5 Things I’m Loving Lately

Alright Spring Break, I see you coming to an end. Slow down just a little, please! We have a solid three months of school left (June 23rd oy vey), so I’m enjoying this down time a little too much. 🙂 Linking up with Andrea, Erika, and Narci this Friday to talk favorites!

-Warm Weather-

No night class, a 65 degree day in March, and running distance from the National Mall means one thing and one thing only. You must go for a run. 😉 I will never ever tire of running to the Lincoln and sitting on his steps. It’s my second favorite monument (Jefferson is first).

– My Friends –

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On the topic of running…aren’t race expos the best? Everyone in the room loves running and there are so many goodies to collect! We had the best time in all of the photo booths, and this picture is one of my favorites. The Rock N Roll DC Expo seemed to understand just how picture obsessed our generation is. 😉 I am so glad I’ve connected with running friends in DC. If your local Lululemon has a running group and you’re a runner, you should GO!

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I went to see The Sound of Music last night with my mom, her friend, and one of my best friends in Pittsburgh and it was an AMAZING performance! We ate at Peter Allen’s, an Italian restaurant near the venue, and then headed over to the Benedum Center for the show. There were people of all ages there and I found myself singing along during the show! The Von Trapp children were SO cute.

– Jake’s 17th Birthday and Promposal –

It’s been an exciting week in the life of Jake. First…

I filled Jake’s car with 120 balloons while he was sleeping the night before his birthday. On Monday night it suddenly occurred to me that I just needed to decorate his bedroom door, so I stopped for supplies on my way home from the gym. I came home to decorations galore courtesy of my mom so I had to redirect my thoughts…and that went to filling up his car. 🙂 It was SO fun and he was SO surprised! His cookie cake was also my favorite AND I put the 10 candles we could find in the shape of a ‘1’ and ‘7’ on the cake, so I was quite proud of myself. #thelittlethings

Then, it was time for the cutest promposal ever. (Sidenote: I was asked two years in a row via text message. So special. Hahaha)

Jake HAD to ask his girlfriend to prom in a cute way because apparently that’s how it works these days. Ha! If you can see it, she wrote “yes” next to the question mark! He brought her home after school on Thursday, they walked down the little heart path, he gave her roses, it was adorable and they were both so happy!

– Life As A Teacher –

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The week before Spring Break was Science Week at school. I had to exert serious self-control as I let my students design their tri-fold boards. I was trying to micromanage every pair’s poster and it was not working. #duh Once I forced them to design their title and had them research/write facts, I decided they could just have the boards and create whatever they wanted to their heart’s content. Then everyone was much happier. 😉 It was my favorite to see how excited they were to present their posters to the sixth graders. There were some really awesome posters and presentations!

– My Little Sidekick –

Meet Amigo, the velcro dog. He has not left my side since I arrived home on Monday. Gotta love him. 😉 I was on the floor with free weights, modifying the exercise because I don’t have a bench, and he laid down and put his head on my stomach. Velcro!!! As you can see, I had to watch my step as I worked out because I never knew when I might trip over him. Hahaha

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And a little humor for your Easter weekend. 😉 Reese’s eggs really are my favorite, although I don’t know that I’ve ever had a white chocolate one. I might have to remedy that problem ASAP.

Happy weekending to you! And happy Easter!

Friday FiveFriday Favorites

A Birthday & A Serious Question

Happy Tuesday! I have two topics to discuss with you on this fine day.

– Jake’s Birthday –

I love both of my brother’s birthdays almost more than I love my own. It’s so fun to celebrate people! 17 words that describe this awesome kid:

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And 17 of the cutest pictures ever (because Jake was the cutest baby ever):

 

– Race Shirts –

In the running world, there’s a bit of an ongoing controversy. Do you wear your race shirt TO the race, or are you the kind of person who can only wear the shirt post-race? I fall into the latter category, and I have very specific reasons why!

  1. I don’t like to wear anything new on race day. I want to wear the clothes that I know fit and feel the best. This new random race shirt hasn’t had time to pass my tests yet!
    2. I spend a lot of time selecting my race outfit! Beyond feeling good while I run, putting together a race day outfit is kind of like a reward for all of my hard work.
    3. Everyone knows where we are and what race we’re running. If I wore my race shirt, I would feel like a running billboard. Plus, I might blend in with other people who decided to wear THEIR shirts! Have you ever spectated a race? It’s quite the parade and you need to wear something obvious so that you stand out to those looking out for you!
    4. If you run in your hometown, you will most likely lounge around the day after the race. If you’ve traveled to your race, you’ll most likely be traveling home. In either situation, you will want to wear something comfy and casual, and a new race shirt fits the bill. Plus, it’s a subtle way to humble brag. 😉

So which side are you on? Race in your race shirt, or save it? Share your thoughts with us here!

Awkward and Awesome [2.18.16]

Awkward

-Picking at a bump on your chin that is actually a zit, looking at your finger, and noticing blood. WHY does this happen at age 24?!

-Walking into FOUR restaurants that each had a 2+ hour wait for brunch. I mean, it was Valentine’s Day in DC. But it was crazy! We found a random gem and were seated right away…on the outdoor heated patio. It initially felt warm but it was definitely a keep your jacket on kind of situation. Thank God for coffee!

-Forgetting my sunglasses were on top of my head after running around getting ready before student arrival. Apparently my hair and sunglasses were all tangled. It was true, I saw my reflection in the glass of the door. What was awkward was me saying, “Good morning!” And a student saying, “Someone woke up with bedhead…” SO POLITE! Hahaha

-When the person sitting behind you in night class is saying, “Oh yeah!”, “Uh huh…”, “That’s great!”, “Ooooh!” to every.single.thing the professor says. #stopthat

-Running out of junk food (which in my kitchen, means chocolate chips, tortilla chips, trail mix, and pretzels) and having to eat this…

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I mean strawberries and greek yogurt are both delicious and I eat yogurt every day, so I don’t know why this snack was such a stretch for me… #iwantemptycarbs

-Thinking that you are sooo strong now because you have been lifting a lot and then trying Lauren’s workout and almost dying. My strength is awesome, my cardio is shot! Go read Post Grad In Progress’ Workout Wednesday post and prepare to sprint, lift weights, and sweat a whole lot. 🙂 Killer workout here!

