Happy Friday, Friends!

We’re back with another of my favourite posts to write…another edition of Inspiring Humans! This week I’m interviewing one of the participants in my Cross-Training for Runners Class, June.

In the six or so months I’ve known June I’ve been inspired by what a complete badass she is. Not only did she just complete her TWENTY-SIXTH marathon, but her story about how she started running is super inspiring.

She’s run by one of my outdoor workouts on one of her marathon training runs AFTER leading a half marathon clinic on their own run, and she’s one of the only participants in my class who rocks full push-ups for the full 45 seconds.

Not only that, she always has a smile on her face and in the short one-hour interaction I have with her each week I can tell what a kind person she is.

So without further ado, let’s get to June’s interview!

{Quick side note: When I sent June her questions I was under the impression she started out running half marathons. I was wrong, which makes her even more of a tough cookie!}

Inspiring Humans | Evolution by Ariana

Ariana Fotinakis: You’ve got quite a few races under your belt! What inspired you to get started?

June James: My younger brother, Eric, who had always been athletic, took up marathon running and I supported him by being his cheering squad. He knew I wasn’t a runner, but that I loved to walk and he mentioned to me that there were people who walked marathons.

That possibility sparked my interest and Eric’s wife talked to me about walking a marathon with her. I agreed, and we planned to train for the 2003 Vancouver marathon; however, just weeks before the race, she suffered an injury and had to pull out. I didn’t want to walk it alone, so I called my good friend, Dale, who had done some crazy long walks (she walked from Cranbrook to Nelson more than once) and she did the marathon with me.

We didn’t take it all that seriously and just had a lot of fun on the walk, which took us 6 hours and 50 minutes. After the race, I began to think that if I paid more attention to pacing, I could probably walk a marathon much faster and I did. I walked four more, and finished the last one that I walked in 5 hours and 10 minutes (I won’t lie, I did throw in a little jogging here and there during the race, but not a lot).

inspiring humans

AF: Did you follow any sort of training program before walking your half marathon, or did you just wake up one morning and thing “today I’m going to walk 21.1km!”?

JJ: As has been the pattern in my life, I do everything backwards. I didn’t do a half marathon until I had completed six marathons. Before walking my first marathon, my sister-in-law sent me a training schedule. I didn’t follow it, and instead, convinced myself that walking the seawall once a week would get me in shape for the marathon. Boy, was I wrong!

AF: What pushed you to jump from the half marathon to the full marathon?

JJ: Since I didn’t make the leap from the half to the full, I will say that my impending 50th birthday in 2006 made me decide to finally learn to run a marathon by training properly. I joined a clinic with the goal of breaking five hours in the marathon. I ran the Vancouver marathon that year in 4 hours and 33 minutes.

AF: Out of all the races you’ve completed, what was your favourite? Your most challenging?

JJ: My favourite race is the Victoria Marathon. The scenery is spectacular and the whole community comes out to cheer. While Victoria holds a special place in my heart, the Chicago Marathon is probably the most exciting race I have ever done. The city is beautiful and the citizens “own” the race. The spectators are loud and non-stop from mile one to mile twenty-six.

Inspiring Humans | Evolution by Ariana


The most challenging race I have ever done was Edge to Edge, when the course went from Tofino to Ucluelet. The last seven kilometres consisted of steep uphills, followed by a very steep downhill run to the finish line.

AF: Do you have any big/scary/exciting races on your horizon?

JJ: I am toying with the idea of running the Squamish 50 Km for my 60th birthday. I’m not fond of trail running and the race will require lots of specialized training, so attempting it is definitely both scary and challenging for me.

AF: Do you have any nutrition strategies you follow to keep you fueled in the weeks leading up to your races?

JJ: I have been vegetarian for many years and I follow a diet that includes lots of fresh food and very little processed food. I also drink lots of water. I follow this diet year-round. Pre-race, I carb-load a couple of days before the race. The day before, I eat a hearty lunch and a smaller dinner, so that I can avoid having to stop at the Porta-Potty during the race.

Inspiring Humans | Evolution by Ariana

AF: Even at the end of a marathon on a hot sunny day you still had a smile on your face! Do you ever experience any mental struggles during races, and if so, how do you combat those?

JJ: I do experience mental struggles during races, and, during those times, I use positive self-talk. I tell myself, “You can do it.” I also think about people like Terry Fox, who ran a marathon a day on one leg for several months. I remind myself that if he could do that, I can get myself through the tough spots on two legs.

Also, during my most recent race, I remembered the lady in the wheelchair on the Downtown Eastside who saw us coming through on a training run and who applauded us saying, “I wish I could do that.” I reminded myself that I don’t ever have to make that wish. Finally, I use the energy of the cheering spectators to keep me going. That energy helps me to keep a smile on my face.

Inspiring Humans | Evolution by Ariana

AF: How do you balance your own marathon training with being a half marathon clinic leader?

JJ: I do a lot of solo add-ons after I have done the long runs with my group. I also follow the marathon training schedule for the rest of the week and, of course, I cross-train with you, as well as doing yoga.

AF: Do you have any philosophies when it comes to training?

JJ: My big philosophy is to avoid discouragement. I tell the people I train to find a silver lining in every training run, even if it is just celebrating the fact that they finished the run. I also encourage them to reward themselves for the hard work they put in. For example, once a week, I reward myself with a fancy latte after a training run.

AF: Do you have any tips for any of our readers who would like to get started with completing long-distance races, either by walking or running?

JJ: Join a running/walking clinic. Training with others is motivating and encouraging. The one thing that I enjoy most about running is being part of a community of runners. The training runs are most important to me and the races are the icing on the cake. Finally, just keep putting one foot in front of the other!

Inspiring Humans | Evolution by Ariana

Thank you SO much for your time June! I think I can speak for all my readers when I tell you how inspiring your words are.

Do you have any inspiring humans in your life you think I need to know about? Do you have a story you would like to share? Let me know! I’d love to feature you or a friend!

Showing 4 comments
  • Farrah

    Holy eff, June is a total badass! :O Starting with marathons and on her 26th one?!? D-damn, that’s almost a marathon for every year that I’ve been alive! :O!!! Major major props to her! I love her attitude in finding the silver lining in every training run! <3 That's an awesome philosophy for life in general! :]

    • Ariana

      Right?? 100% badass for sure! I agree that it’s so very important to find the silver lining in everything that happens. You two are very smart 😉

  • Diane @ Vintage Zest

    I’m amazed at how many she’s done in such a short time! Also, after my first push-up session on Saturday after an injury, I have MUCH more respect for exercise and the people who can pump them out!

    • Ariana

      Push-ups are definitely a humbling exercise! Keep at ’em and you’ll be able to bang them out no problem yourself! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

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