Lehigh Valley Marathon Recap

Training for this marathon was an incredible experience as a Mother Runner. I really feel like it helped me bond with Frankie in a special way. I love the fact that now he asks to go for a run in the stroller. It helped us connect while he learned more about a sport that Mommy loves. And bonus for him, he got to spend time outside experiencing all  that Mother Nature brings- maybe even a brief bear encounter.

About 2 weeks after I finished the Superhero Half in May, I started contemplating signing up for a full marathon. I figured that since training for 13.1 had gone so well, I could push myself to attempt training for 26.2 while raising a toddler.  Some days it was really hard. I was tired. I was cranky. And some days Frankie was. But I’m really proud of the fact that I didn’t miss any runs. I had to modify the mileage sometimes, but otherwise I was able to complete the training plan I had created for myself (based on Hal Higdon’s Intermediate 1 plan). I will blog more about my training in a future post.

When I shared my goals with one of my mommy running friends, she mentioned she was doing the Lehigh Valley Marathon in PA and that I should consider doing it too. This small marathon with a descending course that starts in Allentown and ends in Easton is actually the second fastest marathon in the country, helping many runners qualify for Boston each year.  Since it’s less than 2 hours away from me, I thought it would be a convenient one to do.  I didn’t really know what sort of goal to give myself. The last time I ran a full, it was NYC in 2014 where I was recovering from ITB and had to deal with crazy wind on race day. I gave myself a range of 3:50-3:45 after feeling really great with the outcome of some of my long runs. Fast forward to late August and two weeks before the marathon, and the weather looked very promising. I told myself that that was my green light to try to run my best marathon and break 3:45. If I could do that then maybe I could start thinking about “chasing Boston” in the near future.

I booked a room at the Holiday Inn in Allentown and they were kind enough to give me a discount in exchange for my honest review on my blog. The location was great as it was less than 15 minutes away from the start, which took place at the Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown. My mom and Frankie were with us so we got a room with two Queen beds and requested a portable crib for Frankie. The room was clean and spacious enough for a quick one night stay for all of us.

Packet pick-up took place in Bethlehem at the Arts Quest Center, across from the SteelStacks. What an awesome place!  It used to be the old Bethlehem Steel plant and now is an event venue. It was so beautiful and just something completely unique. We arrived around 3pm and got my bib and swagbag and then walked around the old plant and took some photos. Then we headed to the hotel to check in. Once we arrived there, Frankie, my mom and I stayed in and rested. Frank decided to go out and explore a bit. He texted me saying he found a beer festival just a few blocks away. Definitely a fun thing to run into for my supportive spectator! I was a little sad that I couldn’t enjoy the festival but I was happy he had something fun to do!

We ventured out in the cool evening to find a place to eat and decided to check out an Italian place a few blocks away. It’s been a tradition for my past two marathons that I order gnocchi the night before, so that’s what I did. We finished dinner and headed back to the hotel to let Frankie run around in the lobby a bit before bedtime.  Unfortunately I did not sleep very well due to nerves (and Frankie being up late).

I woke up the next morning around 5am and got ready. The fridge didn’t seem to keep my food very cold, which I think led to some issues later. I brought a peanut butter sandwich and a smoothie and had those along with a cup of coffee.  I pinned my bib on, put my shoes on and left around 6:15 and was dropped off by Frank who said he’d see me at the half-way point with my mom and Frankie.

I waited around until the official start took place at 7:10am. I ran into another one of my running friends and we wished each other good luck. My Garmin decided to do a restart just as I needed to hit Start so it was off by 2 minutes. The first few miles had some big downhills and I tried to keep myself at a comfortable pace. It was very picturesque, with a cute covered bridge within the first 2 miles. I actually caught up to my friend and we ended up running most of the race together, until around mile 20 when I had to hold back.

I was feeling really great the first few miles, but I think it was around mile 8 that I started getting side stitches- which I never get! I ignored them and tried to keep focusing on running and the beautiful scenery.  We got to mile 12 and saw my family but my side stitches were pretty strong at this point. My stomach was hurting pretty badly and I thought maybe I should stop and try to use the bathroom. I told myself that I would try to keep going a couple more miles to see if the pain went away. I couldn’t figure out why this was happening. I had been hydrating the days before and was drinking water at every water station during the race. I was taking my salt tabs and my Honey Stingers like I had practiced. I immediately remembered the fridge was not very cold. Maybe that was it? Oh great, I thought. I have perfect running conditions, I trained so diligently and now I may not beat my goal. Maybe I’ll just try to break 4 hours, I thought.