-Printing an assignment due by day’s end at 10 PM. That was my first mistake. My second…the toner on my printer was all jacked up. The third…I then had to scan its grayish quality to my instructor. It printed in the most grayscale tone I have ever seen. #oops #youcanstillreadit #iswear

-Having enough time to read an entire book in one day. #allthesnowdays I saw the preview for this movie in theaters this past weekend, and I knew I had to read the book after that! I have seen this title on so many “must read” lists in the past year, but it never really struck me until I saw the movie preview. It was SO good (obviously) and I can’t wait to see how the movie compares. They never do, but book & movie comparisons are my favorite. 🙂

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Awesome

-President’s Day off followed by a snow day. I love a good 4 day weekend! And I love being at grad school on time for class two weeks in a row. YAY!

-Running into Giant to pick up a prescription and finding COOKIE BUTTER! The gem of all gems! It was like a moment from Gossip Girl. I was walking through the produce section and then “SPOTTED: Cookie Butter!” I first found this at Trader Joe’s and they tend to sell certain things that you can’t find anywhere else. It might be dangerous that I don’t have to make a special trip there anymore…

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-When the student in your class who certainly could benefit from meditation is found sitting on his desk Indian style with his eyes shut…meditating. I literally asked him what he was doing and he said, “I’m meditating, Miss McGraw!” It was dismissal, they were supposed to stand next to their desks when they were ready to pack up, he was oddly quiet…could I really be mad he was sitting on his desk?! Ha!

-Pictures of my family…Jake and my mom went to an early dinner at Noodles & Co. the other night and he was being crazy! Most likely she said, “Hey, I’m texting Kylie. Smile!” And he did this. Hahaha

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The weirdest part about not living in the same town (or state) as my family is we can’t meet up for random dinners out or shopping trips. My evil plan is to get Jake to go to college in DC…then my mom will retire down here…then Alex and my Dad will have no choice but to follow. Muahaha

-Valentine’s Day mail! From my mom, my aunt, and my college roommate. My mom sent me a random box with assorted items, so I opened one each day all week leading up to Valentine’s Day. Here are some of the goodies she sent my way!

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In true sappy older sister fashion, my favorite “gifts” were the two notes from my brothers. 😉 They are hanging on my ribbon board now!

-A free workout at Union Market on Valentine’s Day with my friends! It was a HIIT-style workout that included free juice and Kombucha at the end. What could be better?!

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-Awesome is a raising awareness for childhood cancer. Awesome is also running a 140 mile relay through central PA in the cold temps that winter brings! Caroline (above, in the center) went to Penn State and if you know anything about that university, you know how dedicated their students are to THON each year. She participated and danced in the marathon when she was in college, and now this year, she is running with The Hope Express! This means that with a team, she is running 140 miles through central PA as a tribute to the Four Diamonds kids. While I unfortunately know many people who have suffered with cancer, I don’t have any relatives that have had childhood cancer. I cannot even imagine what those families go through and I am so proud of Caroline for raising awareness for such a great cause!

-Casually seeing such sights on your evening commute & 4 mile run…

I am very thankful for where I live. And I am very thankful for making it back to my Wednesday night running group! It is a small group through my church and these people and this group were so important to me when I first moved here. They were my first friends…they were awesome. I missed every single run in the fall and I am NOT letting that happen this year! It was so great to come back to a group of people so happy to see me. 🙂

What is awkward and awesome in your life this week?!

 

Running Revelations

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Reasons my 4 mile run was terrible:

– Good news: I have muscle now. Bad news: my lungs forget the capacity they need to run.
– Hills.
– You don’t get to stop every 12-15 reps like you do when you lift. You’re just expected to keep going?!
– Awkward left turn at the end of the run when we were so close to being done. NO THANK YOU, I WILL PROCEED STRAIGHT DOWN THE SIDEWALK AND MEET YA BACK THERE.
– Spitting rain. Either rain or don’t. Actually, please don’t rain. Please just snow. #teachersolutions
– Phantom hip aches (now THAT’S an old injury) and shin pains (go AWAY for the love).

Reasons my 4 mile run was awesome:

– I can count the number of times I’ve gone running in the last six weeks on two hands. SO AT LEAST I WENT.
– Even though I was bringing up the rear the entire time, I was always running near someone or talking, which was nice.
– One of my friends got engaged and I haven’t seen her (or her ring!) since it all happened and she was running with our group, too!
– I ran the half mile from home to lululemon before the run, so I added a little bit of distance.
– I always run faster with groups than I do by myself, SO YAY FOR SPEED.
– I finished.

Running is not an easy sport. It is so rewarding and it is so fun, but it takes a lot of work. Sure, you can decide to go for a run on any random day, but if you aren’t running consistently, you will likely feel slow and frustrated at some point while you’re out there. I define myself by the six days a week I used to run 4-6 miles per day at an 8:30 pace and that is just not where I am anymore. Could I get back to that point? Absolutely. But I was not going to get there last night. I was not going to feel that ease, that speed, that feeling of happiness you get when you are out there running the distances and the speeds you know you can handle with no problem. Last night was all about survival. Ha!

For some, that is part of the fun. I know I enjoy the challenge of “starting over” from time to time. But it can also be mentally challenging. You are so angry that you have continued to workout, but you’ve lost running fitness. You are so frustrated that you are, in fact, breathing while you run, yet it feels like you can’t catch your breath. But, as I told my students about writing yesterday, you aren’t going to get better at something unless you do that thing. You won’t be a better writer if you don’t practice writing, and you won’t be a better runner unless you are actually out there running.

Strength training plays a HUGE role in a runner’s life, but I was kind of using my strength training as an excuse to not run. I figured hey, with all this hard work, I’ll be so strong and fast that I can just pick up where I left off! Not true. Though I do have plans to finish the Hammer & Chisel workout calendar I am completing now, I also need to get my running game back together. I am set to run a half marathon at the end of March. AH! What have I gotten myself into?!

