Eeekk! I feel like my 11 year old, Olympic obsessed self has just resurfaced! (Who am I kidding...she's never left!) Back in 1996 - I was a competitive gymnast and completely enamored with all things Atlanta Olympics. If you had told me that one day I would be interviewing an athlete in the 96 games I would have never have believed you! Well - it happened! One of my FAVORITE parts about having this blog is the amazing people I have "met" all over the country from it! Just last week, I spent some time on the phone getting to know the amazing Juli Benson. I'm so excited to spotlight her today!
Not only is Juli an amazing athlete, she is also a coach AND wife of a college football coach. Talk about a busy family! Juli is married to Bob Benson - the associate Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator for University of Pennsylvania. She is the proud step-mom of a talented 11 year girl and the loving owner of a special needs yorkie/maltese mix.
As an athlete, she was an All-American in the 1500m at James Madison University and graduated in 1992. Because of her love of competing she went on to run after college and represented the United States at the Olympic Games in 1996.
She currently coaches a group of professional runners based in Colorado Springs, but prior to that she was a NCAA cross country coach for 15 years. She coached at James Madison University, Georgetown University, George Mason University and the United States Airforce Academy. She has worked with multiple All-Americans, National Record holders and a World Champion. Soon she will be sharing her coaching expertise to women of all levels through her online run coaching programs!
How did you get started running?
Began running in elementary school. I loved it because I could run faster than all the boys!!
Have you always loved running best? Did you do any other sports?
I was so fortunate to be involved in many different sports and credit that, in part, to any success I found with running. I did not specialize in running until my junior year in high school.
What is your favorite distance to run?
My favorite distance to run would be the 400m. I absolutely loved all of the sprinting events but I was lucky in that I have always been surrounded by coaches that recognized my potential in the longer running events. I had a good combination of speed and endurance which suited me more in the middle distance events rather than the sprints.
What was your best memory of the Olympic Games?
My favorite moment was walking in the the Olympic Stadium for the first time at the Opening Ceremonies. That moment was truly magical, the realization that I really was a United States Olympian. During the Ceremonies, I was able to meet many members of the US Basketball team (aka The Dream Team).
Running has taken you all over the world. Where was your most memorable run?
I could never pick just one!! I have run in some spectacular places worldwide but I have to say, few locations match the beauty of running through the Redwood Forest right here in the USA.
Do you still compete?
I don't compete anymore and I do miss it. However, I am very focused on the athletes I coach and it does not leave me much time to train for any sort of competition. I had my time and I am very,very motivated to help other runners reach their pinnacle now!
If you're not running, how do you like to stay active?
I rarely have a day when I don't do at least some sort of activity. Unlike my competitive days, I love mixing it up and enjoy yoga, swimming, creating my own circuit training!!
What's your favorite pre-run fuel?
Yogurt and fruit or toast with peanut butter.
What is the best advice anyone has ever given you?
"Don't worry so much about things you can't control" This was TREMENDOUS advice to me as a competitor but I have found it's so true in most aspects of life.
What is the biggest challenge in balancing running, being a football wife and mom and everything else you have on your plate?
By far and away, the biggest challenge is being separated from my family during competitions and training camps.
Tell me a little bit about YOUR coaching career.
I was lucky enough to gain some coaching experience while I was in grad school and became hooked instantly. Collegiately, I have coached at my Alma Mater, James Madison University, Georgetown University, George Mason University, and lastly at The United States Air Force Academy. I have worked with professional athletes since 2005 and continue to do so. My career highlights have been coaching Olympians, national record holders, and a World Champion. I have also coached 2 NCAA runner-ups which was incredibly rewarding as both athletes were extreme"underdogs". In each case, the athlete and I were so confident approaching the meet that big things were going to happen so when they were successful, we enjoyed the shock of the other athletes and coaches!!
Have many moves have you made as a coaching family?
We've moved 3 times!
Do you have a favorite motivational quote?
Any foods you absolutely avoid?
Olives but only because I don't like them!
It's a splurge day - what's your go-to food?
Homemade Chips and Salsa for sure!!
What is your favorite sport to watch? To participate in?
My favorite sport to watch are any during the summer Olympic Games, Penn Football, and Dallas Cowboy football!
What is your typical football game day routine?
I get a workout done in the morning to calm my nerves and I like to sit in the stands alone to watch, obviously this isn't always possible, but it's my favorite way to concentrate on the game!!
What would you tell someone who is just starting to run?
Be patient with yourself. Also, even the best runners in the world feel AWFUL some days and it is even tough for them to get out the door at times!!
Fit Life in the Spotlight is a regular feature on Home Field Fitness. I love sharing what fit and healthy women in the sports world are doing! They sure motivate me - and my hope is that they will motivate you too! If you know someone (or you yourself) that should be featured here - send me a message!
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It's great to see you! I'm Alyssa and I blog about all the things I've found "essential" in my life as a fit mama and football coach's wife. You'll find all kinds of fun stuff here like workouts, oily info, football stories and more!
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