Newspaper Interview with Julia Peck
By WILLIAM HANLON
Watching the Kirk family -- Culpeper Regional Hospital Chairman Lee Kirk, his wife, Kim, and their three children -- all taking part in some capacity in the Clairmont 5K run last weekend, Julia Peck saw one of the many things she likes about running and organizing events in Culpeper. “It’s a great sport, a healthy, family activity,” said Peck, a veteran runner and event organizer who serves as president of the Culpeper Road Runners chapter.
The 5K in the Clairmont neighborhood last weekend was the second Peck has organized there this year, and she’s got another one lined up for Aug. 26. Attendance at last weekend’s event was sparse, but she’s confident the next 5K will bring out more people. “I know there are a lot of runners out there,” Peck said. “We just have to reach them.” The Clairmont events are inexpensive -- only $5 -- and low pressure, Peck said. “The emphasis is on having fun.”
Peck, now 43, began running as a college student at the University of Virginia. She ran her first competitive race in the early 1980s in Richmond, where she was then living, and has been hooked ever since. As she got more and more interested in running, fitness in general began to fascinate her and has become a way of life for her.. Peck was then working at Henrico Doctor’s Hospital, where she organized and implemented a fitness/wellness program for her employer. “I looked around me, and I saw my peers smoking, and caring less about health issues that mattered to me , and it really bothered me,” Peck said. In addition to setting up a “corporate challenge” to motivate hospital employees to live a healthier lifestyle, Peck organized a race, and once again she was hooked.
Since moving to Culpeper with her family -- which includes Randy Peck, a local physician, daughter Caren,15, and son Robbie, 13 -- 13 years ago, Peck has organized many running events here. And in 1996 she , helped organize the local chapter of the Culpeper Road Runners. “I kept waiting for a running club [to be formed] here, similar to what I belonged to in Richmond ,Virginia . . . [local attorney] Jere [Willis] and I ran together, and we talked about forming a club, and finally we just sat down and did it.”
The organization now has about 50 families, Peck said. And its mission, as stated on its web site (www.culpeper-roadrunners.com) is “to meet the needs of the leisure and competitive runners and walkers in the area . . . to provide fun runs and walks for all ages and athletic abilities while promoting health and fitness education in the community.”
Janice Fristad serves as vice president of the club, and its advisory committee is made up of Dr. Russell Brear, Karen Smith-Gerndt, Kathy Godfrey, Patty Hicks, Donald Hume, Kim Kirk, Jere Willis, Catherine Lee and Susan Gloudeman.
Peck said that in addition to organizing its own events, the Road Runners group is willing to help charitable organizations in the area set up fund-raising running activities. “We’re more than happy to help out the community in any way we can,” she said. “We have the necessary equipment to set up a finish line . . .all you do is bring your runners and a handful of dedicated volunteers, and we do the rest."[
Peck -- who holds a black belt in taekwondo, works as a ski instructor in the winter and is a certified personal trainer -- is no stranger to races of longer distances than five kilometers (3.1 miles). She has run two marathons (her best time is just over four hours) and is now training -- with Culpeper County Middle School physical education teacher Cathy Lee -- for her third in Richmond in November.
“Our training schedule is quite structured..,” Peck said of their training regimen. “after a good 6 mile base, we add one mile to our long runs each weekend. Our goal is to run 22-24 miles [the distance of a marathon is 26.2 miles] . . .up to two or three weeks before the event.. I couldn’t do this by myself . . . Cathy and I motivate each other..
In addition to her weekly runs with Lee, she puts in another 20-30 miles on her own each week, usually in increments of five to seven miles. In addition to her running , Peck is also involved in mountain biking and triathlons. “That’s my real passion,” she said of triathlons, events that involve three different sports (she enters those that include running, biking and swimming). “I’ve done over 30 of them in the past 15 years.”
Her life goal, she said, is to compete in a “full Ironman” event, such as the one in Hawaii that includes a 2.4-mile swim in the ocean and a 112-mile bike ride over a lava field, concluding with a full marathon run. She has been trying to qualify for the last three years.. “There’s got to be a reason why I haven’t qualified yet [for an Ironman competition],” Peck said. "I do believe in fate, and when the right time comes I will be on that starting line .. . .maybe I haven’t done enough half Ironman distances, which I feel is necessary for mental conditioning.."
Late last month, Peck completed one such half Ironman event in Muncie, Ind., swimming 1.2 miles, riding 56 miles on a bike and running 13.1 miles. She completed the event in six and a half hours. She has now taken part in two half-Ironman events, Peck said, and plans to enter another one in October in North Carolina.
To qualify for an Ironman, athletes need to finish in the top two in their age group in a USA Triathlon sanctioned half-Ironman event held nationally, or get picked from an annual lottery, the odds of which are quite small. She’s determined to qualify, however.
“Oh, I’m going to do it,” she said. “If I have to wait until I’m 80, I’m going to do it. If I have to crawl across the finish line, I’m going to do it . . . I learned a lot about perseverance in my martial arts training. It changed me in a lot of ways, for the better. It made me more goal-oriented and taught me about discipline and courage..
Why does she want to set such a difficult-to-attain goal and subject herself to such rigors in its pursuit?
“I don’t really know for sure,” she says with a laugh. “ . . . sometimes you get a better sense of control over your life [by training for and completing such difficult tasks] . . you become more confident and self assured along the way...but you have to be careful to set realistic goals.....all this helps me deal with everything else in life... I’ve done so many, it’s a lifestyle. It’s a life commitment...it keeps me happy..."
And what does her family think of her devoting so much time and energy to her athletic pursuits? “They support me,” Peck said. “The kids are happy as long as I’m happy. . . . They know I’m more pleasant to be around [when I’m working out] . . . I'll check in with them sometimes and I'll ask them if they are ok with all this.’ They usually are . .
Neither of Peck’s children are involved with competitive running, which is fine with her. She didn’t get started until she was in college, Peck said, and she’s now going strong in her 40s. If she’d started earlier, she surmises, perhaps her enthusiasm would already have waned.
But for those youths who do compete in running, Peck is there to help supply “a platform” on which they can perform. “There are a lot of talented young runners in the area,” she said. “Part of what I want to do with Culpeper Road Runners is give them the opportunity to compete in fun, inexpensive events locally.”
....and all the organizing, running and competing helps keep Peck young herself. “I have more energy now than I did when I was in my early 30s,” she says “birthdays never scare me, it's a mind set I have...I believe you are only as young as you feel...or in other instances...as old as you feel....you choose..."
Article courtesy of Culpeper News Online