From blob … to jogger … to runner … to racer
Bad vacation photo as catalyst
My name is Julie Threlkeld.* I started running in 1999 after seeing a vacation photo of myself that was visually accurate and, as such, absolutely horrifying.
At the age of 34 I was around 40 pounds overweight and living a completely sedentary lifestyle in which elastic waistbands were playing an increasingly prominent role; the food products I ate had 87 ingredients that sounded like laboratory products; the vodka martinis flowed freely every night of the week. Seeing that photo was an epiphany. After consuming one last celebratory chocolate Easter bunny I dedicated myself to turning over a new leaf: I would exercise daily and stop eating garbage. This was quite a commitment, as I had no previous athletic background.
The jogging years
I started jogging with the modest goal of losing some weight and becoming fit enough to climb stairs without getting winded. I’d made a few previous attempts to take up “jogging” in the preceding decade, but they were always cut short within a few weeks due to knee pain. On my first run this time around, I found I could cover less than a hundred yards before I had to walk. My knees hurt again, on every run, for about two months. I ignored it and kept running anyway; the knee pain eventually went away on its own. It took me close to a year before I could run three miles without stopping.
For six years I jogged an 11:00 minute mile for approximately 15-20 miles per week. I lost a little weight, got a little bit fitter, but eventually started feeling bored with running. I needed a goal, a purpose. To motivate myself to continue, I decided to train for a half marathon: the 2006 Runner’s World Half Marathon in Allentown, PA.
As part of my training, I ran a little local 5K to get comfortable with running in a crowd and learn about how racing works. Despite my struggle to cross the finish line and my slow finish time, that first race was a life-changing experience. A new passion was born.
The marathon years
Over time, I discovered that the longer the race, the more I enjoyed (and excelled in) running it. Eventually, I worked my way up to running my first marathon ten days before my 42nd birthday: the 2007 More Magazine Marathon in Central Park, NYC. I clocked in at 3:56 and change, just a few minutes short of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. A year later I’d take another 24 minutes off that time on the same course. From that moment on, all I cared about was becoming a good marathoner.
Over the next few years I would experience a mixture of success and failure at the marathon distance as I pursued a time south of the three hour mark. My best time was in the fall of 2008, a 3:19 at Steamtown. But from that point on I struggled through a long bout of overtraining, numerous injuries and a lot of awful races.
From 2008 on I was also toying with the dream of obtaining an Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifier for 2012 (<=2:46). That dream has evaporated, but not before it led to my starting a personal interview project, Houston Hopefuls, to chronicle the dreams (and hard work) of other women like myself. I also do lots of other interviews with professional runners.
Moving on down
In May of 2011 I decided to set aside training for and racing longer distances for awhile and see if I can excel at some shorter distances. For now, most of my training is for goal races at the mile to 5K distance, with some longer races (10K tops) thrown in for variety.
Thanks for reading!
“If you want to become the best runner you can be, start now. Don’t spend the rest of your life wondering if you can do it.”
– Priscilla Welch, masters runner extraordinaire (and former blob)
*Pronounced THREHL-kehld. Or “Threlkeld.” See? It’s easy.