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Judi St. Hilaire — April, 2021
Judi St. Hilaire was a 1992 United States Olympian, finishing eighth at 10,000 meters in Barcelona, Spain in a personal best time of 31:38.04 after placing third in the 1992 Olympic Trials. In 1991, Judi finished third in the U.S. Championships 3,000 meters which qualified her for the Tokyo World Championships where she finished seventh. At the 1985 World 15k Road Race Championships in Gateshead, England, St. Hilaire was Silver Medalist in 49:25. In her only marathon, she placed fifth at the 1984 NYC Marathon. One of the nation's most accomplished women's distance runners for over a decade, Judi won sixty road races out of a total of 119 podium top three finishes. She won the Crescent City Classic 10k five straight years from 1990 to 1994 and Manchester Thanksgiving Road five times (1985, 1988, 1989, 1992, 1993). Other top road wins include the 1989 Peachtree 10k, Maggie Valley 5-mile (1983, 1984,1985), Pittsburgh’s Great Race 10k (1991, 1992), 1996 Azalea Trail Run 10k, 1990 NYC Legg’s Mini-Marathon 10k, 1985 Utica Boilermaker 15k, 1990 Gasparilla 15k, Tulsa 15k (1990, 1992), 1983 New Haven 20k and 1982 Philadelphia Half Marathon. Judi competed for the University of Vermont, winning the 1980 AAU 10,000 meters, winning both the New England and ECAC 5,000 meters in 1979 and 1980 and finishing fourth at the 1980 AIAW Cross Country Championships. At Lyndon Institute (Lyndon, VT) Judi won ten high school state titles in cross country (1973, 1974, 1975), 440 yards (1972), half mile (1973, 1974, 1975), mile (1973, 1975) and mile relay (1974). Her personal best times include: 3000m – 8:42.64; 5,000m – 15:15.0; 10k – 31:38.04; 15k – 49:00; 10-mile – 52:27; 20k – 1:10:30; half marathon – 1:10:34; and marathon- 2:37:49. She was inducted into the University of Vermont Athletic Hall of Fame (1991), Vermont Principal’s Association HOF (2003) and Vermont Sports HOF (2014). She resides in Fall River, Massachusetts with her husband, Paul. Judi was kind to spend two hours on the telephone for this interview in early 2021.
GCR: BIG PICTURE As a distance runner you have been immersed in the sport of running for your entire life since your early teenage years. Could you have imagined in your teens a future such as this and how has running contributed to and shaped your life?
JSH When I first started running, I never could have imagined that I would continue to run for so long and to run at a professional level. It wasn’t even a profession when I stared running. There is no way I could envision something like this. When you are young, it is easy to say, ‘I would like to get to the Olympics.’ But it is elusive. When you are growing up in Vermont, you have no idea of how to get there. I was intimidated by the thought. I remember receiving Track and Field News in the mail, looking at the times women were running, and being amazed at the talent that was out there. It was a dream, and it was a goal, but it wasn’t something that was concrete. It is easy to be growing up and want to be something, but let’s look at the reality.
GCR: When we go back to childhood, teenage years and even adulthood, many people learn to play a musical instrument or work to learn a subject in school or try out for athletics, and they participate versus being ‘all in’ to reach their potential. As you look back on your running career and the solid years of strong training and racing, how exciting was it to be putting in the hard training and racing and pushing yourself to try to reach your ultimate best in terms of times and competition?
JSH It became a way of life. My first couple of years out of college, there was a lack of direction. There was an adjustment period of leaving a structured program, being on my own and having running as a profession. I went to a few road races and got beat by people I was ahead of in college. I thought, ‘What are you doing?’ The race where it clicked was after a bad race at the Cascade Runoff 15k. The next day I was so disgusted with my performance that I went to a track and did repeat 200-meter sprints. Yes, the day after a race. I thought, ‘This is it. I need to get it together.’ I was probably immature since I was coming from Vermont and I didn’t have enough guidance throughout my life to that point. My dad died when I was ten years old, so I only had my mom who was bringing up five kids. There wasn’t much structure, so it was a big learning process. Once I became more disciplined in setting goals and realistic goals and the means to achieve them, I made progress. Also, during my running career, I had many injuries that put me out for a year or half a year. So, every time I came back from an injury it made me more determined than ever and hungrier than ever. I remember racing these races like they were the last races I would run because I didn’t know where my racing career was going.
GCR: Competing is often a roller coaster of results due to the tough training that has us treading the fine line between improvement and injury. How tough was it for you to find that balance that allowed you to earn a living through frequent road races while still peaking at the right times for your most important competitions?
JSH It was always a struggle. It never was easy. I don’t know any point in my running career that I didn’t go to a race with some nagging soreness or injury. That may be the case with many runners. I dabbled with some high mileage and had a few weeks of running over one hundred miles, but marathon running wasn’t my cup of tea. It wasn’t in my makeup. I respect the fact that marathon runners can train like that, but I got bored running so many miles. Fortunately, I came from a background of speed and that was my strength. With the various back injuries I had, I couldn’t get in the weight room and train. It was such a fine line that I stayed away from the gym. And back then we didn’t have all the things available to athletes today like core training, gauging your glutes and other modern techniques. We just ran and hoped that the training we did would strengthen our weaknesses. Lately, I’ve gotten into biking and probably know more about training from my recent biking that I did from all those years of running. I had my program and did my long run, my tempo workout and my track workout. In between were maintenance runs and recovery runs. Of course, when I ran and raced in track meets, I had to be more specific in my training. For much of that time, I didn’t have a coach. I worked for a time with Bob Sevene, who coached Joan Benoit. His workouts crushed me, and I was walking the next week because I was exhausted. That wasn’t me. I learned that running sixty miles per week was safe and healthy for me. When I look back on my career, I realize that on every run I was going hard. I would head out the door and run six-minute mile pace. I didn’t have the guidance I needed. Nobody told me to back down and to stay in the aerobic phase of training. Also, when you are racing, you are running and racing year around. There are road races year around. Granted, I would take a break starting in November, but I was always in good shape. I would get in peak shape in the summer when there were more races, but it was different than when I was just running track meets and there was a time to peak during the year. When I decided to try to qualify for the Olympics, I knew I couldn’t try for the marathon to focus on the Olympics, but my goal race would be 10,000 meters. When I decided that I had an opportunity in 1989 I started working with John Doherty, who was a friend. There was a big Irish crew of runners with John, like Steve Binns, John Treacy and others and my husband did some work for them as their agent which is how I got to know them. So, John Doherty and I became friends, we were seeing the same physical therapist, I became comfortable with him, he had had several injuries and it worked out well for him to provide guidance. I was mature enough to know what I could and couldn’t do without breaking down, so I would speak up and he would know how far he could push me. He had experience on the European track circuit, and I trusted him. He was the one that coached me during the two years leading up to the Olympics.
GCR: At the highest levels of our sport, athletes set goals to compete in the Olympics or World Championships and to represent their country. Please reflect on what it means to be a member of the 1991 USA World Championships team, the 1992 USA Olympic team and to pull on the USA singlet several other times?
JSH It is cool stuff. This is funny, but I had no intention of going to the World Championships. I tripped across that one. I was running that summer before the Olympics and decided to focus on shorter distances. So, I was racing 3,000 meters and 5,000 meters and 1,500 meters. The U.S. Championships came around and I entered the 3,000 meters. With a lap-and-a-half to go, I was in fourth place. Somebody yelled at me, ‘Judi, wake up!’ I snapped out of it and started sprinting. I finished third and, as I crossed the finish line, I realized I ran a huge PR and thought, ‘Wow, I’m going to go to Tokyo!’ I had mixed emotions because I didn’t want to travel that summer. But it ended up being the best thing that could have happened because that experience helped me so much for the Olympics. I learned the adjustment to international racing with being in a foreign country, the time change, sleep and the whole process of running trials and finals. It was a blessing in disguise even though that wasn’t part of the plan.
GCR: At the 1991 World Championships, you finished sixth in your heat and seventh in the final. What were your goals before racing and what did you learn from this high-level racing that helped you the next year in the Olympics?
JSH I did not know what I was doing. Somebody came up to me after the heat and said, ‘You timed that perfectly to qualify.’ I was surprised as it was luck. Shelley Steely was my roommate, though she was in another heat as they put one American in each heat. I didn’t have a race plan. I wasn’t going to lead if it was slow or do this or that. I was going to hang on for dear life. I knew I didn’t have to worry about the pace with these horses. That was my attitude, and it was probably the best attitude to have. I had no expectations. This was a bonus being at the World Championships. Don’t get me wrong, I took it seriously. I didn’t have any experience against foreign runners. I raced in the States, but not against foreign runners and this caliber of athlete. In the final, I probably saved too much in the end because I was so unsure of myself. I remember sprinting like a mad woman and there were a group of us that finished together. It was crazy. When I looked at it afterwards, it was the greatest experience I could have had going into the Olympics.
GCR: Skipping ahead a year, at the Olympic Trials in New Orleans you finished second in your 10,000-meter heat before a second place in the final punched your ticket to the Barcelona Olympics. How exciting was it when you crossed the finish line to know you were an Olympian and how tough was the New Orleans heat and humidity?
JSH The weather was nasty. When I warmed up for the final, Paul asked Shelley how bad the heat was since she had just finished the 3,000 meters. ‘It’s not bad at all,’ she said. But a little while later she confided in me, ‘It’s horrible out there.’ Because of the lights, there were all these huge, dead moths littering the track. We ran a very slow pace because nobody wanted to go out fast in that heat. It was slow until the end with 800 meters to go. Somebody made a move, and I was stuck in the pack. It took me a while to get going. You just don’t know what is going to happen in these types of races. There wasn’t a guarantee that I was going to make the team. I had been racing well up until that time, but anything can happen in these events. I was thrilled. It was another step. You must get the qualifying standard; you have to make the team and you’re on to the Olympics. There are stages and it’s another check mark. It’s a relief to make the team. The way my career had gone with so many injuries, I didn’t take anything for granted.
GCR: At the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, you finished seventh in your heat and eighth in the final with a fast 31:38.04. How were the Olympics similar and different from the World Championships and were you pleased with your racing in Barcelona, or did you have more in the tank?
JSH In the trial, I ran like it was the final. That was my mindset – just get to the final. Whatever it takes. It was kind of a warmup because, with the sleep change, I felt like I was working out a lot of kinks. I’m glad there was a trial. We had a whole week to recover for the final, so they weren’t crazy close. I didn’t save too much in that final. It was very surreal getting on the starting line. It was a totally different experience. This was somewhere I wanted to be and what I was working for. When I got there and we were lining up, this calmness came over me. I felt like it was meant to be. I was nervous, but calm. It was bizarre. It was a weird sensation, almost an out-of-body experience. There was positive energy and I felt good vibes. As the race went on, it was a tough race. I’m a steady pace runner and, every two hundred meters, somebody would keep pushing the pace. But I maintained and would catch up the second part of the lap. I’m not sure who was leading at that point – probably Liz McColgan. I remember with about six laps to go there were some friends of mine, Jill Hunter and Jill Boltz, and I passed them. I was making up ground on people and moving up. Then, in the heat, I had an experience I had never had in a race. I got rocky. I felt that, if I kept pushing, I would go down. I regrouped with a couple laps to go and with a lap to go I knew I was going to be okay. I was thrilled with my place and my finish. I felt that I had achieved my goal. After the race, I went up to Lynn Jennings and asked, ‘How did you do?’ She didn’t seem too thrilled when she said, ‘I got the Bronze.’ I would have been jumping for joy. I think she was happy, but she may have had higher expectations. I was very grateful that my body held together, I finished strong, and I ran a big PR.
GCR: At the Olympics, did you attend Opening and Closing ceremonies, watch many track events or other sporting events or have some memorable encounters with some of the other great athletes in attendance?
JSH I didn’t go to the Opening Ceremonies as I had had a couple of foot surgeries and the shoes that went with the outfit were way too small. After all I had been through, I wasn’t going to mess up my performance by waiting a few hours in line and then walking into the stadium. Some friends couldn’t believe I didn’t go to the Opening Ceremonies, but I wasn’t into the pomp and circumstance. I was there to perform. It was the opportunity of a lifetime and I didn’t want to jeopardize it. I wasn’t running the one hundred meters. It was six point two miles. I flew in early to adjust to the time change and two weeks there was plenty. And we flew out the day after my event. We didn’t hang around. Paul and I are homebodies and love to be home doing our many projects around the house. If anything, I wish I did hang around afterward with some of my friends. But people were still competing. We weren’t all done at the same time. I would probably have had to stay another week. As far as the living situation, we all eat in the same area. I remember the first time I came out to the dining area and I ran smack into tennis great Boris Becker. He is tall though on television he doesn’t look that big. I thought, ‘Oh, my God! There’s Boris Becker!’ There were all these fine-tuned athletes living in this one area. There were gymnasts and swimmers, and it was incredible. This is what you see on Wide World of Sports. It was an honor to be among the best athletes in the world. It was also the time when the basketball ‘Dream Team’ was there, and they would parade through. We had Larry Bird in our backyard back home but that was fun being around those athletes. i
GCR: ROAD RACING For over fifteen years your racing was a model of consistent high finishes as you raced frequently against top competition. According to the ARRS, Association of Road Racing Statisticians, website, you had 60 wins out of a total of 119 podium top three finishes. Have you seen these totals and what is your reaction to this?
JSH (laughing) Even I’m impressed with that! I had a long career. The injuries, as much as I cursed them, were also a blessing, because they allowed me to extend my career. I peaked late and I needed that time to mature as an athlete. When I was at the Olympics, I was twenty-nine years old, almost thirty. I don’t look at it that way because some people have a career that only lasts two to three years. I didn’t focus on marathons and the marathon runners can’t be at that peak for a long period of time. There is a limit, and your body can only take so much of the intensity needed for that long of an event. Since I ran 5ks and 10ks and made the Olympics and then had a comeback at age forty, I was racing for a long time. And I did love the training.