For now, I’ll lace up my pretty new shoes, wear my favorite running leggings, and pretend to be the person running below. Because she’s fast and awesome and not angry while she runs. 😉

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Awkward and Awesome [2/5/16]

You’ve been warned: the part of my brain that thinks about being a teacher was behind most of this post. 😉 If you haven’t read any of Morgan’s posts yet, you must go to her blog! Her Awkward and Awesome posts are hilarious and she is the one who gave me the idea, after all. Happy Friday!

-Awkward-

-Being assigned a project in night class on Monday night…being told to work independently or work with a group…and being that weird girl who goes and lays on the pillows in the corner of the library to work alone. #sorrynotsorry #idomyownwork

-My bed broke while I was laying in it. That was fun. It was me and my mom and my two dogs, but still! That thing should hold some weight haha! I was in Pittsburgh last week because we had 23432980 snow days here in DC, so at least it’s not the bed I sleep in every night but…books had to hold me up. The wood rail was starting to split because it was missing a screw. Apparently, the furniture people put it together with 7 of its 8 screws five years ago when we moved and I got new furniture…and we found out that fun fact when I COLLAPSED last weekend. #slightlydramatic #butreally Props to my uncle and his toolbox for coming to fix it on Sunday morning! My mom, my brother, and I all had NO luck trying to be handy. Hence the books. 😉

-When the brother who doesn’t mind taking pictures with you suddenly gets too cool at his volleyball tournament. BRO, I BOUGHT YOU A BREAKFAST BURRITO. YOU OWE ME A SMILE! I look terrible anyway, so it wasn’t a total loss. 😉IMG_4823

-Getting to work on Tuesday and crying 20 minutes after I arrived to my mentor because I have so little time, so much to do. Anyone remember the Mary Kate and Ashley show with that theme song?!

-A student asked if I was a Democrat or a Republican. I told him I vote for the person who makes the best choices, because I’m obviously not going to put my political views on the table for a 7 year old. He told me he’s a Democrat, his parents are Republicans, and I’m not allowed to vote for Donald Trump because he will kick people out of our country. #outofthemouthsofbabes

-That moment when you feel like your mother. My mom really likes containers. She’s a teacher and she has approximately 27 cups for pens, pencils, and markers on her desk. We also have lots of containers in our house for all the random objects like mail, dog toys, magazines, papers in the office…you know, all that normal stuff. But can you blame the woman? HomeGoods and The Container Store make buying cute little boxes a breeze. Long story short, my students finished the container of animal crackers that I had in my classroom for snack and instead of tossing the plastic container, I put it in the closet for future use. Then I got home and saw these baskets on top of the trash can…and I almost took them. They’re kind of pretty, aren’t they? I could use them for stuff, right?! After the crazy thoughts occurred, I walked inside and left the baskets behind. 😉

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-“Your pet’s #2 is our #1!” A real company here in northern Virginia. Moving on…

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-Awesome-

-This is happiness.IMG_4957

-My mom’s homemade soup for lunch every day this week AND I still have enough to last me through the weekend. #hallelujah

-A teacher workday today to catch up on all the things I cried about. 😉 But honestly, praise the Lord for 8 hours to get organized all day long today. #gradingisfun #saidnoteacherever

-This conversation:
Me: “So if you have a capital letter at the beginning of this sentence, what do you need at the end?”
Student: *thinks of a period* “Oh, lawl.”
Me: “What did you say?”
Student: “Lawl, Miss McGraw. Like LOL.”

-7 year olds don’t know what the pound key is, or what a number sign is for that matter. I abbreviated the word “number” the other day when I was writing on the easel and put this –> # instead. They wanted to know why I wrote a hashtag. Sigh. There is also a handshake these days called Hashtag. They take their pointer finger and middle finger together and like swipe the other person’s same two fingers?!?! It’s weird. They say, “Hashtag, yeah hashtag.” I guess their four fingers together MAKE the hashtag?! I have no idea. I’m old. Apparently.

-$160 running shoes on sale for $90 because they were an online return. Which I totally don’t understand why that means the price is so much less BUT I LOVE IT. They had a size 10 in the store and they fit, but I prefer an 11 to run in and luckily they had some in the warehouse which they shipped to me FOR FREE! So awesome.

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-You can’t deny Colby’s cuteness.IMG_4809

-Traffic might be a nightmare to and from grad school since I moved, but I do love that place. #derpimaterp

 

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Bloggers, looking for a link-up? Click over to any one of these amazing blogs to join us for Friday Favorites!

MIMM: Pittsburgh Edition

What’s marvelous in my Monday? Well, after several much appreciated snow days, we are headed back to school today with a two hour delay. I was able to go home to Pittsburgh for a long weekend and so many wonderful things happened!

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First and most important, my dogs never left my side. We napped together, studied together, walked together, and worked out together. Except Amigo wasn’t really feeling the workout on this particular day. He was more concerned with his favorite toy, the penguin. Colby, on the other hand, was all about the resistance band. In retrospect, it looks exactly like his leash, so it’s no wonder he wouldn’t leave me alone. Hahaha!

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Cuddle buddies for life. #hesnotafanofmornings

I spent most of Friday with my aunt getting pampered all day long. We chatted, relaxed, and just had the best day. In between all the fun stuff, I was able to get some school work done for my night class that starts this week, so I also felt accomplished! My mom joined us for manicures and pedicures to end the night.

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On Saturday morning, I woke up bright and early to go see this guy play in a volleyball tournament. My youngest brother’s team is playing other local teams in tournaments during their preseason, so even though the winner and loser didn’t really matter, of course we were all paying attention to the score! They played a lot of teams that have been playing together since middle school, and that gives them a bit of an advantage because Jake’s team has only played together in high school. They did win two games, though! And Jake is the one serving the ball in the above picture. 🙂

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My Dad and I headed to our favorite restaurant for brunch. Eat ‘N Park is a Pittsburgh classic, and I love eating there every time I go home. There isn’t a bad thing on the menu and their smiley face cookies are always delicious for dessert! We ordered breakfast food (our favorite) and then my Dad humored me and let me take him shoe shopping. Of course all at the same time, my running shoes, rain boots, and black boots bit the dust and so I need to replace each of those pairs of shoes. I was on a mission! I found my favorite pair of running shoes on sale for $90. That’s quite the markdown from $160! My mom and I shopped a bit before meeting up with my brothers for dinner. Then I took a nap and headed out for a night with some friends from college!

