Julie Culley, 5,000m Olympian, the RBR Interview, by Larry Eder

Julie Culley, 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, 5,000m, photo by PhotoRun.net
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The 5,000m pack, photo by PhotoRun.net

RBR, # 1. What is your first memory of running?

Julie Culley: Middle School Track!  We didn't have a program, but if you were a 7th or 8th grader you were allowed to sign up for one of two local meets.  I remember "training" the day before. I think I ran around the outside of my house 4 or 5 times and thought to myself, yup, I'm ready to race.

RBR, # 2. What kind of high school runner were you?

Julie Culley:I was a solid HS runner, but certainly not dominant in NJ.  I played varsity soccer my first two years during the fall and was involved in music (singing) and theater in the winter so I never trained consistently.  Looking back, I wouldn't change a thing. I appreciate how much balance I had at that age. 

RBR, # 3. What was your training like, what about pbs?

Julie Culley: I probably ran between 25-35 miles a week and really struggled to motivate myself to train in the summer.  I would try to fake my fitness the first day of practice of XC my junior and senior year and of course my coach knew and certainly wasn't happy.  I liked running,but I didn't LOVE doing it by myself by any means.  I was pretty laid back about my goals and such.  By my senior year I had run 2:18 in the 800m and 5:05 in the mile.  
Both respectable, but nothing earth shattering.  I'm embarrassed to look up my two mile times.

RBR, # 4. Tell us about running in college, ?

Julie Culley:Rutgers was perfect for me.  I had the best collegiate coach, Roberta Anthes.  She was a pioneer in women's distance running having founded the women's program at Villanova back in her day.  She was very independent yet very team oriented and taught us as such.  Her training was exceptional and she mentored me to become a future
coach.  I was hurt a lot in college, but for biomechanical reasons, not as a result of the training.  I made two NCAA XC championships, one indoor NCAA championship, but never any outdoor NCAA championships.  

I ran some solid times (for back then!) of 4:46 in the mile, 9:18 in the 3K, and 16:29 in the 5K.  I was a 1-time All-American and still hold a few school records.  I'm so blessed for my experience at Rutgers, it set me up for 
the rest of my career as both an athlete and coach. 

RBR, # 5. What was your training like?

Julie Culley:I probably ran 60-70 miles a week.  One workout on and one off the track each week with a long run intermixed.  Roberta was exceptionally intuitive, she always knew exactly what and when I needed to be pushed or held back.


RBR, # 6. How did you get involved with ASICS?

Julie Culley: ASICS brought me on board in 2010 after making my 3rd World Championship team in 2009 (Indoor-2008, Cross-2009, Outdoor-2009).  The support of ASICS changed the way I thought and felt about myself as an athlete. 

RBR, # 7. Tell us about NYAC?

Julie Culley:NYAC brought me on in 2008.  I was coached by Matt Centrowitz at the time who isa NYAC Hall of Famer.  He introduced me to the club without me really knowing much of it.  I fell in love with the club, the team, and the whole organization after my first full year with them.  

They supported me, took care of me, and helped me get to the next level of running.  I wanted to honor their commitment to me by continuing our relationship once I received a shoe contract.  ASICS made this possible, I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to represent both. 

RBR, # 8. What is training like?  

Julie Culley:This year, training has been a mesh of both Gags and my 
personality.  After our first year together, we had to make some adjustments to keep me both mentally and physically healthy going into 2012.  We sat down and hashed our ideas out and came up with, what we both thought to be the best plan for ME.  He respected my knowledge as a former coach and 30-something athlete and I, obviously,100% respect and trust everything he plans on any given day.  

Our training plan became more of a collaboration for the 2011-2012 campaign.  Gags obviously writes the workouts, but the weekly layout is a collaboration.  After struggling for years with nagging injuries here and there, some that sidelined me for months, others fora week or two here and there I thought, hmmmm, maybe I should try something different..Maybe, I should try RESTING more and see how my body responds.  I decided to take one day a week completely off from running.  In the beginning, I really wanted a mental
rest day from all physical activity.  I soon craved some movement on workout days.

