Julia Helene Armstrong (born 12 May 1959) is a British marathon runner who achieved most success running as Julia Gates in the mid to late '80s, winning the 1985 Dublin Marathon and setting a course record with 2:41:24 and competing in the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh. Her personal best was 2:36:31, set in the 1986 London Marathon, where she came in as 3rd British finisher and 7th female overall. She still competes at a high level, running as an elite female in the 2008 London Marathon, and in October 2008 she took up ultrarunning, coming in as 3rd female in a 56 mile cross-country race from London to Brighton.
Armstrong was born in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Her family moved to Britain in 1962, and settled near Farnham, Hampshire. She began her athletic career in 1974, joining Haslemere Border AC as their first female member.
Armstrong met Nigel Gates, a fellow athlete, in 1979 at an international race in Manresa, Spain, and they married in 1982. For the majority of Armstrong's international career they lived and worked together in Bath, having founded Springs Health Club in the city. They separated in 1993, and she has been married three times since then, competing as Julia McGowan (1994–1997) and Julia Cornford (1998–2001) before changing her name back to Armstrong.
Throughout her early athletic career, Armstrong suffered from an eating disorder and this is documented in her book, Running to Learn. She has spoken frankly about the disorder in a number of articles and interviews with the national press.
After international career
Armstrong's work as a personal trainer led her in the direction of coaching and counselling, and she now works as a sports coach and therapist.
In April 2008, Armstrong published her first book, Running to Learn, which offers a mix of autobiography and the ideas and philosophy behind her successful career as a therapist.
- 5,000 metres - 15:51 Bath, 26 June 1985
- 10,000 metres - 33:29 Swansea Bay, 15 September 1985
- 10 miles - 55:10 Woking, 23 February 1986
- Marathon - 2:36:31 London, 20 April 1986
Armstrong was part of the British team that finished 3rd in the 1987 New York marathon.