GCR: Let’s delve into some of the road races where you were successful and start with distances such as five miles and 10ks. The first one is one that I ran, the Crescent City 10k point to point course in New Orleans where you had five straight wins from 1990 to 1994. What do you take away form those five wins? Was the wind with you or against you? Were there years when you came from behind, were off the front or made a strategic move to win?
JSH What stands out is the party at the end! I’m only kidding (laughing). That was a flat course, and I would run my heart out there. It was a steady, hard effort. I remember competing against some of the Kenyans. I always wanted to be ready for that race and be on my game. The course is a straight shot and isn’t very memorable until you hit the park. It’s crazy because the city of New Orleans has so much character. It’s fun arriving in the city and going down to the streets. When I ran the Olympic Trials there it was like going home. I was very comfortable in New Orleans because I had been there so many times. I usually got away early in the race. I had developed the tactic of going hard at five-minute mile pace from the start. I maintained a steady pace and hoped I had a kick at the end. I don’t recall battling too much. One year Anne Marie Letko was with me, but I was able to drop her by the halfway point. One of the Kenyans came back on me and I held her off, though she beat me in a later year. I think I was fit enough for April and I was able to get away.
GCR: I raced there in 1983 and was thirty-second overall which meant I received a signed race print that was numbered thirty-two. Do you have any of those prints as they have gone up in value?
JSH I have four of them and they are framed. I always wondered if they are worth anything. Interesting.
GCR: Let’s chat about a couple of summer races. The first one, which again I have run, is the July Fourth Peachtree Road Race 10k that you ran in 1985 in 32:33 for second place and then in 1989 ran 32:05 to win. That’s a tough course because we hit the hills in the last couple miles and it’s so hot and humid. What were your takeaways from those races?
JSH In 1985, Grete Waitz won. In my mind, I was thinking, ‘No, no, no, no.’ She was so talented, and I was thrilled that I finished second. By 1989, I was at my peak running period on the roads through about 1991. That race was so hot, and I remember my good friend, Cathy O’Brien, coming up on me as we were entering the park. I was dying and thinking, ‘Oh my God, I’ve come this far.’ She passed me. I don’t know where I got another gear, but I was able to go past her, get away with about four hundred meters to go and outkick her. I was relieved because I don’t think I ever beat Cathy again after that race. I battled with her at Manchester, and she was a tough runner. Little did I know that she wouldn’t let me beat her after that.
GCR: Another interesting summer race which I also raced was the Maggie Valley Moonlight 5-mile. It’s different because it is at night and you go downhill the first half and back uphill the second half. You won in 1983, 1984 and 1985 in 26:38, 26:20 and 26:18. Were you challenged, or did you break away early like you like to do?
JSH There would usually be a group of us going down the hill and I would conserve energy and not get carried away. The hill wasn’t bad. It was a gradual hill. On the way back I would just gradually pull away. I don’t remember battling anyone to the finish line. I would go and not look back.
GCR: You raced the Great Race in Pittsburgh in 1989 and finished in second place in 31:36 before coming back to win in 1991 in 31:17 and in 1992 in 31:50. This was the same pattern you had at Peachtree of finishing second before winning. What were your takeaways from the Great Race in Pittsburgh?
JSH You are testing my memory. I pulled away both times I won. It was a bit of a downhill course. I think it was timing that I didn’t win the first time and then I came back to win those other two times. Those later years were my better years. I was just a better runner and I ran faster.
GCR: We will continue with your established pattern. At the Azalea Trail Run 10k down in Alabama, in 1984 you finished second in 32:49 and second five years later in 1989 in 32:32, before coming back another seven years later in 1996 to win in 32:34. What are highlights of your competition, the course and what you had to do to win that third time?
JSH In 1984, Liz McColgan beat me. The race was at an odd time of the year. We weren’t always at our fittest because it was the first big road race of the year. It was one of those early races that gave us an idea of out current fitness. I will say that in all these races I gave it everything I had. I can’t think of any races where I threw in the towel and gave up. I could place second or third and still be happy because I gave it my all. And I wasn’t running against slouches. These women were tough.
GCR: Another 10k race we have to talk about is the Legg’s Mini-Marathon in New York City where you had four top ten finishes before winning in 1990 in 32:36. What was it like winning such a prestigious race against great competition in the Big Apple?
JSH I always thought of that as being the toughest 10k course we raced in major races. Peachtree was tough too because of the added heat. But, as far as the course, it was very challenging. Since I am a rhythmic runner, the constant ups and downs and changing paces and effort was something I didn’t like. I couldn’t get into a nice rhythm. The year I won, I was nursing a foot injury and I wasn’t running the week before the race. The reporter from ABC interviewed me and I didn’t say anything about the injury. I was wondering what I was going to do if the injury blew up. Sure enough, I got away from the field and the foot blew up after about five-and-a-half miles. I limped in with ten seconds to spare as a group of runners was closing on me. I would have loved to have been able to race the entire way because I wanted to see if I could break thirty-two minutes. I was in great shape, but my time didn’t indicate that because of my foot injury. That was a big win, and the competition was tough. I was thrilled about winning but was out for three months afterward with the injury recovery.
GCR: You briefly mentioned the Falmouth Road Race, which always has a very tough field at an odd distance of just over seven miles. You raced it five times from 1981 to 1992, finishing second, fifth, third, second and fourth. Was that one you truly wanted to win, but couldn’t quite pull it off with the consistent, great competition?
JSH Because of the nature of that course, every time I finished, I said, ‘I’m not coming back to this race again.’ It was such a challenging course. We bake on the beach. We go up and down for the first three miles. Then there is a flat section where the sun shines and it is also usually humid. All I think of is being tortured. But the race is in my back yard and I kept going back. I respected that course so much more than my abilities. There was one year I was hoping to win it. I had just beaten Joan Nesbitt at Maggie Valley, but she won it. That was the closest I came to winning the race. I never got mad because that’s the way it was.
GCR: A race you won five times, like you did at the Crescent City Classic, was the Manchester Thanksgiving Road Race, where you were five-time champ in 1985, 1988, 1989, 1992, 1993 in a race that is known for a family atmosphere.
JSH That race has so much character and so many fond memories. There is a spaghetti dinner the night before. The Irish runners were there and there was so much jousting and teasing and saying funny things that we wouldn’t usually say to our competitors. It was a very good time. On race day there are around eight thousand runners and it is a mob scene. The course has a huge hill, and it loops the city. The crowds are out and there are bands playing the whole way. It is so festive. Then when we finish it is Thanksgiving and we get to celebrate. I think of all the races I have run; I wish everyone had the opportunity to run that one because it is so unique. It is probably my favorite race because there is so much character and I have so many great memories.