I kept struggling through the next few miles but it was really nice to see my family again a few miles later. A few times I was tempted to run off into the woods, but I told myself, “You are tough. You are strong. You can push through this.”  So then we got to Mile 20. And it was rough. Really rough. We ran past a tiny abandoned cottage that looked like it should be in a fairytale.Then all of a sudden, I see Frank beaming at me and holding a sign that Frankie had made, “Go Julia! Frankie is napping but he sends artwork!” It was the perfect thing to hear and see to give me a little jolt of energy. At this point my friend was feeling great so he took off and I hung back. I knew I couldn’t speed up but I told myself that I would force myself to maintain my current pace. I got to mile 21, then mile 22, then mile 23, then mile 24. I was soo close. I really could do it. I looked at the time. “Wow, I really could get under 3:45 maybe,” I thought. Then it was mile 25 and it seemed to last forever. There was a windy right turn that we had to make just before the Finish Line. I was afraid to look at the time on the clock but I did anyway. It said 3:42-something which meant it was really 3:44-something since my watch was off by 2 minutes. My stomach was hurting so badly and I could feel so much tension in my face but I charged through the last yard, caught sight of my family cheering me on on the sidelines, and sprinted across the finish line with a pained look on my face. I looked at my watch and wasn’t sure if I did or didn’t break 3:45.

My legs were so cramped up at this point that I couldn’t even bend down to sit and rest. Frank found me and helped me down but it wasn’t long til I had to visit the porta-potty.  I wasn’t hungry or thirsty but I knew I needed some electrolytes. My father-in-law got me a beer and magically that brought me back to life a little bit. Frank looked up my time on the athlete tracking site and told me that it was 3:44:49- I had pulled it off!  We then headed to 3rd and Ferry Fish Market for a celebratory lunch where I enjoyed a much needed burger and beers. Bonus that they offered 10% off to the marathoners.

Overall it was a really nice Marathon- it’s small, scenic, with plenty of shade and well-organized. The fact that it benefits people with disabilities is also a big plus.

My quads were very beat up from all the downhill running and the miles done on a tow path. I rested for 4 days and then slowly started working out and running again. I have a 10K this Sunday and a Half Marathon on the 21st. I’m really hoping for new PRs in these distances too. I’ll keep you posted!

Xo,

Julia

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Marathon Taper Week: What I’ll be Focusing On

I’ve heard plently of talk about the “dreaded marathon taper” during the past few years of training for marathons. In my case, it is not dread at all. On the contrary, it’s a much needed point in my training. Since last week, I’ve been so ready for the decrease in miles and intensity. My body and mind have put in the work, and I’m feeling ready to rest for the big day.

Trek for Trafficking 5K 2014

After all, I’ve worked super hard to get to this point. I never missed a single run, maybe a few miles, but the actual runs were always done. I’ve woken up super early on weekends, I’ve put in hundreds of miles pushing a toddler in a stroller, I’ve endured runs in the heat and humidity, I’ve done my speed work, I’ve put in the time to cross train, I’ve given up some Sunday mornings with my family and some late night outs with friends.  All this for one day? Or is it really just for one day? If you learn to look at more than just the time at the finish line, but the actual journey, all that you must learn to overcome to get to the START line and all the work you must put in to help you move along, step by step or stride by stride, to get to the finish, it’s all worth being proud of.

Having a time goal (and a Plan B and Plan C) is awesome, and I’m all about setting goals, but one shouldn’t be too hard on oneself if you fall slightly short. I know the hard training I’ve put in cannot simply be measured in how fast I cross my finish line next Sunday.

