An Interview with Julia Webb

julia2As many of you know from Catnip’s recent post or various other sources, Julia Webb broke the world record for 10k run “pushing a pram” at the Run Like Hell 10k in Portland, OR on October 26 by over four minutes! We were very excited to get the opportunity to talk with Julia about her recent race, running with a stroller, balancing training/parenting/working schedules and many other things! The questions below were contributed by many of the bloggers here at Salty running including Gingko, Salty, Vanilla, Chamomile, Catnip, Jasmine and myself (Oregano). So read on for some great information from Julia, who is a fantastic runner and person!

1)      To start off, can you tell us a bit about yourself like where you’re from and when you started running?

I grew up in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, playing basketball and many other sports, but not running. The weekend before senior year started, my mom finally convinced me to try a 5K race. Wearing basketball shoes and a heavy sweatshirt, I finished 2nd in 21:10 behind a local high school coach who suggested that I should go out for the cross country team, and I thought, why not?

When I stepped on the line of my first XC race 3 weeks later, I had a lot to prove and found leading my team and pushing my body to the limit to be the ultimate thrill. My eagerness caught up to me though, and while I continued to improve all fall, by winter I was wearing myself out, had low iron, and was sick constantly. I ran 11:15 for 3200 and 5:17 for 1600 but fell short of making it to state.

I opted to run collegiately at the D3 level the following year at University of Wisconsin- La Crosse where eventually I became an 11 time All American and in 2004 won D3 nationals in the 3000m steeplechase in 10:26.

After college I was eager to continue running at a high level, feeling I could have much more success if I found the balance between training hard and training smart. Since then, outside of running, Alan and I married, moved across the country 3x, had a baby and moved again just this past week!

Run Like Hell Race Start!
Run Like Hell 10k Race Start!

2)      Can you tell us a little bit about your recent world record-breaking 10k with a stroller? 

I put a pretty thorough race recap on my blog. Check it out for the details!

3)      How do you find/make time to train while having a toddler and juggling your and Alan’s schedules?

I am in a transition period right now, so I’m trying to figure this one out! At the moment I have been forgoing the beautiful 75 degree weather and hitting up the gym for the childcare it provides so I can run stroller free. For workouts I will coordinate a few hours when Alan is in between training sessions (usually during my daughter’s afternoon nap).

Although I am still competing at the high level of my ability, my lifestyle is not that of an elite athlete (I can’t afford to take long naps, relax in between training, get frequent treatment such as massage, spend tons of time on supplemental activities, etc), which then limits how many miles I can realistically put in and the intensity of workouts I can perform. I never make an excuse not to run, but when you are a working mom you can’t easily fit in the quality you need.

My order of priorities are  #1 being a mom #2 supporting my husband #3 relaunching my career in marketing, coaching #4 running/training. I still try my best to treat my body right and aspire to live like an elite, because no matter how much is on my plate, I still love to race hard and often, taking myself seriously enough to at least try to squeeze out improvement each year.

Bundled for sub-zero temps in Colorado!
Bundled for sub-zero temps in Colorado!

4)      How do you train with a stroller? Easy runs or workouts? And if you do workouts, how do you modify them to take the stroller into account?

I only run easy with the stroller (or attempt to). I never do intervals with the stroller, but once in a while do my longer runs with Joanie (up to 14 miles). Occasionally I will warm up/cool down on workout days with the stroller, but it doesn’t make sense to do hard workouts with it.

5)      How do you think running with a stroller affects your form when racing? Do you swing one arm and push with the other? Or do you push with both hands? How do you ensure that your overall running form isn’t negatively impacted by training with a stroller? And how much do you think running with a stroller slows you down?

I have only experienced racing with it one time, but I know that it definitely doesn’t help my form. I only push with one hand and try to switch, but I definitely favor a side. I have seen some people pushing with 2, but that doesn’t seem natural at all. I try to remember to stay taller and use my glutes to push (I know it’s working when my butt is burning and I don’t feel it as much in my hips), but I could use work! I would assume it slows me down at least 30 seconds per mile, more if I’m already tired going into the run or having to deal with hills, rough terrain, wind or altitude. (I have tried a hilly run in Mammoth Lakes with my daughter at 8000 ft on a windy day and it was a miserable experience)!