GCR: Moving up in distance to 15k road races you had quite a bit of success, winning the Utica Boilermaker in 1985 in 50:35, racing at Gasparilla in 1990 to win in 49:26 and in 1992 for second place in 49:18, winning the Tulsa 15k in 1989 in a PR of 49:00 and coming back to win in 1992 and strong finishes at the Jacksonville 15k many years apart with a fourth place in 1982 and third place in 1996. Did you like that distance and do any of these races stand out?
JSH That was a challenging distance for me. I was usually a bit wobbly. The only time I felt in control was at Tulsa when I ran that forty-nine flat. Fifteen kilometers challenged me because I wasn’t a high mileage runner and I think I needed more miles under my belt to truly be able to handle that distance at that level. It was always a feather in my cap that I was able to finish and finish well, but it wasn’t my focus. I raced 15ks for strength, but it wasn’t one of my favorite distances.
GCR: Even though it wasn’t one of your favorite distances, at the 1985 World 15k Road Race Championships in Gateshead, United Kingdom you ran 49:25 for second place. How neat was that getting a Silver Medal at a World Championship?
JSH It was so close. Arora Cuna outkicked me. I was naive. As they say, ignorance is bliss. A lot of the women were marathon runners and could run a hard, steady 15k. That was a good experience. Maybe I was underestimating my ability back then, but I felt like this kid who was naive and got lucky.
GCR: What was the latter part of the race like when it came down to the kick and battle for medals and the win?
JSH I was in the top three and I ran a steady, hard pace. I respected Aurora’s ability and wasn’t surprised when she went. I didn’t have anything at the end. I usually have a kick, but I was nursing a groin injury and was relieved that I didn’t have to drop out because it was bugging me. It was a relief to finish and finish respectfully. It seemed I always had something nagging me except for one race, a 5k down in the Bahamas, where I ran a PR. That is the only race I recall where I wasn’t dealing with some injury or soreness.
GCR: Stepping up a bit more in distance, you continued your pattern at the New Haven 20k in 1982 finishing second in 1:11:17 before winning in 1983 in 1:10:36. What are any memories from that Labor Day weekend race with its iconic hill around nine or ten miles?
JSH I’ve got nothing for you! I don’t really remember anything from those races even though I did well. Maybe its post-traumatic stress syndrome.
GCR: At the Philadelphia Half Marathon, you broke your pattern by winning in 1982 in 1:11:13 and followed up in 1984 and 1985 with two runner-up finishes in 1:10:54 and 1:13:13. What are some thoughts on those races and placing high against World Class runners at a distance that was a stretch for you?
JSH It was fun. That was the time of year that I would run a half marathon. I was up for that race and got into it. The time I won, I think Allison Roe was in the race. I had a lack of experience at the distance though it was kind of a blessing because I didn’t know what I would run into and how painful it might be. I do remember running against Joanie Benoit Samuelson and she would take off. I wasn’t with her but ran my PR behind her. By that time of the year, it was fitness rather than strength that allowed me to race that distance. I had been racing all summer long and could do it, but I didn’t have the mileage behind me.
GCR: Since I live in the Orlando area, let’s talk about a couple races in this area that you raced. The first is the Red Lobster 10k where you were second in 1988 and 1990 in 32:27 and 32:09, respectively. I recall the 1988 edition vividly because I was thirty years old and was trying to break thirty-one minutes one more time. After two miles, I ended up running with a woman next to me, Liz Lynch, who was trying to be the first woman to break thirty-one minutes. Liz and I didn’t know each other, we didn’t talk, and we ran together the whole last four miles and we both broke thirty-one minutes with me at 30:55 and Liz at 30:59. You were back in second place on a cold, rainy day in Orlando. What do you remember from that race and two years later from running in this big race in Orlando?
JSH That was a strange race because I never had a visual of the course. There were a lot of turns. It was always considered a fast course, but there were lots of turns through residential areas. It was a weird race for me. It wasn’t one of my favorite races and I don’t even know why. When I heard that Liz broke thirty-one minutes, it was impressive. That was crazy back then. She was a well-respected athlete and very talented. It wasn’t a big surprise for her to do what she did. I was a minute-and-a-half back and was even more impressed by how far ahead of me she finished.
GCR: Sticking with the Orlando theme, John and Betsy Hughes started the Lady Track Shack 5k about forty years ago and it is one of the oldest women’s races in the country. You won in 1991 in 15:52, won again in 1993 in 15:39 and in 1995 finished second in 15:57. How was the experience of running and winning an iconic women-only race?
JSH The race was a fun little race. It was in a residential area and we did this loop three times. It was like a track race to me. I just went out there and hammered. I really liked that race and looked forward to competing there.
GCR: Now we are going to talk about your ‘favorite’ race distance, the marathon. Even though I’m kidding you, and it wasn’t your favorite distance, how cool is it that you finished fifth at the 1984 NYC Marathon in 2:37:49 and how neat were going over the bridge from Staten Island at the start, running through ethnic neighborhoods, coming off the bridge at fifteen miles, running through Harlem and finishing in Central Park? What do you take away other than that it was long, grueling and tiring?
JSH It was frightening. Imagine for your first marathon riding on the bus to the start when it was so humid and so hot. It is challenging enough just to run the distance. I was thinking, ‘Am I going to be able to endure this?’ Again, I was nursing an injury. This time my back was not right, and I never should have run. I remember when we were getting ready that I was fearful, and everyone recognized it in me. They could see it in my eyes. The women I would be competing with were so sweet. They were calming me down. I wasn’t vocalizing but must have had that look of ‘What have I gotten myself into?’ I had run a good half marathon and was thinking I would double it and add maybe six minutes. That would have put me close to 2:30. But, I hadn’t trained properly for a marathon. I hadn’t done the mileage. I did three twenty milers, one each in August, September and October. I was mentally ready to roll though I had never been so nervous for a race. I was physically shaking. I remember seeing the urinal trough before the race and I had never seen anything like that before. I was relieved when the race started, but knew I was in trouble after five miles.
GCR: If that happens in a 10k, you’ve only one more mile to go. In the marathon, you had twenty-one miles remaining.
JSH I was having a bad day and knew it wasn’t going to be good. Since I wasn’t having a good day, I found that everything annoyed me. The people and the noise annoyed me. It was a bad day – period. I remember coming off the Queensboro Bridge before going up Fifth Avenue. I was fine going up the bridge, but down the other side my quads were shot. It was like I was running on stumps. I hurt so badly but I was gaining on people. ‘I thought, ‘How can this possibly be? Maybe people will drop out and I will move up.’ In the park, my husband came up to me and told me my place. I yelled at him, ‘Get away from me!’ I was afraid that, if he interrupted my concentration, I would no longer be able to put one foot in front of the other. That is how badly I was hurting. The best part about the race was finishing. I felt that I had earned it. That was the thrill of the whole race. I wasn’t happy about my place. I wasn’t happy about my time. It was tough to finish under those conditions. Orlando Pizzolato, who won the men’s race, had to do some walking. Grete Waitz had system problems. It was an ugly, ugly race – not pretty. I picked the wrong race because I had a chance to run in Chicago but picked New York. It was the most painful running experience I have ever had in my life. And I never ran another marathon again.