This week I’m focusing on rest and active recovery. This weekend was a bit tough in getting in my last “long run” due to Frankie being very sick with croup. I got about 7 miles in but that was good enough. On Labor Day, I coached my Fastinista FitCamp and then went for a short run (just under 3 miles as one last pace test). On Tuesday, I did an easy 3 miler with Frankie; on Wednesday I did 3.5 miles marking my last “real” run for the week, with a short 2 mile shakeout on Saturday. I’m planning on doing a lot of stretching, foam rolling and some core moves and walking on Thursday and Friday and that’s it.

Snuggles with my training buddy!

As far as nutrition, I’m planning on upping my carb intake starting today. I usually have a smoothie for breakfast but going forward I will also add a small piece of toast to have with my coffee. Lunch will be sandwiches or salads, and dinners will include healthy protein with gluten-free pasta, quinoa, couscous or sweet potatoes. Or maybe more corn since we have plenty of it right now!

My favorite breakfast
Carrots, zucchini, mango, turmeric, ginger and About Time protein powder.

I will have to take it easy with my alcohol intake as well. As much as I love a glass of wine or beer a few times a week, I need to watch the sugar which tends to hurt my stomach on long runs. That being said, I will certainly need to treat myself to my new favorite Owl’s Brew Classic Tequila, perhaps tomorrow night. You may have seen I recently discovered Owl’s Brew and their brew/tea blends. I tried their 3 beer types and my favorites are the Wicked Watermelon and Summer Blonde- they have slight hints of fruit and botanicals but still taste a bit like a beer. Among the mixers, I have tried “The Classic” craft cocktail mixer which I paired with tequila.  It is soo good! Brewed with English breakfast tea and lemon peel with lemon and lime, it is like a mild margarita. I highly recommend it for my tequila drinkers, although you really can mix it with vodka, whiskey, gin or beer as well. Thanks Owl’s Brew for sending me these goodies to try out! I still have the “White and Vine” and “Pink & Black” mixers left to try at my next get-together.

Owl's Brew mixers

So my little cocktail tomorrow night will be a celebration of my START line. Lehigh Valley Marathon, I’m ready to don that bib and conquer your course!

Make sure to follow my instagram to see how the rest of the week goes and I’m sure I’ll be sharing about my marathon experience sometime next week!

Xo,

Julia

Cape May Summer Memories

We just got back from a few days down in Cape May, NJ. This was our second trip this summer with the previous one being back in June. I had a lot going on with my online training and FitCamp and didn’t get a chance to blog about the first trip so I will talk a little bit about both now.

Our getaway in June came in at a great time, giving us the opportunity to treat my Mom to a little road trip with us (although all her help with Frankie really was a treat to US), celebrate our 3rd wedding anniversary and a mini birthday celebration for me as well. We stayed at my sister-in-law’s house that is just a short walk to the Cape May Cove making it easy to get to and from the beach with little Frankie. As a fact, everything is pretty walkable in this charming little resort town.

Our first night, the 4 of us had dinner at The Rusty Nail where I ordered a delicious lobster roll with a side salad, naturally. Frank and I indulged in a couple of dark and stormy drinks and we enjoyed the live music playing in the background. Eventually my mom took Frankie back to the house for bedtime while Frank and I took a drive out to Sunset Beach to take in the views.

All of us at The Rusty Nail

Beautiful sunset!

Aperitifs at The Ebbett Room

Fun at Congress Hall

Heartbreaker smile

Cape May Zoo
 

The following day, we headed down to the beach for some fun in the sun and then Frank and I had a fancy date night at the Washington Inn while my mom and Frankie enjoyed some yummy local takeout. Great spot for a more upscale night out – we had great service too.

The 3rd day we had another beach day and then ventured to Congress Hall in the afternoon.  They were hosting their Carnival On The Lawn event- face painting, balloon animals, games for kids and parents of all ages, including a mini train ride. Frankie had the time of his life running around the lawn while the 3 of us took turns chasing him around. Unfortunately what was supposed to be a relaxing, lazy night later on, did not end without a little scare. Frankie woke up about an hour after falling asleep, crying hysterically. Thinking he was potentially sick, we decided to not take any chances and took him to the ER 20 minutes away. All ended up being well but I was so glad my mom was with us. The Dr believed it was some discomfort caused by gas but it was one of those things we’ll never know for sure. Our boy was back to his usual happy self the next morning and we were able to quickly pack up our things and head back home.

