Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Former Olympian is back on her feet

Julie Isphording: Up and running again

By Anna Michael
The Cincinnati Enquirer

You might know her as the woman in charge of Cincinnati's Thanksgiving Day 10K Race, or as the voice of fitness on WVXU-FM (91.7).

Maybe you have attended one of her speeches or heard about her public relations work.

At dawn Friday, Julie Isphording runs by the Eden Park overlook near her East Walnut Hills home.
(Gary Landers photo)
| ZOOM |
But former Olympic marathoner Julie Isphording is best known for her running - and after two major foot surgeries, that is just what she is doing again.

The 41-year-old East Walnut Hills woman has finally tossed the crutches that supported her for the last two years and is back out running, working and motivating.

"My feet have been running for 21 years and they just decided to retire without my consent. I am so grateful to be running," Isphording said in the frantic last weeks before the race, which she's directed for the past three years. "I was in seven casts to re-form my feet, and now I have two brand new feet."

Countless marathons had worn them out. But not before she was the top woman finisher at the 1990 Los Angeles Marathon.

Now, she rises before dawn every day to run six or seven miles. Then, on Mondays at noon and Tuesdays at 5 p.m. you can hear her talking about health issues from sleep patterns to keeping your pet fit on her one-hour radio show on WVXU public radio. She also does daily health spots on the station.

Isphording is the public relations representative for Spectrum Rehabilitation physical therapy specialists. And she's often asked to give motivational speeches for schools, nonprofit groups and health professionals.

But much of her time year-round now is consumed by directing the Thanksgiving Day Race, in which more than 10,000 people run a course criss-crossing Ohio River bridges downtown and in Northern Kentucky. The Enquirer is among the race's sponsors.

"When the last person crosses the finished line, and I pick up that last banana peel, it's time to start thinking about next year - what to change and what to do better," she said.

The Enquirer recently kept Isphording in her seat long enough to ask some questions.

What's your key to successfully reinventing yourself?

"I don't know if it is a matter of reinventing yourself. It's finally realizing that you can't be an Olympic runner anymore, but you get to live an Olympic life every day. A lot of what I learned in achieving my Olympic dream was the effort it takes and the practice and the coaching and surrounding yourself with positive people.

"(You need to) have a plan and really believe in yourself in the same day-to-day stuff. Find out what else makes you happy. What makes me happy is sharing what has made my life memorable with other people."

For so many people you are a role model. Who is your role model?

"My role models - there are so many - it could be somebody I read about or someone I work with. I think in all areas of your life you have different people who are your heroes. I will be the first to tell you my family (are my biggest heroes)."

What is your favorite pair of running shoes and what color of socks do you wear with them?

"I try to get them to be white socks, but since I don't know how to do my laundry, they have a grayish tint.

My favorite pair of shoes are the (Asics) shoes I was wearing when I qualified for the (1984) Olympic team. I still have them."

Will you ever compete in marathons again?

"No, I have officially hung up my running shoes on a competitive level. As of right now my biggest competition is myself and, with the reconstruction of both my feet, I have to relearn with these new feet and try to make them coordinate with the rest of my body."

The race

The 94th Thanksgiving Day Race gets under way at 9 a.m. Nov. 27 at Paul Brown Stadium.

•  The course: Starts at the stadium, weaves through downtown, crosses the Taylor Southgate Bridge, weaves through Newport, follows Fourth Street to Covington, then crosses back to Ohio across the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge.

If you go

•  10K? What's that? It's 6.2 miles. And you can run or walk.

•  Cost? $15 if you register by Saturday; $20 Sunday-Wednesday, Nov. 26; $25 race day

•  How do I register? Three ways:

Online at www.thanksgivingdayrace.com

Nov. 24-26 at The Running Spot, 1993 Madison Road, O'Bryonville

Race day at Paul Brown Stadium

•  Volunteer opportunities. Help register people, work at water stations, man the finish line, help distribute after-race food, etc. Contact Joanna Argus at jeargus@hotmail.com.


E-mail michaeae@muohio.edu

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