I had quite the clothes catastrophe because I literally threw yoga pants in a duffel bag and jumped in my car when I heard we would be off school for the rest of the week, so getting dressed to go hang out with real people was a bit of a challenge haha! Props to my mom for letting me borrow her shirt and not killing me for throwing clothes all over her bedroom and the family room. #shesthebest We met at a place on Pittsburgh’s North Shore called McFadden’s and the DJ played the best music. Julie and Felicia (the two pictured above) arrived early enough to snag a table and it was nice to have a “home base” once it got crowded. Just a place to sit and talk! We had the best time. And then I realized half way home I forgot my debit card… #oops

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Randi and I went to breakfast in Oakmont on Sunday morning at a place called What’s Cookin’ At Casey’s. I had only ever been once before for dinner, so I was excited to try their breakfast menu! We had the best time talking about life and eating all the food. Two older women sitting in the booth behind us told us we needed to stay all day because “we can just tell you are having so much fun!” Ha! Randi and I went to the same elementary school and even took gymnastics together for a short time but as we got older, we had different friends since we were in different grades! We reconnected through blog land, and it is so fun to have a friend who knows exactly what you are talking about when you talk about high school!

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I spotted this pay phone outside the restaurant as I walked in and I thought it was so random! Do people even use pay phones anymore?! Photo credit goes to my Dad 🙂 He lives in Oakmont and took this picture when he was walking around town one day. Apparently it strikes everyone as odd! Ha! He claims that it works and he will be calling me from it today. So I shall be waiting for a call from an unknown number. Any guesses on how many quarters he will need to use?!

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60 degrees in January, windows down, sunroof open, loud music…no explanation needed. #perfection

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When I was writing my year in review post, I came across pictures from the run pictured above and remembered that was the first time my friend Kristen and I met up to run in DC. When I told her, she decided we HAD to go running on this day because it is like our one year friend-aversary ha! Well, that day was yesterday, and we were busy driving back to DC from Pittsburgh, so how were we supposed to fit a run in?

Um…we stopped driving every hour and ran one mile. Hahaha! This was at the rest stop in Somerset, PA and we had to take pictures at this exact spot because the well-known huge windmills are in the background. No one really noticed us running here…we just did a loop of the perimeter of the parking lot and hit a mile in 8:27.

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Then we got in the car and ate a donut, because we deserved it, right?! Ha! I’m one of those annoying people who takes two bites of a sweet treat and puts it back in the box. Salty treats are my weakness! These donuts are from Peace, Love, and Little Donuts, which is a small shop in Pittsburgh’s Strip District. They really are little donuts, in case you were curious 🙂 Bite size, if you will! Flavors included vanilla, honey, apple pie, s’mores, cinnamon sugar, and mocha.

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An hour later, we were at our halfway point and stopped at our usual place to put gas in the car and get a salad at Subway. But while we were there, we had to get our mile in…so we ran around the perimeter of THAT parking lot. This one wasn’t quite as fun because we had to lap it 6 times;) I am pretty sure the big group of students we saw coming home from a ski trip thought we were weird. I didn’t ask them questions about their clothing, so they shouldn’t ask me questions about my running. 😉 #logic

Purple skies led us to our third stop at the Hagerstown outlets. Now THIS was a fun mile! It was our slowest yet at just over 9 minutes, but we got to “window shop”, we heard music playing through the outdoor speakers, and there were so many sidewalks/directions to run in! Do I sound crazy? I am aware this sounds really crazy and you are reading this wondering WHY I think this was fun. But I promise it was. And at this point of the drive, I am usually pretty unpleasant because I just want to be home…but we kept having a run to look forward to and that kept our spirits up!

We did not run a mile upon our arrival in DC, because important things like unpacking and grocery shopping and watching Grease Live needed to take place. 🙂 It literally made my whole Sunday to add a little bit of running to our drive and that is how I know I am a crazy runner person because no one else I know would do this. Haha! I cannot take credit for the idea because I saw someone I follow on Instagram (I can’t remember the name!!!) do this during a road trip a few weeks ago, but I’m very glad we stole the idea yesterday!

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Things that aren’t marvelous? Forgetting to bring back some of my mom’s delicious biscotti. WAH! #thelittlethings

What’s marvelous in your Monday today? Share something below! 🙂

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Running: What Do You Really Need?

It has been said that running is the easiest form of exercise to partake in because it’s so low maintenance. All you need is a pair of shoes and you’re good to go! For those who are avid runners, you know this just isn’t true. There are many more things we “need”! And for those of you who run just every once in a while, you know it’s not the easiest thing to just start doing. It takes a lot of mental patience as you get better and stronger!

Today we’re talking about the Running Oldies But Goodies…you know, those pieces we have in our closet that we just can’t live without. We all have them! They bring us luck, make us faster, and tend to give us a feeling of ease as we head out the door, no?

Shoes

If you plan on running often, any old pair of shoes simply won’t cut it. Different shoes work for different people! I’ve worn Asics, Brooks, Mizunos, and New Balance, and it seems like it just depends on the season of life I’m in with my running as to what works best. The last two shoes I have purchased have both been Asics Gel-Kayano®. First I had the 20s, then I switched colors and bought the 21s. I wanted to go back to my beloved Brooks Ghost…

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How cute are these?! But they don’t offer as much stability as the shoe I am in now since they are a neutral shoe. I also noticed (after wearing the Gel Kayano’s for one training cycle) that the gel makes a huge difference in the feeling of the shoe! I can’t let the Asics go just yet. I am due for a new pair of shoes, and I don’t know if I can handle change yet. 😉

Clothes

My biggest tip about running clothes is this: invest in dri-fit or sweat-wicking fabric. It feels so much more comfortable when you are running if your clothes aren’t sticking to you! And honestly, these clothes will transfer to your other workouts, too. As you can see, I wore some of my favorite running clothes to teach a Spinning class…

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…and the reason cotton t-shirts just don’t cut it can be seen above! Ain’t nobody got time for a soaking wet shirt during their workout. 😉 As far as brands go, I am not loyal to any particular one. I love the lululemon tops and bottoms that I own, but I have found just as many pieces that I love from Target and Gap. To each their own with clothing brands! As long as it soaks up my sweat, I’m good.