I was able to keep up with my marathon training schedule and do some running while down there. I did a 6 mile run to the Cape May Lighthouse with Frank on Saturday and a long run consisting of 2.5 miles with my mom, 6 miles with Frank and a couple more on my own on Sunday.

Our latest trip last week was unique in that we had 2 family members from Seattle also there. They are here for my in-laws’ 50th wedding anniversary party next weekend. This time we stayed in a motel just 2 blocks from my sister in law’s house and one block from the beach. The staff was very friendly and our room was kept very clean. I was nervous about sharing a room with Frankie but he did great about sleeping in his portable crib- he slept for 12 hours every night!

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The quiet street where The South Winds was located.

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The South Winds Motel

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Walking on the beach with Daddy
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My absolutely handsome boys
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Leading me on more adventures

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And the kid ran away with the spoon…
Our first night there, we decided on take-out from The Rusty Nail –once again I got the lobster roll and salad combo. Frank also got the fish tacos he so much enjoyed the previous time. The 2nd night there, we did our traditional date night at 410 Bank Street while our nephews babysat Frankie after his bedtime. I can’t even tell you what else is on the menu because my eyes instantly search for their Voodoo Shrimp, which I have gotten now every single time I’ve been there. I think it’s been 4 or 5 times now. It might be time to try to recreate it at home soon! The new thing we noticed this year is that they now carry Cape May wine. We opted for their chardonnay which was delicious! After sharing a scrumptious bread pudding dessert, we settled up and walked back to our Motel, taking the time to walk by Congress Hall and the night scene.

The 3rd night was the big family dinner at the Merion Inn, home to the oldest bar in NJ. everything on their menu will make you drool. I got the sea scallops with jasmine rice and vegetables. A bottle of 2016 Argentinian Malbec Rose by Altavista was shared with my mother in law and sister in law.  This historic restaurant was fantastic for our large party and our waitress was lovely with Frankie. Speaking of whom, he had a small taste of chocolate (perhaps only his 2nd time ever) and we now understand what parents refer to a “sugar rush”- we took him out of his stroller during our post-dinner passeggiata and he took off like a little bird freed from a cage! It was so cute and funny and people walking on the promenade couldn’t help but smile as he ran by them.

One of the most memorable parts about the trip was how much he enjoyed his big cousin Emmy’s company. He’s at the stage where he calls every kid (and sometimes adults) “the baby” so he kept referring to her as that. Endless hours were spent coloring with chalk on the sidewalk- and maybe even the front steps too. Oops. He has nearly perfected making circles, which are “bubbles” and he even learned to color them in.

My marathon training once again continued- 6.7 miles on Saturday and 11+ on Sunday. Since my sister in law does a lot of running when they’re down there, she took me on a couple of routes I probably wouldn’t have done on my own, which was great.

We enjoyed all the great things that Cape May brings: fun times together, delicious cuisine (umm hello Jersey Shore seafood!) and the carefree, simple life that the beach brings.

We look forward to more adventures down at Exit 0 again soon! I can’t believe how much more we did with Frankie this year compared to last year’s trip. He’s growing so fast!

Does your family do a beach vacation every year? If so, where?

Xo,

Julia

5 Tips for Exercising in the Heat

July tends to bring super hot temperatures here in North Jersey and if you’re training for a marathon that means having to be outside often in scorching, humid conditions. I have had some tough runs in the heat but made it through them by training smart and drinking plenty of water. Whether you have a long distance event in the books or are doing an outdoor workout class, here are some tips to help you survive the heat.


1.) Hydrate… a lot.  Drinking before or after is not always sufficient. When temperatures are high, it’s best to also hydrate during your sweat session. I recommend carrying water with you so you can reach for it easily. I wear a hydration belt on my long runs but if you’re a class-taker or gym-goer here’s a stainless steel bottle (only $15!) to bring along with you. It’s also important to replenish electrolytes, so a post-workout sports drink is essential for that. I like Nuun Active tablets. They have pretty clean ingredients and the flavors are not too overpowering.

