Welcome! The intent of Anecdotes from the Trail is to share my experiences while trail running or racing (occasionally on the road too.) And to feature other trail runners and their accomplishments. You may see the occasional gear review or even contest. Please visit from time to time. Happy trails!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Trail runner spotlight: Julie Wolfe

Julie Wolfe crossing Sweetwater Creek during her first ultra race at the 2012 SweetH20 50K.
Last week, I posted an interview with Roxanne Zobava, a veteran trail runner with a number of ultrarunning highlights on her running resume. To contrast that, I seeked out someone who, while may have the road miles under their belt, was just getting their feet wet, literally, in the world of trail running and ultra distance races.

I caught up with local Atlanta TV "backpack reporter", Julie Wolfe, for a quick interview. You'll read in her own words how running has been a part of her life for some time now but also how she's getting started in the trail running community. As a reporter, Julie has a crazy schedule, but she still manages to get her training in. She's getting geared up for a very busy Fall racing season including The North Face Endurance Challenge 50K Georgia in October.

Here's our little chat...

Crossing the finish at Mayor's Alaska
Marathon with Team In Training.
How long have you been running and when was your first marathon? What attracted you to trying 26.2 miles for the first time?

I grew up in a family where my three sisters and I would shudder with embarrassment when our dad came running down the block in his tiny bright-blue nylon shorts. My whole life, my dad has been a runner.  I was never interested until I turned 19. A young man I went to high school with was killed in a car crash during his senior year. It marked the time in Metro Atlanta before license restrictions when it seemed like teen driving tragedies came so often we were numb. My dad was a member at his church and started a 5K to raise money for the scholarship in his name. I couldn’t run 5K when I started training, but I ran it that day and never really looked back.

Over the years, as I’ve moved from city to city following my career in television, I’ve always sought out local running groups for support and friendship. When I first told my dad I was running a marathon, he laughed. But that was 15 full marathons ago and too many halves to count. It includes a few my dad and I have run together. He still owns those blue nylon shorts.

What was your favorite road marathon experience and why?

Every marathon is good and bad for different reasons, so that’s hard for me to say. My favorite destination was Anchorage. My favorite post-race was Napa to Sonoma. My fastest time was in Buffalo, NY. My most social run was in Chicago. I haven’t found the “perfect” marathon yet. I guess that’s why I keep running them.

Earlier this year, you decided to try your hand at trail running and you ran your first 50K. What inspired you to do so?

I was bored. I either had to get faster or run longer. Running is like therapy to me.  I believe every person with a stressful job must have an outlet. Your choice is whether it’s going to be a healthy one or a destructive one. Running relaxes me and brings back focus. Because of that, I’ve always shied away from the intense training effort I’d need to put in to push my times into the competitive region. I own a Garmin, but I don’t want to be a slave to it. I’m afraid of making running another job, of making it a source of stress instead of a stress reliever. And so, running longer was the only choice left.

How would you describe your experience at the SweetH20?

I loved it. It’s been so long since I ran a race I wasn’t even sure I could finish. I forgot how scary, fun, and exciting that can be. Everything that was making me feel stifled in marathon road races was nowhere to be found on that trail. Both draw amazing, incredible athletes and intense competitors. But there is such a feeling of community on the trails that you don’t feel in a road race, even the smaller ones.

What first attracted you to racing a TNF Endurance Challenge race?

After the SweetH2O, I was searching for another 50K. The TNF was close to home and good timing, so it was an easy choice.
After the 50K distance, do you have plans to go even further in a race? Why or why not?

I’d like to do a 50 mile race in 2013. Right now, I have no desire to do a 100 miler. But if you’d asked me five years ago if I’d be running ultras, I would have laughed. So, we’ll see what the future holds. If I’ve learned anything from running over the years, it’s that the “post-race glow” is a strong pull towards the next big challenge.

I think the biggest hurdle for me on increasing distance is training time. Between working six day weeks during the Olympics, getting sick with the cold that’s sweeping Atlanta right now, and traveling; getting those extra long runs (20+ miles) has been a real challenge this year. I’ve learned if you want to be a distance runner and you want to have a life, there are compromises on both ends. I think like all of us, I do the best I can and hope it’s enough on race day.

What is your goal at this year's TNF Endurance Challenge?
Leading up to my first 50K I posted my 3 goals on Facebook: (1) To not die (2) To Keep Moving Forward and (3) to not get swept.  I wasn’t really kidding. Because I’d never run an ultra, I had no idea what to expect. This time, I have a reference point. Still, I’ll keep those original goals plus the hope of finishing in a better time. This ultra is part of a triple-header I’m running this fall: Wineglass 26.2 in September, the North face Challenge in October, and the Savannah Rock n’ Roll 13.1 in November. Instead of treating them as individual races, I see it as one big “fall race plan”.
What would you advise to someone trying trail running for the first time?
Curb your expectations and just let go. For me, trail running is very different than road running. You use so many different muscles. You have to stay mentally engaged. You burn about 15% more calories, so I’m also much hungrier after and during long trail runs. But I think us running nerds over think it. It’s still just putting one foot in front of the other. Consider leaving your watch at home. Explore the trails. Stop to take pictures of the sunset and gape at the deer staring you down. There’s something about trail running that makes me feel free and very, very far away from everything. It’s a whole new kind of running high.

It is still about putting one foot in front of the other and I agree, go exploring. Thanks Julie and good luck with your races this Fall.

Thanks and my pleasure!


I was glad to catch up with Julie and get her thoughts about her upcoming races. You can follow Julie on Twitter (@JulieWolfe), and drop her a note of encouragement as she gets ready. You can also join Julie at The North Face Endurance Challenge Georgia which takes place at Pine Mountain, GA on October 13-14 weekend. Register at http://tnf.ec/0o and follow @TheNorthFaceECS on Twitter. Happy trails!

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