Fuel & Hydration

Fuel Belt

For longer runs or days when it is really hot, a fuel belt can be a lifesaver. I have a SPIbelt which stretches to fit my keys, my ID and any other cards I bring with me, and my huge iPhone 6 Plus. I also have a New Balance belt that has a small zippered pocket and two small water bottles on each side. I have to carry my phone in my hand when I wear this belt, but I do that most of the time anyway so it doesn’t really bother me. And I love having water or Powerade Zero on my hip! I usually wear it off to the side (not on the front as shown in the picture) because it doesn’t move as much that way for me.

Fuel

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Gu of the chocolate variety is my fuel of choice. Vanilla Bean actually made my list of accepted flavors, though! I have tried Shot Blocks, but their gummy texture just isn’t for me while running. I like water, water with a nuun tablet, or Powerade Zero for hydration.

Recovery

Foam Roller

My foam roller was a cheap find at Marshall’s and it does just as well as its more expensive counterparts from Dick’s Sporting Goods! I am forever rolling my calves, glutes, and the outsides of my hips. It’s definitely a “hurts so good” kind of feeling, but it is so helpful post-run!

The Stick

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My brother purchased The Stick for me as a gift last Christmas and I LOVE it! It feels much harder and more intense than the foam roller, and that’s exactly why I love it. I mentioned earlier that I always roll out my glutes, and I have found that the pressure from The Stick isn’t as helpful in that case, but a golf ball will do the trick! You can improvise. 🙂

Compression Socks

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Or should I say sleeves? It took me a long time to invest in PROCompression socks, mostly because I was being cheap. This summer, there was a sale on their calf sleeves. You could order a grab bag of three for only $55! One pair of compression sleeves is $45, so I feel like the grab bag price is a steal. The catch: you can’t choose what colors are sent to you. 😉 I don’t much care if I match (as you can tell from the above photo), but I ended up with baby blue, purple, and a red and white striped pair. I LOVE wearing these sleeves after a long run or when I feel like my shins are acting up post-run.

Headphones

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Everyone seems to have a very specific opinion about which headphones are best. I, personally, am a fan of the regular ol’ iPhone earbuds! I buy extras when mine get lost and steal my brothers’ when they get new phones. They fit my ears perfectly, they never fall out, the sound is great…I just have no complaints! And no need for wireless ones, though those are really popular too. Note to self: don’t wear a necklace and headphones while working out. It will end badly.

One last note about winter running gear since I’m in the middle of Winter Storm Jonas over here in D.C. 😉

I am not one to advocate for buying a whole new running wardrobe just because it is winter. I am all about the layers. I wear some of the same long sleeved tops and bottoms that I wear on chilly spring or fall days, but instead of wearing one long sleeved shirt, I wear two. That kind of thing. My favorite cold weather headband is from Target (because hello cheap gear) and my favorite gloves are any pair that cover my hands. I do have a neon green pair from Nike, but they are just as warm as the $3 pair from Target. 🙂

Have a few pieces with fleece on the inside. My bright pink pullover and blue and grey Nike pullover are both fleece-lined, and with a long sleeve shirt underneath I can usually get away with them during cold weather months! On especially cold days, I add a random jacket over top or I run on the treadmill. Ha! I was lucky enough to receive a lululemon running vest for Christmas as well as one of their scarves, and while they truly ARE warm, they mostly just help me feel more fashionable. Pieces that have changed the game = my grey North Face jacket. That thing is warm for everyday life AND running life. It’s a win, win. Except that it is always in the washing machine so it doesn’t smell like sweat when I wear it in real life. #runnerproblems

So tell me…what pieces can’t you live without?!

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Linking up here!
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2015: A Year In Review

If you had told me last New Years Eve that THIS New Years Eve I would be on Christmas Break from my first year of teaching, I don’t know that I would have believed you. My life last year was so very different than it is now, but there have only been good changes!

I moved to College Park, MD in August of 2014 to start my Master’s in Reading. I took on three part time jobs at UMD: a research assistant in the Education Department, a writing consultant at The Writing Center, and a fitness instructor at the gym. That’s how last year began…a new semester of grad school plus my three jobs.

This is for my own memory. You will likely be tempted to skim or scroll past some stuff. Ha!

JANUARY

Right after Winter Break, I drove back to Maryland for a work trip to Boston. My research team worked with another team out of Boston College that we communicated with via Skype and phone calls. We went up to see them for 2 days in January to get LOTS of work done in person! It was also -4 the entire time we were in Boston, so thank goodness we were only there for 36 hours. 😉 This was a typical work trip in that I truly have no idea what the city of Boston looks like because I was at the airport, in a taxi to Boston College, at Boston College, at our hotel, and then all of that in reverse. This month, I also started teaching PiYo and I took myself on an adventure to Annapolis because I had never been and that’s what you do when you have few friends in a new place! I ran to the MLK Jr. monument on MLK Jr. Day and I met up with Kristen for the first time to run the National Mall!

FEBRUARY

I taught PiYo once before teaching it on a stage. At the beginning of the semester, the gym has a sort of “opening night” for its classes so everyone can see what’s available. That was a little bit out of my comfort zone! I started training for the Cherry Blossom 10-miler (you’re welcome for the selfie) and spent a lot of time on the indoor track because it snowed a LOT this month and I was a big baby! I went to running group with my church almost every Wednesday and found lots of new-to-me routes in DC. My mom and Jake came to visit for Valentine’s Day and my best friend Stef visited a few weekends later. I also worked at and attended a Fitness Expo at UMD’s gym that brought fitness instructors from up and down the east coast!

