Athlete Spotlight - Julie Culley

Athlete Spotlight - Julie Culley

Provided by USATF

Julie Culley spent Wednesday driving up the Atlantic coast from Virginia towards New Jersey. She had wanted to make the trip by train over the weekend, but travel became difficult.

Culley, a 2012 Olympian and Olympic Trials champion in the 5,000 meters, has been training in northern Virginia and had plans to travel home to stay with her family. It was supposed to be a week to relax and Culley’s final preparation for Sunday’s New York City Marathon, which will be her career debut at that distance.

But then Hurricane Sandy interfered.

“It has been a bit of a distraction,” Culley said Wednesday via telephone as she drove towards New Jersey. “It has been kind of difficult. I am an emotional person and its tough thinking about all the people affected. Hopefully I will be able to focus on the race. Hopefully it will be a good thing to help in the relief.”

For Culley the effects of Hurricane Sandy have hit close to home. Her family was forced to evacuate their vacation home on Long Beach Island and return to Clinton, N.J., to their other home, which was without power. They remain unsure to the extent of damage to their house on Long Beach Island.

It is for these reasons Culley will take a heavy heart through the 26.2 mile run from Staten Island to Central Park.

“During times like this you usually find strength in something bigger than yourself,” she said. “There are people without power. Their homes are gone. It’s important to me that I honor the situation.”

An alumna of Rutgers University, the New York City Marathon was to serve as a homecoming for Culley. She hopes the decision to run the marathon will be beneficial in helping the people of New York to heal.

Despite the distraction and devastation, Culley’s training has continued with little interruption. Between her travels home and following closely with her family’s situation, she hasn’t missed any important steps in her preparation.

Culley had plans to make her marathon debut in New York since the fall of 2011 when she rode on the lead women’s vehicle. It was the second of two goals she and her coached laid out at the beginning of the year – qualify for Team USA for the London Olympics and run a time under two hours and 34 minutes in a fall marathon.

“It has been a long time coming,” Culley said of her path to the New York City Marathon. “We started talking about it last fall. We made this a second goal for the year and I wanted to see what my abilities are. I wanted to dive into it to see if it is something I would be good at. There is not a lot of pressure.”

Culley raced the New York City Half Marathon earlier in 2012 and said a reason for the jump to the marathon was the simple lack of race distances between a half marathon and marathon.

An experienced distance runner, Culley admits there are some concerns over attempting a race for the first time. Those concerns are magnified when considering the extreme distance of a marathon.

“It’s not like a 5,000m when you can grind it out for the last 1,200 meters,” she joked. “I don’t have overly ambitious goals and I want it to be a positive experience. I’m optimistic.”

Following Sunday’s race Culley plans to take some much needed and much deserved time off following a long season.

“I will take about three weeks,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to that.”

Jared Slinde