CINCINNATI - Julie Isphording truly experienced the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat in the 1984 Olympics.
I've known Julie since 1986, but when I was asked to interview her for a story about a local Olympian, I was beyond impressed with what it takes to compete at that level.
Sporting that trademark smile a mile wide, Julie Isphording came from behind to win a position on the 1984 Olympic team.
"You're running this race, and you're thinking, 'Wow! I'm running this race,'" Isphording recalled.
"The Olympics were in L.A. so we stayed in dorms. My roommate was Mary Lou Retton," she added.
Along with her good friend Joan Benoit, Isphording ran in the first-ever women's Olympic marathon.
"The gun goes off and I was in the best shape of my life and running with the lead pack and things were clicking," Isphording said.
"At mile 10 and half, my foot collapsed. I fell to the pavement, and was picked up by an ambulance at mile 11. My parents were still waiting for me at the stadium."
How does she deal with what might have been?
"Back then, it was devastating," Isphording said. "My gosh, I failed at the Olympics, I used to whisper about it. As you go and look back, I'm grateful I had the opportunity. It's part of an athlete's life."
And she's still leading that athlete's life. Hauling herself out of bed at 4:15 a.m., and pounding the pavement before the sun comes up.
"I'm kind of slow now, but I still feel good, 'til I look at myself in a store front, and I think, 'Oh, gosh, I don't look like I thought I did.'"
The injury that brought her down in '84 turned out to be a disc in her back. Doctors told her she would never run again. But with surgery, rehab and determination, Isphording returned to L.A. And so did the smile.
"I actually went back to the L.A. marathon course, the same course where I dropped out at mile 11, and won the darn thing," Isphording said.
Does Isphording have any regrets?
"I have zero regrets, I'm only grateful," Isphording said. "I loved the competition, running, training, everything it brought me."
And what does she do with that competitive drive now?
For the last several years, Isphording has been the director of Cincinnati's Thanksgiving Day race, which is up to 16,000 runners. She's not running in it, but says seeing that starting line every November is an Olympic moment for her.
"I still feel like that same Julie Isphording runner who competed 28 years ago and I still get that same joy."
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