MARCH

I remember watching a lot of Grey’s Anatomy this month. Ha! I was obsessed and school kept getting delayed, cancelled, or closed early because of cold weather and snow. I made it outside when I could to keep training for the 10-miler, I took lots of selfies at The Writing Center (omg long hair), and I kept teaching PiYo every Monday morning and Tuesday night! My running group did a special run for those we knew going on a mission trip to the West Bank and I spotted the National Cathedral for the first time since moving here. And of course, my baby brother turned 16 and got his permit!

APRIL

And then it was warm. This was also the month I started tossing around the idea of applying for teaching jobs. My final decision was made while I was sitting in a Jason’s Deli. My memory, I tell ya… I was home this month for Easter and drove with Jake for the first time! I also went running on my favorite loop downtown (where I ran almost every morning in college) and I have a very vivid memory of tripping over a crack in the sidewalk and falling into a big X-shape. My leggings ripped, my hands were bleeding, I was half crying and half yelling, and then when I finally stood up…I kept running. Hahaha! I went to an event at UMD called “Grad Prom”, attended my first bonfire of the year in shorts and sandals, ran to Gravelly Point where you can see planes take off from Reagan National Airport, and ran the Cherry Blossom 10-miler. It was so fun to have my friends in town for that race! I’m a Beachbody coach so I went to a Super Saturday event in Baltimore and I also went to my first Nationals baseball game!

MAY

I started and successfully completed Beachbody’s 21 Day Fix Extreme program this month. I made a last minute decision to run the Pittsburgh Half Marathon when an extra bib became available and I also ran to Gravelly Point for the first time. You can see the planes from Reagan National Airport taking off and landing here! My friend Sarah and I went to the Marine Barracks Evening Parade and my mom and my aunt came to visit for the weekend. We went to Atlantic City at the end of the month for Memorial Day Weekend and I rushed back to Maryland ASAP because I had my first teaching interview! My mom wanted to know what I was wearing and my dad wanted to see a picture of the Zipcar I had rented, so that’s how I ended up with that super awkward picture on the bottom right. Ha!

JUNE

First November Project workout.
First Duquesne Alumni Event at the Nationals vs. Pirates game in DC.
First adventure to Old Town, Alexandria, VA.
First time eating an apple fritter (that was the size of my head).
First time making and eating Strawberry Salsa for a Strawberry Festival Party!
Second Kenny Chesney concert.
Second Taylor Swift concert.
Second and third teaching interviews (third time was the charm!).

I also chopped all my hair off and spent a lot of time on the computer. It sounds terrible to say that in the middle of summer, but I was taking two online summer classes and apartment hunting!

JULY

My mom, Jake, and his friend came to DC for the Fourth of July. Kristen and I started training for the Marine Corps Marathon with a team of other runners from my church. I spent even more time on my computer, took my mom to see the elementary school where I was hired, started moving to my new apartment, and spent 10 much needed days on the beach!

AUGUST

I officially moved to my new apartment in Virginia. One of my friends from college also moved to the area so we spent a lot of time exploring DC together! I ate brunch with other DC area bloggers, made my first grown up purchase of porch furniture, and ran the Lincoln Memorial steps for the first time. I went home for a week to surprise my family (a conference I was supposed to attend was cancelled last minute), we celebrated Amigo’s 2nd birthday, and then I started new teacher orientation. My classroom was looking bare and empty! Kristen and I went to a Steelers bar to watch a preseason game, I went to Baltimore to celebrate my friend Shannon’s birthday, and I finally got tagged at November Project!

SEPTEMBER

A secret November Project workout that ended at a Biergarten in DC for yoga and drinks. My first day as a real teacher. 😉 The Pope came to town, I ran a 10k with my friends, I met Amanda for dinner, and I went to a 90s bar crawl in DC. I also made pumpkin chocolate chip cookies for my mentors and coworkers as a thank you for helping me during my first month of teaching!

OCTOBER

My mom and my aunt visited the first weekend of October! My classroom finally started feeling like a real room. I visited the pumpkin patch and then I got sick for the first time in my adult life…not even ashamed of that selfie. I had a fever and a sinus infection and junk in my lungs and it was horrible and I had to take care of myself. Hahaha! I participated in a Blogger Scarf Exchange, spent time with my family from Indianapolis in DC, and went to New York City to see the marathon!

NOVEMBER

70 degree days meant evening runs as often as possible. I went hiking on the Billy Goat Trail, attended a Beer and Wine Festival at Nationals Park, and generally counted down the days until Thanksgiving Break. 😉 I flew home (which is unusual) for the holiday, spent time with my cousins, and helped my mom decorate for Christmas.

DECEMBER

Where did this month go?! There was a lot of Christmas cheer this month. I ran to see the Capitol Christmas Tree and the National Christmas TreeMy friends and I went to see Zoo Lights at the National Zoo. I took myself on an adventure to the National Harbor to see all of their Christmas decorations and check out the area. I went to a Christmas party and hosted a Christmas party, which I also labeled my birthday party. 😉 #decemberbirthdayproblems My mom, my aunt, and I made Christmas cookies, I met up with my college roommate for dinner, and of course, we celebrated Christmas. Then, we made a getaway to Hershey, PA and NYC for a few days!

Looking back, I was ready for this life (teaching and such) at the beginning of 2015. I loved being in school, but I wasn’t fulfilled doing a whole bunch of jobs instead of focusing on one job. The summer brought some stress as I started applying for jobs, interviewing, and apartment hunting. I also thought it would be a fabulous idea to take two online classes, so that just added to my stress. August was a wonderful month free of responsibilities, at least until I started orientation for my job. I was SO nervous to take the night class that I have with my job but after doing it for a semester, I realize it’s not ideal but it works.