GCR: FORMATIVE YEARS, HIGH SCHOOL AND COLLEGE Let’s go back to your formative years as a runner. How did you get started running, were you playing a lot of other sports and were you good right off the bat?
JSH I lived in Vermont and grew up on a great street where every household had four or five kids. We had enough kids to play baseball. We had an open field to use. We could play hide and go seek on forty acres. We were always running around. We were very active. I would not trade my childhood for anything. We had so much fun. We played all the time. We developed aerobic ability. Obviously, I had some talent, because I would race my friends around the school building, and I could beat them all except for one boy. So, I knew I had some running ability. There was a Field Day when I was in eighth grade and we went to the high school to run on the track. I won the 400 meters. My running kind of evolved from an active childhood.
GCR: Let’s go forward a year to your freshman year in high school where you were State Champion in track at 440 yards in 59.8. Could you relate your early days as a high school competitive athlete?
JSH I started running the 100 yards and 220 yards and then moved up as the 440 was probably a better event for me. I was running it and the half mile. We didn’t train hard in high school. Our warmup would be to run a 440 as hard as we could. Maybe why my career lasted so long is that I certainly didn’t get burned out training in high school. It was fun. We met on the infield and did calisthenics. If we had mileage of twenty miles a week, it would be a miracle. We took days off before a meet. We took the weekend off. No one ran on the weekend. For the State meet, a friend of mine told me she had dreamed the night before that I broke sixty seconds. That was a goal to break sixty seconds. I had run sixty-ones and sixty-twos before and had peaked properly. It was a fun race. I think it is more thrilling than the 880, probably because I wasn’t doing the mileage. I kind of wish I had hung out with the shorter distances longer as they are more fun. They don’t hurt as much.
GCR: During your sophomore year you won your first State Cross Country Championship. Was that a mile-and-a-half back then and was there tough competition?
JSH I think it was two miles, because when we moved up to AAU meets it was another half mile and that would kill me. For some of the races on our home course, I would get out in the lead in the woods on the pine needle path and walk. When I came out of the woods, I would start running again. They ran classes in Vermont at the State meet so, even if I won my class, I didn’t know until later if I was the overall winner. That year there was another girl who was very talented, and we didn’t get to race head-to-head. We didn’t know what our competition was doing. In those days, I would go out like a banshee and hang on. When they compared times from all the classes, I was the overall winner.
GCR: That cross-country endurance must have helped going into your sophomore year in track where you stepped up in distance and won the State mile in 5:23 and half mile in 2:20. Was this a carry over from your cross-country season’s endurance?
JSH Not really, because I would ski cross country in the wintertime, and it wasn’t the same. I didn’t have running fitness over the winter.
GCR: At the State track meet your junior year you were second in the mile, though you won the half mile again in 2:20 and ran the 4 x 440 anchor leg on your relay that won state. In the mile, were you outkicked, or did someone pull away?
JSH She pulled away after about halfway. I saw it coming because I was following her times that season. I wasn’t having a good year. I wasn’t improving and something was missing. I was so disappointed. In the 4 x 440 relay, the State team title was on the line. In the first heat, CVU dropped the baton, and our time was slower than the time of the team we had to beat, but we got to run again because of interference. I was thirsty and someone gave me a Coke. I don’t know if it was the sugar in it, but we ran so fast. There was no one next to me because the team was disqualified for dropping the baton. When I got the baton, I took off and redeemed myself for losing the mile. I probably ran faster than I had ever run before. I wish I had it on video because the way it unfolded there was a lot of drama and we ended up winning the team State Championship. That took away the sting of losing in the mile and it was hard because I wasn’t used to losing. But it also helped me to get it together. Those are also the years when we started partying a little more and there were a lot of distractions.
GCR: In your senior year when you won the mile in 5:09 and half mile in 2:20, did you defeat the girl in the mile who had beat you your junior year?
JSH I didn’t compete on our ski team in the winter because I was so ticked off about losing the mile my junior year. I got yelled at by the ski coaches because I wasn’t on the team. But this coming in second place was something that I didn’t want to happen again, and I wanted to get a scholarship. This was what I had to do. It wasn’t like I trained like a maniac. I just ran more because the skiing didn’t translate into anything for running. And yes, I did beat that girl. She was a nice person, don’t get me wrong, but as a competitor I was very happy to do that. As small as our town was, we were state champions in track and cross-country and we had the best ski team. That has a lot to do with my attitude because we were winners. We didn’t expect anything less. We grew up in that atmosphere. Our coaches were our teachers, and they were very involved in sports. There was a lot of support and team energy. It was a fun time. I took it for granted but, when I look back now, they say those were the best years at Lyndon Institute. There was so much talent.
GCR: Your senior year you also defended the Cross-Country State Championship in 1976 that you had won the previous two years. Was there anyone close to you or was it another year where you won your division and waited to see if you were faster than the other divisions for the overall title?
JSH That’s exactly how it went. There was another girl named Judi from Milton High School who was good. I was used to winning in Vermont. There was another girl from New Hampshire I competed with at the New England Championships. She trained with their boys’ team. She beat me at New England’s my junior year when I went through a growth spurt and wasn’t at my best. There was competition around and a lot of talent at New England’s.
GCR: You mentioned that your junior year when you and your relay teammates won the mile relay it clinched the team championship. Also, in cross country you led Lyndon Institute to three-straight Class I team titles. How exciting was it to win as a team since everyone was able to share in the joy?
JSH It made up for everything that year that I lost the mile. My friends were all on the team and we were very close. So, to win in such a dramatic fashion was a good story the way we won. It was fun. We had a lot of good athletes on our team in all sports – track and field, cross country and skiing.
GCR: When you finished high school and there were colleges you were interested in going to and colleges that were interested in you, what were the deciding factors that led you to go to the University of Vermont?
JSH I had no idea what I wanted to study, so academics wasn’t a factor. I remember being impressed with Kansas because Jim Ryun went there. I thought, ‘He went there so maybe I should go there.’ So, I applied to go there. N.C. State contacted me, and I applied there. The coach said there was no way I would get scholarship money unless I broke five minutes in the mile. My best my senior year was 5:07, so I wasn’t close. I knew that Mary and Julie Shea would be there along with Betty Jo Springs and that sounded like a great situation. UVM offered me assistance and then it became a full ride scholarship. So that was a no-brainer. The weather wasn’t that conducive to improving as a runner, but it was close to home. I had never been away from home and out of the state on my own. N.C. State sounded enticing, but I think I would have been overwhelmed.
GCR: How was your transition from high school to college at the University of Vermont?
JSH At UVM, I went with my best friend from high school, and we roomed together so it was safe. My freshman year I didn’t run cross country. It was a track and field scholarship, but they had expected me to run cross country. I gained fifteen pounds the first semester from partying and eating and drinking. Then, when I started getting into shape for indoor track season and focusing more on my studies, I started getting my act together. By my sophomore year I was more serious about running and studies.
