Hometown Pride Helps Julie Tarallo Finish Fast in Boston

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Julie and her boyfriend Kevin McAllister after her 2014 Boston finish.

Julie Tarallo wears her love for the city of Boston on her face. She grew up in Easton, Massachusetts, just 30 minutes from downtown Boston. At her first Boston Marathon in 2013, she set a massive 18-minute marathon PR before bombs exploded at the finish line, devastating her beloved city.

Julie vowed to come back the following year and give the city the celebratory marathon day it deserved. But training for the 2014 Boston Marathon was full of setbacks and shortened training due to a nagging injury. Full of fiery passion and with a temporary Boston heart tattoo plastered on her face, Julie lined up anyway and nearly met her PR. Immediately following the race, she had to vigorously scrub the tattoo off her face and hop on a plane back to Washington, DC so she could make a job interview the next morning.

She’s excitedly training for her third Boston and once again has run into a few bumps along the way, including crazy work hours as John McCain’s press secretary and another nagging injury. But as her teammate on the Georgetown Running Club, I’ve watched Julie defy expectations each time she heads to Boston. More importantly, she makes sure to enjoy every second of the epic course. On April 18th, when she lines up with her usual Boston pride, no one should count her out from turning in another stellar performance. And she’ll certainly be running with a giant smile, showing her love for the city with every step.

What got you into running in the first place?

Growing up, I was a really big soccer player and we would always have a practice where we just ran. I found that maybe I wasn’t the speediest person but I could outlast everyone. In middle school I would go to the track with my dad once in a while, and maybe run a couple miles with him, and then in eighth grade I came in second in our school-wide mile race. And so I was like, “Huh…,” and my dad kept encouraging me. He said, “I think you’re going to be a runner and not a soccer player.” I didn’t want to hear it. But then I went to high school and actually decided to go out for cross-country instead of soccer and that year we won the state championship. I was on the varsity team so it was an exciting year and got me totally hooked on running, so I’ve been running ever since. I ran in college [for Colgate University] and found GRC after college.

Did you watch the Boston Marathon when you were younger?

I grew up going to the Boston Marathon. It always fell during April vacation so we would have a Monday workout, we’d call it the “marathon workout” and we’d do 16-20 400s really early. Then we would all take the train to Boston and watch the marathon. It was awesome; it was a big exciting thing. I was always like, “I have to do this someday.”

When did you start running marathons?

My college teammate and my college roommate decided to do one in the spring after we graduated. We ran the [2012] Pittsburgh Marathon and I trained, sort of, but I wasn’t doing any workouts. I did like one 20-mile run and maybe a few 15-milers here or there, but nothing crazy. We went out very conservatively, and it was a hilly course, but I was able to kind of pick up at the end. It was an awesome experience but with the type of marathon pain that you’ve never experienced in a race before, so it was challenging. But I felt good, like I had more to give, so I was excited to run another marathon to see what I could do.

I didn’t expect to qualify for Boston at that race and I did so I was pumped. I was definitely in, totally gung-ho for Boston. [Before Boston, Julie ran the Marine Corps Marathon that fall and set a 10-minute PR.]

What was running Boston like?

Julie enjoying herself on her way to a big PR in her first Boson.
Julie enjoying herself on her way to a big PR in her first Boson.

It’s funny, the first year I ran it, it was like nothing else I’d ever run before. From start to finish there are people all along the way, and I’m from Boston so I love the accents. You get so pumped up from the excitement of the crowd from start to finish. It’s really easy in a marathon to want to quit, but you look around at a certain point and you’re like, “Wow, this is really fun!” So I think it’s a mixture of the crowds and having a lot of fun with it that I always seem to get pushed along by the energy. And the last time I ran it, I came in with not great training, I had been dealing with a nagging injury but somehow the crowds just pushed me through and I was able to run pretty close to my PR. So that was exciting. [Julie set an 18-minute PR of 2:52:50 at her first Boston and ran 2:53:14 the following year.]

You always run well in Boston. Any tips for first timers?

It’s really easy to get really excited at the beginning because the crowds are really big, there’s a lot of excitement at the start, and it’s downhill for the first six miles. But don’t get too eager, you have a long way to go. Stay conservative in the beginning, but have fun with it, play off the crowds. Some kids will try to slap your hands, go with it. It’s such a fun atmosphere and I think using the crowds to your advantage is always the best. As for the hills, the placement is difficult, but if you can count them, know exactly how many there are, it’s not that bad. Once you get to the top of those hills it’s downhill for the rest of the way and the crowds are some of the biggest in the race. So once you get through the hills, it’s smooth sailing home.

What’s your favorite workout to prep for the marathon?

I like the long run tempos because you feel really accomplished at the end of those. So doing 20 miles with an 8-mile tempo at the end. I feel like those replicate the marathon more closely than anything else and when you can nail those it makes you feel much more confident in the marathon.

How do you fit training in with your job? 

It’s like anything else, you just have to manage your time. At first I kind of struggled with it, but now I’m sort of getting the hang of it. On days when I know I’m going to stay really late, I get up at the crack of dawn and just hammer it away really early in the morning. Some nights I have to work really late and haven’t run in the morning, I suck it up and go really late at night. So it’s just sort of figuring out time to fit it in and making it a priority is really how I do it.

My teammate Julie and me at 2014's California International Marathon
My teammate Julie and me at 2014’s California International Marathon

What keeps you motivated to continue to chase PRs with so much going on?

I think honestly I feel better after running. After putting in a really hard week of training I always feel way more accomplished and upbeat and happier than on a week when I don’t run at all. If I’m working a lot and take a week off, I just feel like crap and I feel guilty and it’s just like the worst feeling, so it’s always good to have that feeling that you feel accomplished. And also I just love the team atmosphere and being able to run with other people. My favorite thing is Saturday morning long runs with the team and having that to look forward to. Those things keep me going.

This will be your third Boston, what makes you keep coming back? 

There’s something about Boston that is so different from any other race and I think it just goes back to the fact that it’s a state holiday and everyone is there and the crowds are just so excited the whole way. There’s something special about it, you feel like you’re part of something bigger and it’s more prestigious. You know people who make it to Boston feel like it’s the pinnacle of the sport, and the crowds make you feel like it’s the pinnacle when you’re there. Just the whole feeling of the weekend is just extremely special and I think that’s why I like it. Also I’m from Boston and so my entire family comes out for it. It’s a big deal for them too, and we always celebrate so its fun. I just love it.

We hope third time is the charm for Julie in Boston! 

I'm a science journalist with a background in neuroscience and a love of running marathons and baking marathon-worthy feasts. I started out as an over four-hour marathoner but whittled my PR down to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Trials. I write about the importance of chasing big dreams and -- as I'm currently pregnant with my first -- getting ready to chase around a little one.

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  1. Very cool read! Monster PR’s and love that you get it all in with what I can only imagine to be a very demanding and stressful job! I agree about Boston, I count the hills in Newton and it definitely helps mentally. Good luck in 2 weeks!