A conversation with Julie Clark
By Lisa Unger
LU: Thank you, Julie, for the opportunity to learn about you and your running career. Many beginning and intermediate runners look up to you as a running mentor as well as a positive role model for life. I know because I am one of them. I think the first thing we all want to know is where did you come from, how did start and when and why did you start running. So tell us, where did it all begin for Julie Clark?
LU: Since I began running, I have learned that there are many components to running. It’s so much more than just one foot in front of the other. Can you tell us about some of the cross training activities that you use to improve your running?
JDC: I generally do weight training 3 times a week. I work mostly on arms and upper body. Once a week I work on legs if I’m not racing. I was doing this even before joining Dot’s running classes. Also, I recently started biking. I like to swim, but don’t do it very much. I also walk every night with Myron and my dog, Bernice. I personally believe in cross training and think it helps me avoid injuries.
LU: Being a runner also means being a part of the running community. Some people prefer to remain in the background and only appear at races, but GWTC is fortunate that you have expanded your participation in running activities. Over the past 3 years, I have watched you develop and lead beginning running groups and take on the challenge of directing the WDF and act as secretary of the club. Tell us what inspired you to take on those roles.
JDC: The beginning running class was passed on to me from Dot. Truthfully, I saw it as a form of flattery, but also it’s been very difficult for me. I’m pretty shy, believe it or not. I was very scared having people I’ve never met before. Now I look forward to it, but I still always get nervous about it. I spent one year as secretary of the club. I knew I was being nominated and I ran unopposed. David Yon asked me to be the race director for Women’s Distance Festival. Judy Keane had done it for years and now I’ve passed the baton to Kathy Shirley. WDF has a great volunteer base and so the “director baton” can keep being passed. Being race director really made me appreciate people like Joe Dexter and Paul Hiers who direct multiple races each year. But, no, I will probably not direct again, but I will volunteer. I know some things that I would do differently. I really like to do the beginning running class and I prefer to focus on one thing. I’d like to see more women and runners in general between the ages of 20-30. The beginning running classes have had a great turn out of women.
LU: No matter what the activity, everybody likes to see improvement in her own performance. When it comes to our activity, running, we realize improvement by running faster times and/or longer distances. It seems that the Sickle Cell 5k is your race for marking improvement. Without giving away your trade secrets, can you tell us what kind of training you will use this summer to prepare for this race?
JDC: I start training about 4 months before a 5k–it’s getting more and more difficult as I get older and I’ve not seen a lot of improvement since about 1995. My strategy this year, and it changes, is, number 1, try not to get injured! I have to give enough rest days in between. I would love to train through, but when I do that, something always happens. I believe in the “hard/easy” thing. I take at least a day or 2 off before a race, and try to do 2 speed-work sessions a week–a race counts as speed-work. I’ve been using the Summer Track series as a speed-work, too. One “training secret” is a long run once a week. I’m doing something a little different this year by bicycling to get more leg speed and my legs have gotten stronger. I hope that will help. I do a lot of trail running to avoid injuries. The trails we like to run on alternate between the “Mountain,” which is off of Aenon Church Road, and Papercup. I also like Forest Meadows. I think the whole key is training really good all the way up to the race, and then giving 2 days of rest before the race.
LU: I have heard a few mantras that runners repeat to get up tough hills or finish a long distance, such as “When tired, run faster” and “Use good form even when tired.” Do you have any words of wisdom or inspirational thoughts that you repeat in your mind when the going gets tough?
JDC: For hills I try to think about biking up the hill and picking up my step as I’m going up the hill. I try to pick it up at the crest of the hill and I like to pass people on the downhill side. I have to work hard on the uphill. Using the biking motion seems to help instead of getting into a shuffling step. What I focus on is concentrating on form, standing up straight, breathing and trying to stay relaxed and not tighten up so much in the upper body. And it helps to keep thinking positive thoughts. I get a little bit of a charge if I pass somebody. And a lot of times other people can help you out. When someone else passes me, I try to stay with them as long as I can. Sissi and Fran have helped out a lot because they pace themselves well and go past me at the end, then I have to try to catch them.
LU: Thank you again, Julie, for allowing us this insight into your exceptional and well-balanced running career. Do you have any closing thoughts?
JDC: Just that I think everyone is a little different. Myron and I train together often, but also have our own “specialized” training apart so it is optimal for both of us and our own training needs. I think that it is important to learn your own strengths and weaknesses and focus your training accordingly. I am happy to be a part of GWTC and think that others have done so much for me, like Dot, I don’t feel like I can do that much, but I want to contribute back and help other people.