body.
Remember above all, be happy. Happiness is a verb. Happiness brings more happiness. It is not something you get, it’s something you work on. Be happy that you made it to the run, that you’re able to run, that you’re here.
As if the woman doesn’t do enough, Julie also coaches clients professionally, personally, and athletically. She makes all of her clients use the word yet. So, at the end of our interview when I told her, “I’m not a good runner,” she smiled at me and said, “You’re not a good runner, yet.”