In September, I remember being SO tired. I was overwhelmed, I didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing AT ALL, and I was just generally whiny to anyone who asked me about my life. In October and November, I feel like I started to hit my stride. I figured out that I will probably continue the rest of this year feeling like I don’t know what I’m doing…but having confidence to figure it out as I go is what is making me successful. I’m doing what I said I was always going to do…teach…and I’m doing kinda okay at it. I’m a perfectionist, so you will never hear me say I’m good. And let’s face it, as a first year teacher, I probably have some room to grow. 😉 I had a check up with my doctor last week and she was asking me about my life and just was amazed at how much has changed with me this year. She said she can’t wait to see what my life is like next year…and neither can I! Because I can’t even begin to imagine!

HAPPY NEW YEAR, FRIENDS! 🙂

My Year In Running: 2015

Everyone is in reflection mode this holiday season. We’re thinking about the happy times that this time of year brings, but we’re also reflecting on what has happened this year and what might change in the new year. “New year, new me” and all of that jazz. Today, I’m talking about me + running in 2015!

  • Best race experience: 2015 has been the first year in a few years that I haven’t had a ton of races on my calendar. I ran a 10-miler, a half marathon, a 10k, and then you’ll remember I tried to start training for a marathon too. “Tried” being the operative word there. 😉 I really loved running the Cherry Blossom 10-miler even though the course was cut a little short this year. My friends came to town to run with me, the weather was beautiful, and it was my first big race running through my new city!
  • Best run: Running through Central Park was definitely my favorite run this year! I have always wanted to do that. I’ve been to NYC a few times in the last few years, and I always run on the treadmill at our hotel before the day gets started. To run through the park, especially the day of the TCS NYC Marathon, was oh so very fun!

My favorite weekend runs have been on the Mt. Vernon Trail. But as I looked through pictures to try to recall a “best” run I was forgetting about, I saw a lot of pictures that made me realize this was kind of a mediocre year of running for me. I love to run, so any run is fun for me, but there have been lots of runs that were harder than they should have been. I’m feeling like this might be a reason why I got hurt during marathon training. Maybe I didn’t have the proper base to start training?

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  • Best new piece of running gear: I would LOVE the Garmin Forerunner 220 so maybe Santa will deliver. 😉 I didn’t invest in anything too out of the ordinary this year…just several different colored pairs of my favorite Asics Gel Kayano shoes. The gel makes ALL the difference. I’ve run in Brooks and Mizuno before and loved them both! I was going to switch brands this summer and when I tried another shoe on, I could just tell there wasn’t gel and I love that cushion-y feeling!
  • Best running advice you’ve received this year: “Listen to your body.” Your brain (or maybe just mine) is stupid and will tell you that you can and should run even when you know you should take it easy. I’ve had a pretty laid back year so I’m hoping that will set me up for success headed into the new year!
  • Most inspirational runner: I’m inspired by so many of the blogging runners that I met at a DC brunch this summer! Courtney, Sue, and Colleen are a few of my favorites to follow along with on social media. 🙂 These ladies balance full time jobs with some serious training and motivate me to get out the door some days!
  • Favorite picture from a run or race this year: 

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Running the Lincoln steps was so fun! Inspired by November Project DC, of course. Now to just make it to one of the real Wednesday stair workouts…

  • Race experience you would repeat in a heartbeat: I would do the Pittsburgh Half again! I went into that race this year on a whim with very little official training under my belt and it was just a fun run.
  • If you could sum up your year in a couple of words what would they be? Low key. Lots of cross training. I’m excited for a bigger and better running year in 2016! #pressureson

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Linking up with Courtney for Year in Running 2015!

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Marathon Monday: Spectator Edition

I haven’t blogged in awhile so I talk a lot in this post. Feel free to skim!

Last weekend, my best friend and I went to New York City. Several people have asked me if I just so happened to be there the same weekend of the TCS New York City Marathon, and the answer is no. We intentionally planned the trip so that we could spectate the race. Because runners are crazy and enjoy that type of thing. 🙂

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DC is only 4 hours from NYC, so we left early on Saturday morning and came back late Sunday night. It was a quick trip, but we packed so much into those 36 hours! This was also our first experience using Airbnb to book a place to stay. Combine Halloween weekend with the marathon and hotel choices suddenly look very slim…or look like $700. Neither of which I was willing to deal with. 😉

So how was the Airbnb? Pros: the price was beyond affordable, I was able to park my car for free where we stayed which was AMAZING, we had an entire one bedroom apartment to ourselves, and we were 3 blocks from the subway. Cons: the neighbors got into a very loud argument at 2:30 AM that resulted in the cops showing up. Those New York walls are paper thin, I tell ya! We weren’t in a bad part of town and they were just roommates arguing about who was supposed to be home and sleeping over blah blah blah…but still, at a hotel, I would’ve called the front desk immediately. Also…I’m a very easy going person, but it didn’t occur to me until I was about to go to sleep that I had to sleep in someone else’s bed. And then we made a makeshift bed with all the family room furniture because we couldn’t deal. Hahaha!

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When we arrived on Saturday, we went straight to our place to park the car and then headed out for lunch and shopping. We couldn’t check in until 3 PM, so we had some time to adventure! Kristen and I planned for some things, but at other times we just wandered and did whatever we happened to stumble across. Which is why I don’t remember the name of the place we ate for lunch. 😉 But I had a huge buffalo chicken salad and I DO remember where we got dessert…because it was dessert. Duh.

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We found Dylan’s Candy Bar which is three levels of straight sugar. I had created my own trail mix for our road trip that included these goodies:

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But since we were at the candy store, I just HAD to get some sour gummies! I love regular gummy bears, Swedish fish, and watermelon Sour Patch. Of course I threw in chocolate covered all the things (think cookie dough, nuts, etc) for good measure.

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We got on the Subway and realized it was going in the wrong direction…so we hopped off at the next stop and called an Uber to save the day. This would happen many more times throughout the weekend! We kept paying for the Subway more than once, too. There were several times we went into the station only to realize we were on the wrong side of the track. In DC, you can just take the escalator up and back down to the other side. In NYC, you have to go up the steps out to the street, cross the street, and go back down the other side. So since we were technically entering twice, we paid twice. Way too many times. I am not sure if there is some way to remedy this (I’m sure there is), but we never figured it out!