GCR: Let’s chat about some specific races from your college years. First, at the AIAW 1980 cross country championship in Seattle, you finished the 5,000 meters in 17:05.4 for fourth place. What were highlights of that race?
JSH I believe Julie Shea won that one. I remember the course being hilly and I was coming down a hill with Mary Shea on one side of the hill that was covered with mud. We both slid down on one foot and could have ended up in a pile together. I wasn’t in the hunt for the win but being in the top four was a big boost for my confidence. I had run well the whole season, but that was the only time we got to run against that level of competition. When you don’t have that experience of going head-to-head, it is all learning. I was very happy with placing fourth.
GCR: On the track you raced well at 5,000 meters and were the New England and ECAC Champion in the 5,000 meters in 1979 and 1980. Do any of those victories stand out for a tight duel, coming from behind, or making a strong move to pull away?
JSH I don’t remember those races too well. I do recall going to Nationals in the 5,000 and Margaret Groos won. I also ran the 3,000 meters one year and Joan Benoit was in that race. For that 5,000 meters it was pouring rain and I raced the Shea sisters and Margaret Groos and two Penn State girls, one was Kathy Mills. They were all much more talented than I was, and I placed behind them in college.
GCR: There were a couple strong performances you had when you moved up to 10,000 meters. You capped your collegiate career with a first-place finish in the 10,000-meters at the AAU Nationals in 1980. Were there any good storylines from that race?
JSH It was an evening race, and I was in good shape at that point. I was hoping to win. It was longer than I was used to, and Betty Jo Springs was in that race. I was running a lot more mileage in college, eighty to ninety miles a week, and was able to pull away with my speed fitness.
GCR: So, when you beat Betty Jo Springs, did you tell the N.C. State coach, ‘You know you could have had me on your team?’
JSH No (laughing). We were very friendly. I was friends with all the girls on the team. I also knew I had made the right decision. I don’t know what it would have been like training with them. They were animals. They would have probably chewed me up and spit me out and I may not have had the career that I did have. Even Joan Benoit went down there, and it didn’t work out, so you never know.
GCR: One more 10,000-meter race we should discuss is the AIAW 1981 track in Austin, Texas where you ran 34:09.49 for sixth place. Was that a race where you hoped to win, and it didn’t go that way?
JSH I had the fastest time going into the race, around 33:20 at Boston College. But we came from Vermont and it was very hot in Austin, Texas. I knew I was going to be in trouble. It was a meltdown. The girls who won and were at the top were from the south and were heat trained. It wasn’t so much fitness as it was the weather. We still had snow on the ground up in Vermont. That was disappointing. In the 10k, when you have a bad race, it hangs with you for a long time like a marathon. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth. It isn’t like you can jump back into a race of that length the next weekend.
GCR: TRAINING Who were your high school coaches, what was your progression in base building mileage through your high school years?
JSH Our coaches were mostly our teachers. My favorite coach was Tim Simpson, who was our Chemistry teacher. He kind of took me under his wing. We didn’t do a lot of mileage, but in cross country season he was knowledgeable, and we would do longer efforts. I remember running a mile in a workout in 5:13. On the ski team we had good coaches too, but the knowledge of training back then was very basic. Fortunately, I was talented enough that I could run on talent.
GCR: What were some of the primary workouts your coach had you do for speed that helped you to race your best?
JSH The workouts certainly weren’t long. They were short. That fast mile in the middle of a cross country workout was probably the toughest workout we did. During track season, I mostly did 200s and 400s because I was also on the mile relay team. We did not do a large volume. We didn’t do ten by 400 meters. We probably did four. The coaches kept the running fun, so we didn’t get burned out.
GCR: Who were your college coaches, what were the primary differences in training in college and did you adjust well?
JSH The head coach in college was a javelin thrower in his background. I talked to him about training but, by my junior year, I was outgrowing the program. I felt like I wasn’t getting the right coaching and wasn’t doing enough volume. So, I did more mileage on my own, especially over the summertime. I went to camps in the summers and got in some hundred-mile weeks. But I’m someone who thrives more on speed training. Our workouts in college included ten by 400 meters. There may not have been enough of the longer ranges like doing repeat half miles or repeat miles. I never did anything like that. I pretty much raced myself into shape. I am glad I wasn’t in a program where we trained extra hard because it made me more ambitious when I finished up with college. There are so many athletes who get burned out and I didn’t. I know the Shea sisters had trouble with that. Julie competed for a time with Athletics West, but the racing took its toll. She would run and win the 3,000 meters, 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters at Nationals. Who does that and not pay the price eventually? I’m not complaining about my coaching and training in college, but the knowledge base wasn’t there and, in the long run, it worked in my favor.
GCR: After college, you raced for fifteen years at a high level with some coaching help from Bob and John Doherty. But were you mainly self-coached after college and, when others did help you, what did they add to your training plan that helped you to improve more than when you were on your own?
JSH John Babington also helped because I used to run for Liberty in the summertime. He would call and we would talk on the phone about training. He was very kind about keeping in touch and helping. Bob Sevene expected very hard work and I don’t think we were compatible in that regard because I wasn’t someone who could endure long workouts with five miles of intervals. That destroyed me. I was self-coached for a long time but took bits and pieces from others. I worked with John Babington for a while and trained with Joan Benoit and Lynn Jennings on the track. That was my best introduction into track training. Leslie and Lisa Welch were also running with us. We had a good group. You showed up and had to be ‘on’ for the workouts. That was a very good experience and helped me learn more about what track training was about. When John worked with me, it was more specific for the Olympics. There were workouts I hadn’t done before. We did ladders. We would run a mile at race pace and then finish up with eight by 300 meters. There were interesting workouts that I hadn’t done. We would do staple workouts like 25 by 400 meters with a short recovery. We would go at race pace of 73 seconds per lap, if not faster. He ensured there was a very short recovery. His workouts were fun because I hadn’t done many of them before. I also had a training partner, Mike Arven, who was an 800-meter runner. It was nice to have someone who could keep up with me or challenge me in the workouts. That made a big difference when I had someone to train with.
GCR: There were two different mile repeat workouts I liked to do when I was running and racing at a high level. One was more of a 5,000-meter workout which was three repeat miles with a four-minute jog and walk rest at a pace ten seconds per mile faster than 5k race pace. The other was five repeat miles at 10k pace with a two-minute rest where we would jog a lap and this one got us used to 10k race tempo. Did you do workouts like these?
JSH I remember we would do three to five sub-five-minute miles in workouts. That was as tough as it got because there was distance, and I was training for a 10k. We also did ladders of many repeats. If there was anything missing, it was changing gears. We didn’t do much of that. I did do some of that with John Babington, where we would run a mile with a lap slower than race pace and the next lap faster than race pace and so on. We were stressing my cardiovascular system in a different way which can happen in a race where the pace can fluctuate through the race. Those were the kind of workouts I did. When I was coaching myself, I did standard ladders of 400 meters, 800 meters, mile, 800 meters and 400 meters. I mixed it up, so it didn’t get boring.
