Published June 19, 2009, 12:00 AM

Runners racing for a goal, a birthday and inspiration from Mom

Julie Johnston thought the idea of going 26.2 miles at one time sounded crazy, but she changed her mind after watching a Grandma’s Marathon.

By: Mark Warner, Duluth News Tribune

Julie Johnston thought the idea of going 26.2 miles at one time sounded crazy, but she changed her mind after watching a Grandma’s Marathon.

“I saw a friend of mine run it, and I couldn’t believe how pumped he got,” Johnston said. “I figured if he could run 26, I should be able to make at least 13 miles.”

The recent Minnesota Duluth graduate, who earned an education degree, will attempt her first 13.1-mile race in Saturday’s Garry Bjorklund Half-Marathon. The former Bulldog track pole vaulter said that will be enough of an accomplishment.

Johnston, 23, from Bloomington, Minn., says her goals are modest.

“I just want to make nine-minute miles throughout the race and I’ll be happy,” she said of a pace that would have her finish in about 1 hour and

57 minutes.

“If I could run 8½-minute miles and blow my goal away, I would be so happy. That would probably rank up there with anything else I’ve done in my athletic career,” she said.

Julie Ray

Julie Ray doesn’t want much for her birthday — just to cross the finish line of Grandma’s Marathon.

As fate would have it, Ray turns 33 on Saturday; the same day as the 33rd edition of Duluth’s premier race.

While she said she is excited about the coincidence, she would have entered the race anyway.

“I’m not sure when the marathon bug bit me, but I’ve wanted to enter since I moved to Duluth two years ago,” she said.

Ray, 33, a speech pathologist for the Duluth schools, finished the 2008 Grandma’s Marathon in 5:04:36 and ran the 2008 Twin Cities Marathon last October in 5:51:35, and simply wants to replicate those results; a finish.

“It was an amazing feeling to finish last time,” she said. “And I’d love to feel that again.”

Jon Morales

Jon Morales hadn’t considered running a marathon until getting a little family inspiration.

“My mom got into running before I did, and she told me she’d signed up for the marathon and it would be great if I did, too,” said Morales. “I figured if she can do it, I should be able to.”

Morales, 24, from Duluth, doesn’t anticipate breaking any speed records, but does have a background as a cross-country runner and was the 2005 Minnesota Class AA high school boys pole vault champion at Willmar High School. A sore knee, though, may slow the UMD student.

“I jumped into my training a little too hard and I ended up hurting my left knee. I’ve been taking it easy ever since,” he said.

Nonetheless, he looks forward to running with his mom Saturday — for a while.

“I bet we’ll run together for a bit at the start, and that’ll be fun, after that I’m going try my best to get under four hours,” Morales said.

Tags: