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Take two

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL – After completing the Chicago Marathon five years ago, Julie Petry wasn’t planning on signing up for another long-distance running event again.

While Petry, the wife of Canadiens defenseman Jeff Petry, was one of 35,670 participants to actually cross the finish line on October 9, 2011 following the 26.2 mile trek around the Windy City, the Houston native suffered a small setback along the way, injuring her leg. That ultimately cost her valuable time, and led to a disappointing finish given all the months of hard work she’d put in to prepare for the grueling road race.

Julie Petry is leading the Extra Mile Allies initiative to raise money for charities that support underprivileged kids.

As a multi-sport athlete who’d been a four-year letterwinner in field hockey, lacrosse and basketball in high school in Southeast Texas, before moving on to play field hockey at Michigan State University, it was a particularly tough pill to swallow.

That’s all behind Petry now, though, and she’s currently training to give running another go. This time around, the 27-year-old is gearing up to run the Oasis Rock ‘N’ Roll Half Marathon in Montreal on September 25 – and she won’t be doing it alone.

In conjunction with a program she championed called Extra Mile Allies, Petry and 15 other women will all be pounding the pavement in two months’ time to raise funds for the Montreal Canadiens Children’s Foundation and the Julie and Jeff Petry Foundation – both of which support underprivileged kids. In this case, the funds allocated to the JPFoundation will go to S.A.Y. Play Center in Detroit, a first-class multipurpose facility that serves the academic, social and physical fitness needs of youngsters in the area.

Those ladies taking on the 13.1 mile challenge alongside Petry include fellow Canadiens players’ wives Angela Price, Katia Pacioretty, Alyssa Flynn and Stefani Pateryn, spouses and girlfriends of players from several other NHL teams, and Canadiens staffers, too.

“I still work out pretty regularly, and one day months back I was on the treadmill and I was thinking that I needed to commit to something to really challenge myself again after having a baby. I’d always been training and competing for something my whole life. I thought about a half marathon, and the wheels just started turning from there,” said Petry, who gave birth to the couple’s first child, Boyd Jackson, on August 8, 2015 in Michigan. “It was during the time where I was trying to get back to normal, back into shape after having Boyd. I thought about doing something that could benefit my own personal health, but also help others by giving back. I wanted to see if any other girls were interested in doing it with me, and the response was really great. So, we created the team, Extra Mile Allies, and everyone committed to raising $1,000 each for charity before the race.”

With the help of Canadiens strength and conditioning coach, Pierre Allard, Petry and her teammates were provided with a training program that began back on June 6. The program called for runs three times a week – on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday – with the mileage rising incrementally as time went on. The fourth week of every month, however, would generally be a recovery week and the mileage would decrease.

Beginning on August 1, the Extra Mile Allies will begin a new interval training program that will take them all the way up until race day. That means that they’ll generally be mixing running, walking and jogging together every time out, a common practice in training for long distance races.

For Petry, getting back into training mode has certainly been an adjustment. Unlike when she was competing in the NCAA ranks, the added responsibility of being a mother to a soon-to-be one-year-old can make finding time to adhere to a running regimen somewhat more complicated.

Jeff and Julie on a recent trip back to her hometown of Houston where the Canadiens defenseman joined in on a training run.

“Jeff leaves super early in the morning for workouts. He’s usually gone by 6:15 a.m. to get to the gym by 7 a.m. and get all warmed up. If I want to get my run in before the heat of the day, I have to be out there at 5 a.m. It’s still dark out at that hour, but I’ve been doing it because it’s the only way I can get my work in. It hasn’t been easy. It’s hard to get up when that alarm clock goes off,” said Petry, who has been steadily getting her running mojo back, tough as it may be. “Running is way more challenging post-baby. One thing is trying to get my mental state back to when I was in college and competing with that really strong mindset. The mental part has been the most challenging aspect so far. Positive thinking really is half the battle.”

Fortunately, the Extra Mile Allies are all in this together, and they’re experiencing the inevitable highs and lows of training at the same time. Even though the majority of them reside in different cities – especially in the offseason – Julie is doing her best to rally the troops and keep morale up online.

“I’m sending out check-in e-mails from time to time just updating the girls about the race weekend in September. Everybody is kind of holding themselves accountable, though, from what I see,” said Petry, who is enjoying seeing her teammates’ progress in posts on various social media platforms. “All of these girls are my friends, so we’re sort of keeping in touch on Snapchat. We’ll all post things when we’re running, and you know everyone’s going to do what they have to do to be prepared for it. Social media is such a common thing now, so it’s like we’re checking in with each other without really knowing it.”

Jeff has also been a huge help with Julie’s training efforts, too, doing the best he can to work around his training schedule to spend some extra time with Boyd while she works out. He’s even running with her from time to time when a cardio day is on the menu with his summer program as well.

“He’s super committed to being there if I can’t make it out to run at a certain time and I need to get the miles in later in the day. He makes sure to be home to watch Boyd. When he’s able to come with me, he’s definitely supportive and he pushes me to not stop and keep on going a little bit further before I walk again. I’m definitely going to avoid walking if he’s right there with me,” said Petry, who met her future husband while the pair was both in college playing for the Spartans. “We like training together. I don’t train to the extent he does, obviously, but when he’s focusing on cardio, he’ll go for a couple of miles with me and then do more speed-related stuff when we’re done. I know when he's back on the ice more religiously, he'll be gone a lot more and I might have to switch things up and bust out the jogging stroller. But, I'll be ready for it.”

While training for the half marathon has been anything but a walk in the park, Petry is adamant that it’s all worthwhile. At the heart of the initiative is a commitment to charitable endeavors which have long been near and dear to both Julie and Jeff’s hearts. For Julie, that adds extra some extra special meaning to taking on a challenge of this magnitude again.

“When we were both at MSU, the athletic program there is very involved with local charities. All of the teams do something. I think it was instilled in us there, that giving back to your community is important no matter where you are. You can make an impact. Then, in Edmonton, it was the same thing. That’s where it took off for us. In Montreal, we have the same feeling,” said Petry, before expanding upon her involvement with S.A.Y. Detroit in Michigan, the state the couple has officially called home since 2012. “Detroit is a city that needs so much help. Now that we have roots there, it’s even more important to us. The second we walked into the Play Center, it really hit us and we felt a strong connection. It’s all just added motivation for the race. The money is going to good causes. We’re doing this for the kids.”

Hard at work, Julie is eager to see all the Extra Mile Allies gather together in Montreal come late September.

Eight weeks remain before the Extra Mile Allies put on their running shoes for real and test their collective metal, but Petry simply can’t wait to see everyone come together at the starting line on the Jacques-Cartier Bridge. It has all the makings of an exceptional weekend for all involved.

“I think it’s going to be surreal, especially seeing some of my friends that I haven’t seen for over two years. They’re coming to Montreal from all over the place. It’s going to be super fun and exciting, and there'll be a ton of adrenaline,” concluded Petry, who will train in Michigan for the remainder of the summer before returning to Montreal with Jeff and Boyd as the season approaches. “I think it’s going to be my vision come to life. We’re going to run together, walk together, and experience something really awesome. At the end of it, we’re all going to be super proud. It will be quite the accomplishment.”

To learn more about the Extra Mile Allies initiative or to donate to the cause, click here.

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.

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