Runner Profile:  Julie Balmer

Julie Balmer would currently be considered as one of Northern Ireland’s leading female distance runners, but the success that the Newtownards based lady has enjoyed this year (2013) has surprised even her!  In the last six weeks Julie has won the Belfast Marathon, Newry Half Marathon, Larne Half Marathon and finished as runner up to Breege Connolly at Runher Coastal Challenge (10k).

Immediately after winning the Larne Half Marathon, Julie took some time to answer a few questions for us. Please have a read at Julie’s ‘Runner Profile’:

Full Name:  Julie Anne Hilary Balmer

Current Category:  Female Vet35

Associated Club:  North Down AC

Personal Bests:  5k – 19:05, 5 miles – 29:57, 10k 37:55, 7 miles – 44:22, 10 miles – 1:04:35, Half Marathon (13.1m) – 1:23:21, Marathon (26.2m) – 2:57:50

What is your favourite Northern Ireland event?  Ards Half Marathon – Of course!  It’s my home town, my home gym marshals.  I run past my primary school, my parents’ road and the church I grew up in.  So it sparks so many memories and has amazing support.  Probably because I know the whole town and the course is my training ground.

When did you start running?  2008 – I walked/jogged Belfast marathon, I then won my first ever race, the 5km Race for Life.  I joined North Down AC in 2009 after winning my first ever 10k race, which was the Runher event.

Why do you run?  I love being outside, it’s time out from work, people and quality thinking time.   In the summer it’s a great way to get a tan! But even in snow, rain and hail I always feel better and have more energy after any runs.

What is your next race and what do you want from it?  I’m delighted to say I am writing this after just winning Larne half for the first time and I’m gradually ticking off the Half Marathon’s on my holiday countdown!  So now my next race is Lisburn Half Marathon and then Ards Half Marathon, when school’s out for the summer.

What is your favourite training ‘session’?  Definitely the long run – it can never be too long.  I got carried away this Easter in sunny Spain and ran 26.5 miles.

What is your favourite pre-race and post-race meals?  I’m a creature of habit and stick to what I’ve done from the start.  As a coealic I work through food pretty quickly especially in races and long runs pre-marathon.  So pre-race is always Spaghetti Bolognese with pasta and pitta bread, followed by a large bag of butterkist popcorn, a few chocolate caramels and Haribo sweets. Sometimes I would have a protein shake just before bed.

Post-race is always meal with at least 6 people, friends, family or both.  Always either dinner in a restaurant, our house, a friends house or my parents.  If I’m out I’ll have fish, friends/family/us usually do chicken/ beef or lamb.  It usually depends on time of year whether it’s Sunday roast or a BBQ.  Usually this is accompanied by rice or potatoes as unless I’m at home I can’t get gluten free pasta or bread.  Definitely a glass or wine (or two).  Sometimes Cava or a cocktail especially if my dad’s paying! It doesn’t matter if I win or not I just celebrate being blessed to be able to run each race.

What is your running ambition?  I would love to run with Paula Radcliffe, or even meet her.  I watched the Olympic Marathon in London last year, which had a broad range of finishing times.  Some of which I’ve achieved but the difference is the girls qualifying times or Nationality.  I’m not anywhere near the league of strong marathon girls we have in Northern Ireland, Ireland and Britain.

What would you consider your greatest achievement in running to be?  Running in the elite of the Great North Run was a brilliant experience.  Racing with only 30 others at the start, having “Balmer” on my number, wearing an “elite athlete” wristband and having the whole motorway closed for us girlies.  It was great meeting amazing athletes like Mo Farrah, Wilson Kipsang,  Jo Pavey and Freya Murray.

You have enjoyed a lot of success recently; winning the Decathlon Half Marathon, the Belfast City Marathon, then you were second in the Runher Coastal Challenge less than 48 hours before winning the Newry Half Marathon.  Are you happy with how things are going at the moment?  I’m in shock!  Normally I have 2 days rest before I race, not half a day.  I never take winning for granted.  I’ve known pain of injury and 6 months without running; when I watched the London Marathon 3 years ago on crutches, rather than running it.  Every race is a joy to take part in, but usually I know my place before I start, sometimes, especially recently, I’ve been so amazingly surprised.  It was funny today (Saturday 9th June 2013), because when I first ran Larne Half Marathon 4 years ago I was 4th in a time of 1:24. Each year since I’ve been 3rd, 2nd then 1st today but all in 1:24! I’m not getting any quicker, but I’m getting older so at least I’m consistent.   Some races I give everything and I know others I have more left when I finish, buts it’s too late – I’m still learning, every days a school day.

In May 2013, you were they first ever recipient of the Moira O’Neill trophy, for your win in the Belfast Marathon.  How did this make you feel? It was such a surprise and a privilege; it was an emotional occasion.  I don’t feel a worthy recipient as I’m too slow and Belfast this year was my slowest marathon in the five that I have done.  The trophy is fabulous and is currently sitting pride of place on our mantelpiece.  It will be wonderful to look back at it when I’m 75, it will mean even more.

What other sports do you like?  I do Pilates and Yoga, as I’m a firm believer in core strength and stretching to maintain the muscles and try to keep injury free.  I do swimming (more Jacuzzi) and cycle very slowly – no joke I run the same pace as I cycle! I also do body pump (weights to music) twice a week on Doctor’s orders as I’ve osteoporosis, so it strengthen the bones.