COVINGTON, Ky. — A former Olympian calls it the race to find a vaccine, literally.

“1984, the first-ever women’s Olympic marathon, pretty lucky girl,” said Julie Isphording.

Isphording is a long-distance runner who lives in Cincinnati. Unfortunately, the former Olympian didn’t get to finish the marathon in 1984.

“I ruptured a disc in my back in mile 11, and I fell to the pavement, and I had to be transported to the hospital,” Isphording said.

The 58-year-old said she was crushed and considered herself ‘failing at the Olympics’ at that time, until she gained some wisdom.

“It just, life happens and it doesn’t. We don’t plan our lives. We can plan and hope and dream but sometimes things don’t happen and we have to understand years later why,” Isphording said.

The lessons she learned, in hindsight, pushed her years later to finish first at a marathon in Los Angeles. She now organizes the annual Thanksgiving Day Race in Cincinnati. 

“So maybe the story of my life is about second chances and third chances and fourth chances and helping with the vaccine trials is my one billionth chance,” Isphording said.

She lives with the philosophy that life is full of chances, and being blessed with good health is her way of giving back.

Isphording is one of many candidates that has signed up for a vaccine study.

“We want to see if this is safe of course, but also effective on whether or not this is a vaccine that would require one dose, which would be great from a logistics standpoint, or do we need a booster dose where there’s an additional vaccination that’s needed to help protect people,” said Dave Mayleben. 

Mayleben is the Vice President of Research Site Services with CTI Clinical Trial and Consulting headquartered in Covington.

He and his team are working to find answers on the safety and effectiveness of the large vaccine studies.

“The companies that are developing the vaccines really all have different technologies if you will that can deliver the vaccine safely hopefully and effectively,” Mayleben said.

CTI has a database of volunteers, but now is hoping to build a database of at least 10,000 volunteers to call on as large studies of the COVID-19 vaccine trials get started in September.

“The idea is to get many people involved as quickly as we can to determine if the vaccine is safe and effective,” Mayleben said.

Former Olympian Julie Isphording has signed up to help with COVID-19 testing


Isphording said she’s hoping more people join her calling and sign up to find a COVID-19 vaccine.

“Am I nervous about volunteering for the vaccine? Wouldn’t anyone be nervous and once again it’s the unknown. But I think if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn't change you,” Ishpording said.

The research facility said anyone above the age of 18 can sign up. They’re looking for not only healthy people but also those with underlying health conditions.