GCR: One workout I liked to use with athletes I coached who raced 10,000 meters was six time a half mile a bit faster than race pace with an intervening half mile somewhat slower than race pace. So, a 31-minute 10k runner who could race at five-minute mile pace would do half miles at 4:45 pace with the half mile in between at 5:45 pace. Did you do train like this for strength?
JSH I have been doing workouts like that now with my biking. There are those types of workouts with over/unders. I do those workouts on Swift, which is a program where I take the back wheel off my bike and hook into the computer program. The workout is broken down with emphasis on different levels like threshold that I didn’t do when I was running. All these concepts you are talking about that include changing gears have a purpose behind them. They are scientifically based as to what we are challenging and improving. I didn’t have that, and I don’t know if the coaches I worked with knew about that either. I just showed up and did my workouts. When I look back on my career, my weaknesses are more glaring. I do wish I knew then what I know now.
GCR: WRAPUP AND FINAL THOUGHTS Since you have had great success at shorter distances in high school including the quarter mile, half mile and mile, then 3,000 meters, 5,000 meters, 10,000 meters in college, and longer distances such as 15k and the half marathon, what is your favorite racing distance and why is that so?
JSH I wouldn’t say the 10k. The mile and 1,500 meters were fun. At those distances I wasn’t going to suffer for long. There was so much learning as the mile and 1,500 meters were strategic. I was amazed when runners would get boxed in and had to think. There was so much more that was strategic. In the 10k, you just run, and it can be strategic, but not as often.
GCR: From your many years of racing, who were some of your favorite competitors in high school, college and on the road racing circuit due to their ability to give you a strong race and bring out your best?
JSH We raced a lot in the U.S. and, back then, there weren’t a lot of foreign athletes. If I just had to go with Americans, Anne Marie Letko would always challenge me. She was very talented, but she had some injuries, and I don’t think she was able to perform to the best of her ability. Lynn Jennings beat me usually. I think I beat her once on the roads. Cathy O’Brien was another one. I think my favorite 10k race was when Cathy, Lynn and I duked it out. They got away from me going over the bridge. There was a lot of respect between the three of us and they always brought out the best in me. Of course, Joan Benoit-Samuelson. We had a lot of New England talent. I had to be ready.
GCR: In recent years you have received many honors including induction into the University of Vermont Athletic Hall of Fame in 1991, the Vermont Principal’s Association HOF in 2003 and the Vermont Sports HOF in 2014. Are these honors both gratifying and humbling?
JSH Of course, it is an honor. It’s weird because I think I would appreciate them more when I’m dead and gone than now. That wasn’t why I was an athlete. I’m not into the pomp and circumstance at all. I did it because I loved to do it. The inductions are an honor because they sum up a person’s whole career and that’s fine, but maybe I haven’t reflected on my career enough. I should have by now, but I still have some fish to fry out there.
GCR: As an aside, I just happened to be listening this morning to a recent interview with the three surviving members of Led Zeppelin – Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Robert Plant. It was taped when they were induction into the Kennedy Honors back when Barack Obama was President and they were asked a similar question to which Jimmy Page responded, and I’m paraphrasing, ‘We just did what we loved. We did what we were good at. It is interesting that forty years later or more people are still finding what we did was good and there is something nice about that.’ Does this resonate with you?
JSH That was an impressive show with them and Heart. It is different now because runners at present are running so much faster than we were. I don’t think you can compare the two because music transcends time. What they were doing was classic music and there is nothing like it. We can’t say that the music being produced now is better because it is so different and unique. With running, people are running so much faster now so I take it for what it is worth. It is humbling when I see what women are running now. I thought I was good, but they are incredible.
GCR: We touched a bit on the fact that you are currently biking. What do you typically do now for health, fitness, running and your recent foray into competitive triathlons?
JSH A friend of mine from college got a bike and I was wanting to spend more time with her, so I got a bike. We started biking. Then one day in the winter we got in the pool and were swimming and I thought I should try a triathlon. I started training and, in the summer of 2019 I did an Olympic distance triathlon and placed third on the podium in the Open Division. There is some great competition around here and I loved it. I was dabbling in triathlons and that was set aside during the pandemic which is just as well. I was focusing over the winter of 2019 to 2020 on my swim which is my weakest leg and then covid hit and I didn’t swim at all. I just got in the pool recently for the first time in a year. My biking did take off. I did long rides on Saturdays and ride with a competitive group that pushes each other. I like biking now more than I do running. I’m never going to be as fast as I was running. I don’t even want to go there. In the triathlon, I didn’t like the running because I’m looking at it as running so much slower than I used to. People tend to think running is my favorite discipline of the triathlon, but its not. In biking my best years are behind me. I won’t be able to bike as fast as I could have when I was younger. But, at age sixty-one I am trying to be the best I can be. Last summer I got up to twenty-one and twenty-two mile per hour for forty miles. This winter I was training very hard indoors on my bike and we will see where I go with it this summer. It is novel and new and refreshing, and I don’t have points of comparison and I think that is why I enjoy it so much. I’m trying to figure out what my body can do. Who knows what I am capable of at this age? We just don’t know, and I like that challenge.
GCR: What are some of your goals for the future in terms of fitness, triathlon age group competition and possibly some road racing?
JSH I just want to race locally and keep up with the guys. It’s all local fun.
GCR: Okay, and with that, I’ll look to see you in the 2022 World Championships Olympic Distance Triathlon for your age group. I know you’re going to be there, so don’t tell me you’re not!
JSH Never say never. You just never know.
GCR: When you are asked to sum up in a minute or two the major lessons you have learned during your life from the discipline of running, being a part of the running community, and overcoming adversity, what you would like to share of the ‘Judi St. Hilaire Philosophy’ that will help them on the pathway to reaching their potential athletically and as a human being?
JSH Since my husband has been elected as the Mayor of Fall River, I was hoping before covid hit that, as his wife, I could work with kids and get them involved in sports because I think the lifestyle of being an athlete is so healthy. There are so many things you learn as far as setting goals and striving to reach them and the discipline and the humility of not always achieving your goals, getting knocked down and picking yourself back up and focusing. All those things that go into making you a better athlete are the same tools and skills you need as an adult to function in life. I feel badly for kids today because of social media and the distractions. They are losing the skill of communicating. There are things we took for granted when we were growing up that we developed, and they are missing out on. Athletics is a good angle to reach these kids and to develop these skills. I’m grateful for what I had and have no regrets with how my life went and what I got out of running. It was a roller coaster ride and I dealt with so many injuries that were both negative and positive and I chose to focus on the positive and where it got me in life. And I am still using those skills in biking. What becomes part of our lifestyle, we often take for granted. When I talk with other athletes, we forget that we have skills that the general population doesn’t have. We realize that consistency is important. We know that we have an elusive goal that is out there, and we must have little steps along the way. I’m noticing now that I took these for granted because it is a lifestyle for me.