Enter Elliptigo.  

RBR,# 9 : So, what is my training like?  Like this:

Mon- Long Intervals @ Rutgers with NJNYTC, PM Shakeout

Tues- OFF or Elliptigo

Wed- Mileage

Thurs- AM Tempo, PM Track short intervals

Fri- Mileage (Elliptigo intermixed)

Sat- Long Run

Sun- Mileage (Elliptigo intermixed)

Along with 2-3 days a week of strength, 1 chiro appointment, 1 massage, 1 physical therapy appointment, 1 wharton stretch session and additional core work 2-3 days a week.

RBR, # 10. How did this year go for you?

Julie Culley: I would say this year was a success.  I ran personal bests in the 1500m, 3000m, and 5000m.I ran my first half marathon and I stayed healthy, which was my ultimate goal.  And the season still isn't over!

RBR, # 11. Tell us about the Olympic Trials semi finals?  

Julie Culley:The semi's can be more stressful than you'd think.  You tend to visualize and lose sleep over the OT Final for months leading up,but never the semi.  Suddenly it's there and you think, wow, I can't falter here, I have to get to the final conserving as much energy as possible.  I actually think I had a small panic attack in the semi, which I talked myself down from and refocused, but it's certainly a bit more nerve wracking than most would think.  You can't run the race of your life in the final if you don't make it there. 

RBR, # 12. What about the Final? How did you feel before the race?  

Julie Culley:Unbelievably calm.  It's hard to explain.  I can't remember most of the final.  I remember the last lap, but I don't remember much of the first 11.5.  I was so focused I don't remember hearing the crowd, the people, the girls, anything.  It was white noise.  I was somewhere else, it was a cool feeling.  I was anxious and a bit nervous earlier in the day, but my mind quieted by the time I got to the track.  I was ready.

RBR, # 13. What do you remember about the last lap? 

Julie Culley:  I remember trying to pass Molly with 350 to
go, then 300 to go, she kept fighting me off.  I remember going by Julia.  I remember it getting faster and faster and just reassuring myself I just needed to stay on Molly's heels.  When we turned for home, I tried to pass Molly on the outside and she wouldn't let me.  She swung wide.  That's when I shot down the inside.  I remember with 50m left realizing I had one more gear.  I suddenly became aware of the volume of the crowd, the cheering, the rhythm, the chaos.  And as I started to push past, I heard the stands 
errupt.  I couldn't believe it was for our race.  I couldn't believe it was for us.  
I couldn't believe it was happening. 

RBR, # 14. How has making the Olympic team changed your life?  

Julie Culley: Making the team has opened my heart to achieving what I saw as impossible, a childish dream.  I saw what I can do when I really focus, when I do all the right things.  I'm so appreciative of the world it has 
opened up, for the people that are involved and touched by it, for the new appreciation I have for our sport, for how blessed and fortunate I am.  It's not as often in our sport that we feel really good, really proud, and really excited.  I have to take advantage of this moment.  There will be more ups and downs in the future.  I want this moment to feed me through all of them.  But, I have to say, if it were all to come to a close after this year, I'd still feel pretty darn happy.  I get to represent Team USA in a few weeks, does it get any better? 

RBR, # 15: What will you do between Eugene and London?
Julie Culley: I'm in Belgium training now and will race the 3000m in Monaco this Friday and will head to the US training camp in Birmingham on Saturday. 

RBR, # 16. What do you want to achieve in London?  

Julie Culley:I want to make the final and I want to run as fast and be as competitive as I possibly can.  That's the best I can ask of myself.

RBR, # 17. And what do you want to tell high school athletes about staying with the sport?
Julie Culley: Believe in the extraordinary. 

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