Running is a part of her.
About 16 years ago, Youngsville High School graduate Julie Rock Talbot ran the Chicago Marathon for the first time.
The 26.2-mile race - established in 1977 with only 4,200 participants - has grown into a massive event now limited by necessity to 45,000 runners. As Julie ran by the shore of Lake Michigan, she knew she had found a love for life; the large running community welcomed her, and just as the marathon itself matured into a highly-celebrated event, so has Julie grown into celebrated runner.
Photos submitted to Times Observer
Runner of the Year
Julie Rock Talbot pre-race at the Chicago Half-marathon in September of 2013 (this pic was in the Competitor magazine profile feature in the May 2014 edition). Talbot, a Youngsville High School graduate, was recognized as Chicago Area Runners Association Female Masters Runner of the Year for 2014 in that edition.
Photos submitted to Times Observer
Julie Rock Talbot running high school cross country for Youngsville High School in 1988. Talbot, a Youngsville High School graduate, was recognized as Chicago Area Rinners Association Female Masters Runner of the Year for 2014 in the May 2014 edition of Competitor magazine.
Last month, after completing her first racing circuit after a 12-year break from the sport, Talbot, 41, and mother of three, was named Chicago Area Runners Association Female Masters Runner of the Year.
"Running is absolutely a part of my identity," said Julie, who since has been featured in May edition of Competitor magazine. "It's right up there with being a mother and wife. Being a runner allows me to be a better person because it gives me precious 'me' time. It's that important."
Running, at its core, is an individual sport that allows athletes to take more pride in their personal records than a team victory. Julie bucks that notion.
"I crave being around other people, having like interests, and being on a team," she said. "Socially and physically, it's great. The people I train with are my friends. Three days a week of training - sometimes five, races, social events... it's such a great environment. Everyone wants you to do your best. I feel so blessed."
Julie ran cross country and track for Youngsville High School.
"I don't really remember way back then," she said. "I ran because I wasn't coordinated enough to do other sports. I did the sports that I was the best at. Not that I was necessarily good at it then."
When she comes back home, she goes to some of the old running routes from those days.
"The hills bring back good memories," she said. "It's so much different than running in the city. My first real race when I moved to Chicago was Run for the Zoo, and I can remember everything about it, the 'L' train to get there, the lakeshore... that's kind of mental to me. Running is my therapy."
Talbot didn't run at all when she attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She chose to focus on her major as a dietician and later she moved to Chicago to pursue a Masters degree in Nutrition.
Her modesty, present in the stories about her past and her dialogue, has percolated through her entire demeanor, and pours out whenever she's asked about her accomplishments.
When asked about setting the 800-meter record in the Warren County Track Meet, she replied, "I don't know how impressive it is, but that's what my dad tells me. He likes to keep up on that. I just read about so many people being faster than me. It puts my accomplishments in perspective."
Those accomplishments, however, are more astounding than she leads on.
After 12 years off from running to have children and settle down in a suburb northwest of downtown Chicago, Julie ran the Wisconsin Marathon with little training and finished with a time of 3:29:11. It was good enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon, again, which she ran in 2001.
In 2013, she ran 16 races and set personal records in each one.
"For me, I want to be outside and healthy," she said. "I know when I was growing up, we played outside all day long, it was never a question, and I've always been competitive. I feel that in me all of the time. I have teammates that won't go a hundred percent during a race, or slow down to help a teammate. I wish I could do that sometimes."
Instead, Julie pushes herself to be the best - the best mother, wife, daughter, and, of course, runner. Her husband, Scott Talbot, has taken on the role as coach of Julie's personal cheering squad, made up of her three children: seven-year-old Sadie, Evan, who is four, and the youngest, Brady, is two.
"My husband is very supportive," she said. "I wouldn't be able to do one single thing that I did last year without him. He has that magazine article (a page-long feature in Competitor magazine recognizing Julie for this year's award) at his work, and shows his clients and everyone he works with. In order for me to get to a race or track meet, I take the kids to his work. There's a lot that he does, so that I can do what I want."
Family has always been a source of inspiration and motivation for the Warren County native. Her father, Dennis, was a runner in high school, joined the military, and raised three successful children with his wife, Anne. In 2000, Julie and Dennis ran their first marathon together in Chicago. Dennis was 53 at the time.
Julie says that age will not keep her from striving for greatness.
"I'm going to keep running, and hopefully stay competitive," she said. "Setting PR's in your 40's isn't typical, but I train hard, and I enjoy it now more than ever. I run 3-to-5 days a week, do weight training at the gym on the other days, and I try to get one rest day. With three kids, I run early in the morning, meeting people at 5:30 a.m., and then I come home to do the breakfast thing for the kids."
The Dick Pond Fast Track Racing Team, which Julie joined after a chance meeting with another runner in Busse Woods not far from her home, has allowed her children to get involved in the sport as well.
"I would like them to be in any type of sport as long as they find something they like," she said. "That's what's important: being part of a team, having a goal, gaining accomplishments, and doing it together. Our track team has a kids' night... They're pretty excited about it. They get medals, 'just like mommy,' they say."
Julie has hit a stride that she doesn't want to break. Although a nagging hamstring injury kept her from running the Boston Marathon this year, her desire to get back to the internationally-respected race has been heightened.
"The injury is all cleared up and healed, it just wasn't healed when I wanted to be training for Boston," she said. "I hadn't run a marathon in 12 years and still qualified without much training. I was really excited to go. Missing out on that was hard, so I'm sure I'll register for next year's."
In the meantime, Julie continues to train, and loves every second of it.
It's a part of her.