  Inside Stuff
Hobbies/Interests If you walked into my house, you would see that I have projects all over the place. As corny as it sounds, I taught myself to crochet during the covid time. I’m a knitter. I like to create with yarn and that’s an interest. I collect books, but I don’t read that much. I am studying about biking and how to improve as a biker. I like gardening perennials and rose bushes. I like to tinker around the house. I’m always doing something and never stop
Nicknames In high school I was ‘The Saint’
Favorite movies I’ve gotten interested in World War II movies. I think it is because my father served during World War II. I liked scary movies when I was younger, but like more nonfiction movies as I have gotten older. I like historic movies that I didn’t care about when I was younger and maybe that is a part of aging
Favorite TV shows As a kid, it was ‘Dark Shadows.’ Now, we don’t watch much TV beyond the news. We do like ‘CSI’ and those types of shows. ‘Game of Thrones’ was also a big deal for us
TV Reality Show Dream Maybe ‘Survivor.’ That would be interesting and more psychological than physical. Definitely more so than ‘The Bachelorette’ or any of that type of show
Favorite music With Sirius radio, I have started listening to older music again. For my biking, I created playlists for ‘Elton John,’ ‘The Bee Gees’ and ‘Daryl Hall and John Oates’
Favorite books I loved to read when I was a youngster. I read the ‘Nancy Drew’ series. ‘The Thorn Birds’ was one of my favorites and they also made it into a movie. I don’t know why, but that is one of my favorite books
First car A Toyota Tercel, which I totaled on the way to the Philadelphia Half Marathon
Current car I have had around six Toyotas, but now I drive a Jeep Cherokee
First Job I worked at the local park in the summertime teaching swim lessons and lake birding
Favorite Halloween costume We were basic up in Vermont. We would put a pillowcase over our head and go as a ghost. It wasn’t so much how we dressed up. We just wanted to run around and race up and down the streets, so we had to wear something that allowed us to get around easily
Family My husband has had the biggest influence on me. We’ve been together since 1981. We’ve grown together a lot over the years, and he has become an even better person. He worked in the school system with kids and developed his skills. He went into the political realm to help the people of Fall River and he genuinely invested. He has stuck to his guns. He is an honest, humble person. Our growing together and he being a better person is so wonderful. We are more similar now than we were then. We used to run together and don’t now, but we have grown emotionally, and I feel very fortunate. We didn’t have any children. I was from a big family with two brothers and two sisters. Two of them have passed away already. I have a brother down in Florida in the Daytona Beach area and I have a sister that still lives in Vermont
The ‘First Lady of Fall River’ That’s a title that is hollow. It doesn’t mean anything (laughing). I had hoped to be more involved in the community before covid hit, but it put a damper on everything. My husband is planning on running for a second term as mayor. Hopefully, the world will open up and we can do more
Pets I love animals. We have had a cat before. For some reason, on Instagram I am following dogs. We downsized to a smaller home and it isn’t as conducive to having pets. I like cats and. If I were alone, I would probably have two cats. I’m just a cat person. Dogs are like children and you must walk them every so often. Since we never had children, we don’t like being tied down. But, for some reason, I see a dog in our future. Something happened to me this past year where I just feel like we need a dog
Favorite breakfast I’m a cereal person. I will get stuck on one. It was oatmeal for the longest time and now its dry cereal. I could eat cereal for dinner. We also eat a lot of bagels
Favorite meal I love Italian food. We eat out a lot
Favorite beverages I like Coors Lite, Margaritas and tequila
First running memories We had a lot of dirt roads where I grew up. I would just head out the door. I remember going out the door one day and I was running along, and I had this moment, this epiphany, ‘Why can’t I be as good as the best people in the world?’ Something hit me as I was cruising along. I was feeling good and picking up the pace and wondering why I couldn’t be as good as the Olympians. That was a moment for a young person who was growing up in Vermont, so remotely and who didn’t think I would every get there. I also used to do things that weren’t typical for a kid, like my brother would time me around the block. I would go through a covered bridge and it was probably over a half mile. I would see if I could improve my time. What kid does that for fun? So, I have always had a competitive nature. I was competitive with myself. As far as winning a ribbon in school, I don’t recall any of that. It was more things that made me reflect on what I could do
Running heroes In high school it was a 400-meter runner, Jenny Fox. She was State Champion and, of course, I looked up to her. Another local girl, Sue Marshall, was best in cross country and beat me in the 800 meters my freshman year. I looked up to the girls who were above me. Since I was in Vermont, I just looked at the competition statewide. I didn’t look beyond that. As I moved up in competition, Joan Benoit was so impressive and such an animal when it came time to race. And she is a good person, a clean competitor, she was respectful and that is the kind of person I respected and strived to be like
Greatest running moments The World Championships and the Olympics. Those are something my whole career I strived for. To finally get there after all those years of training and racing culminated with those events
Worst running moment That 1981 AIAW National Championships where I finished sixth could be one of my worst running moments, but it didn’t stick in my brain much because it was due to the weather. I would say the New York City Marathon. When it was in my rearview mirror, I made the statement, ‘I’m not doing this again.’ And I didn’t
Childhood dreams The silly thing is my mom was a nurse and she told me that nursing would turn into paperwork, so I got away from that thought. I didn’t have any dreams that were very glamorous. Being a nurse practitioner wasn’t an option back then, but if I could do anything over again, I would probably be a nurse practitioner or a Physician’s Assistant. One of my friends had talked about being a Dental Hygienist and that stuck with me, so I studied that at UVM and did that for a couple years when I was out of college, but I never went back to it. Life was very simple in Vermont and I had no big or unusual aspirations
Funny memories At the New York City Marathon before the start when I had to go to the bathroom and there was that trough. I was so nervus that I couldn’t bend down and go to the bathroom. It was awful. There was sexual discrimination there. They provided the trough for the guys while the women didn’t have anything
Embarrassing moment After the Manchester Thanksgiving Race, they would have the awards ceremony in the gym. You would get your award and they would take pictures of you. When I went back as a master’s runner, they gave me my award and the people were standing next to me. We were smiling, but there was no camera. My friends picked up on it. I have a lot of ‘Judyisms’ where I do stupid stuff. That one was embarrassing
Worst date ever When I first went to Cambridge, I was training with Chris Gregorek and we were running with two male Athletics West runners. One of the guys asked me to go to a Moody Blues concert. I went with him. It was at the old Boston Garden. We were in the back row and I said, ‘You know I’m dating someone?’ and he said, ‘No.’ I was dating Tom at the time. Since we were running together, I thought we went to the concert as just friends. He thought it was a date. Oops, that was the end of that. But I did get to see the Moody Blues, though I didn’t appreciate them enough because I wasn’t into their music at the time
Favorite places to travel Oslo was gorgeous. That was a great place to see. I wish I was able to travel more but, when you’re racing, you don’t get to sightsee much since you are so absorbed in racing. But that was a beautiful city to see. We went to small towns in Finland where we ran small track races and that was nice. But I didn’t do a lot of running on the European circuit, except the summer before the Olympics. In the U.S., New Orleans is a fun place to be. There is a lot of energy and fun