Name: Julia Lucas
Hometown: Charlotte, NC
Current Residence: Eugene, OR
Years competing: 15
How did you get started in your sport?
I started running as a high school freshman because extra carriculars were pushed at my school and because cross country was the only team that didn’t make cuts. Before that, I was the quintessentail nerd – Head gear, reading during recess, and very unathletic. In fact, that’s all still mostly true. I joke that I’m the least athletic professional athlete of all time, and any teammate who’s ever seen me in the gym will attest to that.
What are some notable highs from your career?
I was a six-time North Carolina high school state champion, a five-time NCAA All-American and a three-time ACC champion for NC State. I haven’t had much success yet as a professional runner. This year has been an enormous turning point and really something like a dream. I’m counting on extending that list in the near future.
What is the lowest point you’ve experienced? How did you bounce back?
In 2007 I had just graduated college, signed a small contract with a shoe company and headed West to train at 8,000 ft in Mammoth Lakes, California. Two years later I was injured, my contract wasn’t renewed, and I was running slower than I had in years. At that I was off the radar. I’m sure any fan of the sport would have assumed I had retired, if they remembered me at all. It seemed like all signs were pointing to my retirement. It would have been very reasonable to retire then, given that I was making no money and not improving.
My path back began in 2010, when I joined the Oregon Track Club along with my husband, Ian Dobson. Being allowed to join the team, at that point, was my own good luck. I was severely outclassed. But, I fell into a wonderful situation, with coaches, teammates, and a town that sort of nursed me back to health, and back into love with the sport.
What are your goals, both short term and long term?
My very short term goal is to make the 2012 Olympic team in the 5k. I’m also planning on making the final in the Olympic 5k, and running under 15 minutes this summer.
In the long term, honestly it’s hard to say now, because this success is so new and I don’t know in what direction it’ll take me. I think that, if I stay with the 5k, I can break the American record of 14:44.
Would 2012 be your first Olympic team? If not, what is your fondest Olympic memory?
Yes, it would be.
What surprises have you experienced in your career?
I’m not sure if I’ve ever been surprised in the sport. My goals and dreams are always so far beyond my current ability level, that I couldn’t possibly surprise myself, not even if I won an Olympic gold. That’s funny to think about, because this year does seem like it should be surprising, but really, this is what I was going for all along, it’s why I stayed with the sport for three unhappy, unrewarding years. So, I can’t be surprised when it happens.
What brought you to Oregon?
Coach Mark Rowland and the Oregon Track Club. My husband, Ian, and I spoke to him and his athletes and just knew it was right. Coach Rowland is a tough, direct, abrasive character with an old-school, keep it simple approach, and his athletes were like a goofy high-school cross country team. We fit right in.
What is your favorite thing about Oregon athletically?
There are so many trails and beautiful places to run, and so much support in the community. There’s a city-wide system of trails that’s never more than a jog away, and the number of devoted community athletes on the trails every morning is impressive. You can’t forget, running here, that you’re a part of a greater running community, and that we’re all doing the same thing.
When you’re not training or competing, what do you like to do?
I read a lot, write some, bike lazily and aimlessly around town, and sing loudly, poorly and constantly.
Favorite restaurant? Favorite hangout?
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