2) Wear light-colored, sweat-wicking clothing. Save the dark colors for fall and winter and pull out your white tank tops and grey shorts. Avoid cotton as it will just stick to you, weigh you down and possibly even irritate your skin. I love MPG Sport for their affordable and cute tank tops for women. There are also times when you just have to workout in your sports bra, and you know what? That’s totally fine! There are some really cute ones at MPG too.

3) Keep It Brief. There will be times when you will need to cut it short or split up your runs or workouts. I usually have to do 2 runs- one in the mornings with Frankie while it’s still not too hot out and another one on the treadmill while he’s napping. It can get done- you just have to be flexible.

Stroller running around town

4) Wear sunscreen! Make sure you protect your skin, even on cloudy days. I always keep a bottle of sunscreen in the garage by the running stroller. Wear a hat or visor and try to stay in shady areas.

Running in shady part of Patriot’s Path

5) Take a cold shower. Although I usually do this after a workout, some people will also do it right before. It may also help wake you up if you have a super early morning wake up call.

Train smart and enjoy these last few weeks of summer. Working out in hot conditions definitely helps toughen up my mental game, so take away what you can from the tough workouts. They’ll make you a better athlete!

Today I did my long run, I have a few chores around the house, then we’ll be visiting my best friend and her family for a BBQ and kiddie play time, and then I’ll be back home finalizing some workouts for my first week of Small Group Training Classes which I’m SO SO excited about!

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday!

xo,

Julia

There are affiliate links included in this post that I may earn a small percentage from should you choose to make a purchase- at no additional cost to you.

First Post-Baby Race

On Sunday, I did a half marathon relay with Frank right here in our town. I’ve been doing the full, half marathon for a few years now but this year I wasn’t ready for the 13.1 yet. 

Our friend here has run 70 marathons! Including one in every state 😱

It was a bit cool in the morning, but the sun was out- thank God, because later in the day it got cloudy and very windy!

I ran the shorter distance of roughly 5.4 and Frank did the remaining 7.7 miles. There were lots of rolling hills in the portion that I ran and man, I was feeling them! My average pace was 8:15 and I was ok with that. It’s what I’ve been doing 3 miles in lately. As you can see in the image below, we placed 14th out of 108 and were in the top 87% overall! It gave me just the motivation I needed to keep going, keep running. Even if the treadmill gets boriiing.


I’m feeling stronger and slowly getting closer to old Olympic lifting maxes again. It’s funny how things are- I really thought I’d be in running shape faster than CrossFit shape…but I did stop running lonnnng before I stopped WODing ☺️

To all busy ladies (and gents too), keep doing what you’re doing. Stay safe but stay active! 
Xoxo 

6 tips to help you enjoy running

I’ve been a runner for a long time though I only started calling myself one about 5 years ago when I started training for my first half marathon. I thought if I didn’t run several times a week, year-around, and wasn’t doing high mileage, I wasn’t a “real” runner. I was mistaken.

Running the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge last year when I was about 9 weeks pregnant.

Whether you run a little or run a lot, you’re a runner…or you can become one.

 I remember training for my first half marathon and feeling so daunted by the training plan I followed. But it got easier. What was the secret? I just stuck with it. There were days when I was too tired or too sore or something came up and I missed my run– but that was ok. I allowed myself breaks here and there. I just knew I had to “bring it” next time.

Last summer I held a 4-week running clinic with some of my CrossFitters and other non-members to coach them into finishing a 5K- the first 5K for several of them. I hope to be able to carve some time out to do another clinic this Spring or Summer. 

In the meantime, I’m sharing my tips on making running feel a little easier- maybe even a little more enjoyable…so that you get out there and stick with it 🙂

  
1) Stay positive: 

If you tell yourself you hate running, running might hate you back. Just kidding. But seriously. If you can run 400 meters, you can run a mile. If you can run a mile, you can run a 5K, etc. 

Believe it and you will do it. 

2) It’s OK to walk!:

This is important because I know some people feel like if you are not running the whole time, then it doesn’t count. Wrong. There is no such rule. And actually walking is great because it allows you to use different muscles and give a break to the muscles you use when you’re running. When you walk you may feel it more in your glutes, whereas when you’re running, you may feel it more in your quads and hamstrings. 

