20 Mar Running Around Europe
At age 30, you have already done quite a bit. Tell us about yourself.
I grew up in a military community — Clarksville, Tennessee near Fort Campbell, Kentucky. In 2000 I began at the University of Tennessee-Martin, where I was a ‘walk on’ to the Women’s Basketball program. Immediately after graduating, I began Optometry school at Indiana University, on an Army scholarship, which left me with a three year commitment to the Army. My military career therefore began with my residency program at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas. In 2009, I moved to South Korea for my first “real” duty station. After a year there – with lots of travel through Asia — I was assigned to a clinic in Germany.
How did you start your love affair with running?
Running has always been part of my physical training for sports, but to be honest I historically saw it as a necessary evil. I didn’t start running for pleasure until I was in Korea. This all began because I have a problem saying “no”, when there’s something I can do to help. The Army base staged races nearly every month, but participation was dwindling. I was asked to compete in a duathlon, then a sprint triathlon, and then a half marathon. At one point, my parents were in Korea for a visit, and I asked my dad — a long-time runner — to pace me for my first half marathon. He reluctantly agreed. I set a personal record on my first race that still stands.
When did you decide to run marathons?
Running a marathon had been on my bucket list for years: the only problem was that I really hated running. Korea was a pivotal year for me. I learned to actually enjoy running, and as an added bonus, it helped keep the weight off.
An American girlfriend in Germany convinced me I could really “do” a marathon. So I set my sights on the Brussels marathon, just a couple of hours’ drive away. Now, I love Belgian chocolates, waffles, fries, and their amazing beer, so my reasoning was that running for a few hours was an easy trade off. (You burn roughly 100 calories a mile, so 2600 calories for splurge food sounded good to me!)
What has been your favorite race in Europe?
The US military sponsors the “Run to Remember” in Stuttgart, Germany. Special Forces organizes the race to honor all of our fallen brothers and sisters in arms since the start of the Iraq/Afghanistan wars. At the start of the race, the runners are called to attention, and the roll call of the fallen is read. After that emotional start, we race through the forest, a truly challenging course which gives me perspective. It’s about not quitting and embracing the discomfort of a race, when there are others who have given the ultimate sacrifice.
My favorite experience was actually running the “Run to Remember” half marathon in the morning, then traveling 3 hours to run the Romantic Castle half marathon in the evening. It was really a grueling day. But the second was a much more forgiving course, and the people were very friendly. Plus, the view was fantastic — Neuschwanstein Schloss, the real “Walt Disney Castle” in the distance.
And your worst running experience in Europe?
My worst experience running in Europe was also the funniest experience. I am not sure why Europeans like to dress in costume to run, but they really do. A group of friends decided to run the Champagne Valley half marathon in medieval Rheims, France – the capital of the Champagne district.
I was warned there would be people in costumes, but that it nevertheless was a “serious” race. At the starting line, we were amazed to see a complete hospital bed, including an “IV fluid pole” right behind us, with 8 or 10 “doctors” and one really small “patient.”
As we began to run, I was confused by the people carrying water bottles during a race. The reason for this dawned on me about four miles into the race, when we finally reached our first water station. I realized that, when you run through fields, there aren’t really wide roads, or places to set up water stations. In consequence, we would only have hydration stations when we were in the French villages. (An important lesson learned: check the course map for hydration stations, and plan accordingly.)
Once I recovered from the realization that I was not going to have water regularly, my goal for the race shifted significantly. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that in the last half of the race, champagne was served in the “hydration stations.” In short, it was not a record-setting day, but it was an important lesson learned.
Doctor Julie’s Advice for New Runners
- Get good shoes. They really are worth it. Talk with your doctor, physical therapist, or go to a specialty running store.
- Get cute workout clothes. It’s not always about how good you run, but how good you look doing it! You are more likely to get out there, if you have cute clothes to wear.
- Just get going. Walk, jog, run. Some days are easy to run and others are a real challenge. Not every day is going to be great. Enjoy the good ones, but learn from your struggles.
What are European runners like?
Runners come in all shapes and sizes, physically, mentally, and socially. As for me, I am not out to “win” any race I enter. The Europeans in my time category tend to be pretty jovial folks out for a nice little run. Everyone has been very friendly. Conversations can be a bit challenging, however, as typically English is not the primary language, and my communication skills are slight in other languages, but a smile sure goes a long way!
“Running is also a place for me to pray. Sitting home and praying is a struggle for me. Being outside and alone on a long run provides an excellent alternative. I think the solitude of running is my favorite part.”
What does running do for you?
Running is completely addictive, once you get over the hump. However, starting a running program is in no way easy. It takes dedication, but it can teach some very valuable life lessons. Running allows time for me to be quiet, to put aside all the stressors of the week and just relax. (The first few minutes are not quiet, as I am still huffing and puffing until my body realizes it is OK.)
What’s your next challenge?
I just completed the Berlin Marathon, and my new goal is to set a personal record in the half marathon. I have not picked a race yet, but I am looking for a flat course in the Spring of 2013; my goal time of 1:45.
“Running a marathon had been on my bucket list for years; the only problem was that I really hated running. “
BERLIN, GERMANY: Dr. Julie keeps the pace with other runners, as the sun pours through the famous Brandenburg Gate in the German capital.
BAVARIAN DREAM: “During this race, the view was fantastic — Neuschwanstein Schloss, the real Walt Disney Castle — in the distance.”
TOWER BRIDGE GLOWS: Dr. Julie enjoys a night on the town in London.