Julie Bedford- ultra runner and triathlete

Julie Bedford- ultra runner and triathlete

Julie Bedford- ultra runner and triathlete

“I quit one addiction for another.” So admitted ultra runner and triathlete Julie Bedford. She was a smoker and became a runner, now having “run around 30 marathons.” She’s also completed 50- and 100-mile runs as well as Iron Man-length triathlons.

“I started running in my late 20s,” Bedford recalled, “about 17 years ago. I was always athletic, but never a runner.” She admitted “Matt,” her husband, “was the runner.”

One day, Matt issued a challenge of sorts. “He said, ‘If you want a real workout, go for a run with me.’ I did, but I was the smoker. I couldn’t finish.” But she kept at it, “for the exercise.”

Her first race was “a little 5K in Walled Lake. Then I finished the Crim,” she said, adding, “and smoked a cigarette. I was running and still smoking.”

Finally, “I quit smoking when I met Linda Armstrong. Linda was a marathon runner. She ripped on me, ‘How can you be a runner and a smoker?’” Armstrong issued yet another challenge, “Give up smoking and run a marathon.”

Bedford accepted and did the Free Press Marathon in 1993. “I was ecstatic,” she remembered, “finishing the marathon and quitting smoking.” As a bonus, “my mom quit with me, after 33 years of smoking.”

Although Matt had been running first, he hadn’t yet done a marathon. “He started training for one after my marathon. My second or third was his first.”

After running more than two dozen marathons, something changed. “I got to the point with my marathons where I was obsessed with my time. I had to be faster. I forgot why I was running.” Also, she thought the marathon wasn’t quite the challenge it had once been. “Matt and I asked each other, ‘Now what? We’ve met our time goals. We’ve run all over the world.’”

What came next were ultras. “They’re just as addicting. The ultra is totally different [than marathons]. People out there are hard core. The average ultra runner is over 50 [years old].”

In the competitive Bedford family, “Matt ran a 100 [miler]. I had to run one.” She chose the Mohican 100 in Ohio.

“On the morning of [the Mohican], I didn’t even know if I was going to do it.” Despite the doubts, she started. “I ran from 5 AM Saturday to 6 AM Sunday. We were running in the woods with little headlamps. It was awesome. I love running trails.”

Bedford remembered, “It was so much more of a mental challenge. But at 50 miles, I knew I was going to finish. I wasn’t going to stop.” Crossing the finish line at the Mohican ranks among her greatest thrills.

Another highlight was “running Pike’s Peak. I loved every minute of it. And I passed Matt—I actually passed Matt!” But, she added with a chuckle, “On the ground, he’s still way faster than me.”

Bedford has a “list” of life goals. Several she has already met, among them Pike’s Peak, the Big Sur Marathon, and running 100 miles. “One I haven’t done is climb Mt. McKinley” in Alaska at 20,320 feet.

Another goal, one she’s aiming to conquer soon, is to finish the Kona Iron Man Triathlon. She’s working with a coach, veteran Iron Man Triathlete Laura Sophiea. “I couldn’t do this without her. She knows how to do it.”

“Iron Man training is 100 times more intense than anything I trained for in running. It’s the same training as running, but you have to do it with biking and swimming, too.”

Right now, she is in her base training, “a lot of speed work,” such as intervals in all three activities. Base training will be followed by two “build phases.” Then, there’s the “peak period” of 4-6 weeks, “real intense.” While peaking, she’ll train on “two disciplines a day.” Finally, like running, comes the taper.

So far, things seem to be working. At the world half Iron Man Triathlon, Bedford “finished 12th of over 100 in my age-group.” As important to her was that “the entire Iron Man, I didn’t look at my watch. I didn’t get caught up with my time. I’ve learned to let go of that.”

She laughed, “With the Iron Man training, I’m running faster than ever. Does that make sense?” “Sense” or not, she cited the JFK 50-miler in Washington, DC, her second. “I took two hours off my previous time.”

She speculated, “Maybe it [triathlon training] takes some focus [pressure] off running. Maybe it’s the cross training.”

Besides wife, ultra runner, and triathlete, did I mention Bedford is also mother to two young sons and an elementary school principal????

Kona appears to be well within her sights. Mt. McKinley, look out! Julie Bedford is on the way.

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