I had my runners last year do run/walk combos to get them ready for the 5K. All of them beat their goals of finishing under a specific time. For example, I had them walk 5 minutes, then run 10 minutes, and so on until they were walking for a shorter amount of time or distance and running for a longer amount of time or distance. Start slow and build up your endurance.

In the first marathon I ran, I incorporated walk breaks and ended up finishing in 4:02, feeling like I could’ve kept going!

3) Breathe:

Many of my CrossFit trainees ask me about this and it’s actually what inspired me to write this post. How you breathe makes a huge difference in how you feel about not only running but any type of exercise that brings your heart rate up. 

The first thing is to make sure you’re taking big yoga-type breaths through your mouth, breathing from your diaphragm or belly rather than just your chest. You need as much oxygen as possible so make sure you take BIG breaths.

You may want to try following a 2:2 pattern where you inhale for 2 steps, exhale for 2 steps. The ratio can vary from person to person depending on speed (in fact, I’ve read about a 3:2 ratio in a running magazine) but it can give you something to pay attention to as you run to make sure you’re breathing correctly. You can find more info on these ratios on http://www.competitor.com and http://www.active.com. 

Just remember to relax and your body will know what to do. 

4) Practice Good Form:

As with any exercise, like CrossFit for example, the better your form, the more you will get out of it and the more you will prevent injuring yourself. When running, stay light on your feet, land toe to mid foot (not your heels!), and keep your chest up.  Keep your shoulders down and pull your navel towards your spine just like you would in CrossFit.

5) Wear the Right Shoes:

Don’t run in 5 year old sneakers! Go to a running store and have one of their trained staff help you find the right shoes for you. Once you find ones that work, stick with them. 

6) Listen to Music:

Play tunes that inspire you and get you revved up. You may find yourself running faster without even realizing it 🙂

One last secret I want to share is that I don’t always love running. My husband says the same thing. We love the feeling we get after a run. That sense of accomplishment. But sometimes the run itself sucks! Haha

I hope this post was helpful in getting you started with running 🙂 I could probably go into more detail on some of these topics so let me know if you have any questions in the comments. Or if anyone has any additional tips they’d like to share, please do so! 

Thank you for reading,

~Julia

  

Running happy 

I had back-to-back running days this weekend and loved it. I didn’t get a chance to do my once a week run last weekend so I was glad I was able to get these in. 

Saturday I did the same 5K loop I had done the past 2 times and shaved 2 minutes off my previous time (which was 30 minutes). I’m finally starting to feel like my old running self! 

   
I finished the run by doing a few sprints up and down my driveway. And can we just say how cute these leggings are? I got them from my local Athleta store recently.   
Later that afternoon, I did another workout:

1 round of

15 burpees

1 power clean (65#)

5 front squats (65#)

20 double unders

3 pull ups

3 toes to bar

Then, rounds 2-4 I did 15 deadlifts instead of the clean/squat movement. 

On Sunday, the hubby and I were supposed to go to CrossFit but overslept (thanks, daylight savings time!) so we went on a quick 25-minute run instead. The legs were feeling tired but I managed to make it through without any stopping 🙂

Today is my mom’s birthday, so there will be some indulging and I’ll probably take a rest day. 

Happy Monday to all! 😀

Halloween/Marathon Weekend Recap

What a great weekend of nice weather, Halloween workouts, and shopping! I programmed a fun Halloween-themed WOD for Saturday’s class which seemed to be a big hit. I even gave out a prize of some AboutTime protein powder to the best costume. Winners of the 5-minute plank challenge got some awesome pink Sweat Pink shoelaces 🙂

    
This week I’m 32 weeks pregnant which means I’m officially in month 8! My mom and I had a nice time at the mall shopping for Baby Hicky. Pottery Barn Kids was having a 20% off sale so we bought the rest of the items left on my registry. On sale items we got 10% off which is their registry completion discount. This kid made out pretty well!

The hubby and I also enjoyed a nice romantic date night at a local restaurant. I wore this sexy Splendid dress and over the knee Stuart Weitzman boots 😉  
  And it was the 1 year anniversary of my running the NY Marathon! That was truly an amazing experience.  
What did you do for Halloween? Have you run the NY Marathon- or hope to do so one day?

Xo,

Julia