6)      What type of stroller do you run with? Is this the same stroller that you raced with? What are your tips for finding a good fast stroller?

I have only tried/trained/raced with my Mountain Buggy Terrain. I suppose it’s biased to say I love it, because I have never tried another brand, but so far no complaints!

7)      How heavy was the  stroller & child that you pushed in your race? Do you do any type of cross-training or lifting to increase upper arm strength?

My daughter weighs about 28 lbs and the baby Ruby I pushed in the race weighed a lot less (only 14 lbs) but it never seems too much strain on my upper body. Occasionally my forearms will get tired, but I believe it takes more hip and core strength than arms. The more you push the stroller, the more your body will adapt to it, like any type of training. But to supplement, I do body weight strength 3x a week such as pull-ups, pushups, dips, and core work… occasionally some free weights but I haven’t been serious about any real lifting for years. I was aspiring to swim over the summer but haven’t been motivated for that in a while.julia_track

8)      We’ve heard that you are lobbying for a stroller championship. Who would you consider your closest rivals if it could take place? What rules do you think would be necessary in order to make it a fair race?

It would be really fun! I would love to race against Sara Vaughn, Sara Slattery (only now she’s pregnant), Kara Goucher (she hates stroller running but she would still kick my butt), or even better invite some women who don’t have kids and see how they fare (that includes dealing with any distractions the baby might provide). As far as rules, pretty simple – have a kid (6 months + ) in a stroller. If I ever race again, I do plan to use my own child, it just happened to be the timing of the race that led me to run with my friend’s daughter instead of my own.

9)      What are you training for right now? Any big goals in the future?

Currently I am getting ready for USATF Club Cross Country Nationals in December – with my goal realistically being in the top 30-50. A month ago, I felt like my fitness was on the upswing and thought top 10-15 was realistic, but with a lot of life changes I have to reassess reality and my goals. This past week our family temporarily relocated to Phoenix, AZ and just weeks before that I acquired a new job as a run specialist for the KOR Physical Therapy. Those stresses have affected my ability to prioritize running, which I am ok with, as I need/want to have my family/career ahead of my hobby of running. In transitions, I know I have to take a step back and it will take time to adjust and eventually find out how much I can put into running. I don’t get paid to run, so I can’t live my life like I do.

After XC season I would like to explore more obstacle races, after the limited experience and amount of fun and success I experienced in my first 2 (at Warrior Dash – placed 3rd at World Champs).

strollerJulia10) What are your hobbies and interests outside of running?

I wish I had more time for this stuff, but to me running IS my main hobby/interest outside of normal family and work stuff. My husband says I am perfect for Portland, Oregon (where we currently reside) since I am a big running nerd. Outside of running I love watching dumb comedies, spending time with my 2 year old, blogging, hanging at coffee shops, and taking the time to go to church/pray. In my old life (when I had some free time)- doing crosswords and playing fun games like Bananagrams or Scrabble

11)   Is there anything else you would like to add?

I encourage all moms (and dads!) who enjoy running to consider getting a run stroller. If you are able to use it, it can be the most effective way to get back into pre-pregnancy shape and a fun outing not just for you but also for your child. I don’t have experience with more than one child, but I’ve seen people run even with a triple jog stroller! Many kids go through phases when they hate being in the stroller, but sometimes it just takes a lot of creativity, attention to timing and patience. When Joanie was between 3-6 months her stroller limit was about 25 minutes, but now she has outgrown that stage and runs up to 90 minutes with me! (But I still bring treats/iPhone for the extra long runs).


Thank you Julia for taking the time to answer our questions and good luck at Club Cross Nationals!! 

I'm a proud resident of Portlandia, ex-running store employee, pulmonary emboli conquerer and connoisseur of high fives. I write about running community, trail running/training and anything else that grabs my immediate interest. I'm currently running for fun with my crazy friends - no races on the horizon YET.

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