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We had to get ready for our next adventure at SoulCycle SoHo. What better way to spend Halloween night than going to a Spin class that only played Taylor Swift songs?! Yes, you read that right. It was amazing. Our trek to SoulCycle included getting off the Subway at the wrong stop, considering calling an Uber, quickly getting back on the Subway, nervously checking the time every time the train stopped, and forgetting a sports bra. Oh, yes.

We made it to the studio with ten minutes to get ready for class, which was perfect! Until I realized I forgot a sports bra. Luckily, SoulCycle sells wonderful (expensive) merchandise, so I ran out to the desk to buy one. My normal size looked HUGE, so I sized down. And then I put it on and wanted to cry because it didn’t fit. So now people were filing into the studio and I was at the front desk begging the worker to exchange the sports bra he just cut the tag from. I am sure he loved me. 😉 I got on my bike just in time and found a cute little Halloween treat bag on the handlebars! It had those fake red lips that I suppose some wear for Halloween and apparently they were edible…I can’t confirm because I didn’t try them ha! There was also a voucher for a free class, so I either have to convince DC to accept the pass or I have to go back to SoHo to Spin!

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We brought a change of clothes with us to class, so with dirty hair and pretty outfits, we shopped around SoHo and Times Square. We intended to walk to Times Square, but once we started walking the streets and going in all the shops, we realized we were walking the wrong way. Of course we were. 🙂 The streets are always insane in NYC, but they were especially jam packed on Halloween night because EVERYONE was in a taxi or an Uber. We attempted to take a taxi and ended up having him drop us off at the next Subway station because it was taking a hot forever and I did NOT want to pay for that!

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We grabbed the world’s latest dinner at Heartland Chophouse and Brewery in Times Square and were super excited to see this on the wall. 🙂 Duquesne is a beer, but it’s also the name of the university where we graduated from college in Pittsburgh. The school is beautiful, but I’m not a huge fan of the beer. Ha!

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For as many times as I’ve been to Times Square, I’ve never gone into the huge Toys ‘R Us! Kristen was shocked and made me go in. I had NO idea there was a huge ferris wheel in there!

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This car reminds me of my childhood so if I ever waited in line to ride the ferris wheel, I would intentionally place myself in line so I could ride in this car. 🙂

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It was getting late and we had a whirlwind day, so we started to walk to the Subway…and then I realized the roads weren’t as traffic-filled as they had been a few hours before. Taxi to the rescue. #diva

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My favorite picture to look at on Halloween night. 😉

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We were actually able to sleep in a bit because the marathon has a much later start than your typical 7 AM. The wheelchairs start at 8:30 AM, the professional women start at 9:20 AM, and the professional men start at 9:50 AM with other runners in the first wave. We wanted to see the very first runners but we planned to be at the top of Central Park around mile 23 and then head over to the finish, so we had to do a little time calculation of how long it would take those crazy fast people to get to those places. 🙂

In the meantime, we got to cross a major goal of mine off my bucket list: run through Central Park! When I visit NYC, I usually run on the treadmill at my hotel before I go out with my family for the day. I’ve never wanted to take the extra time to get to the park and run by myself…but this time, I was vacationing with someone who loves to run as much as me, so it was perfect!

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We only covered about 4 miles, but we ran such a random path that we saw a lot of parts of the park that I have never seen before!

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We were close enough to 5th Avenue to hear people cheering, so we dashed over to where runners enter Central Park and saw the first racer in the wheelchair division come past! They amaze me. Their arm strength is something else!

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We had a general plan of where we wanted to run while we were in the park because we knew we wanted to get near the end of the marathon, but other than that, we were just taking random turns. Which is how we found gems like these…

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Why yes, I did climb on these rocks mid-run.

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#creepingonKristen #runhappy

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Almost to our end point! And more rock climbing.

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My favorite? The track around the reservoir. And the view is so pretty! Even though I had never been to this part of the park before, I got so excited when we arrived because I recognized it from so many NYC runner’s Instagram pages! Ha!

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At 4 miles, we were on the correct side of the park to see the first finishers AND there was a spot in the race course where people were still allowed to cross the street because the masses hadn’t started coming through yet. We dashed out of the park and to the nearest Starbucks. We had junk (read: candy corn for me and chocolate chips for her) for breakfast so we weren’t really hungry…we just needed coffee. Guess what size coffee I ordered and what size didn’t have red cups yet?!

We found a spot along the fence 800m from the finish and had the best time watching everyone run past. We saw the first female and first male professional runners come through which was SO exciting and then we watched for other elites that we know the names of (And you are probably reading this thinking…wait, she knows the names of famous runners? Yes, I do…)! We watched for about two hours and had so much fun seeing people pass one another so close to the finish, cheering on those who just looked like they were in pain, and shouting out to those in shirts with some kind of logo on it. Think Penn State, November Project, Pitt…anyone we might “know”! Everyone appreciates a little encouragement, even if it’s from a stranger. 🙂 We even saw a guy in a Steel City Road Runners shirt, which is a Pittsburgh running club, so that was awesome! He was running with the 3:05 finishers so basically he is awesome and I will never be on his level. Ha!

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Priorities: leave the race and find food and the Steelers game. The Irish Exit served us well. We ran there, because why walk when you can run? It was PACKED so we stood for the first half of the game and finally scouted two seats at half time. Every single person in there was a Steelers fan, so the atmosphere was amazing. My dad and my brothers usually go to the game, but this day, my mom was at the game with her sister and her cousin. I always hope I’ll see them on the big screen, but so far, no luck. 🙂 This game had a stupid, stupid 4th quarter, but it was so much fun!

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Kristen and I got on the Subway to head back to the car around 4:30 PM. We were riding along…and then never stopping. Like just driving through every station. And now we were in the middle of the tracks, so even if the train stopped, there was no platform to step on to. LUCKY US, we were on an express train to 207th Street. Like, the very last stop on that line. We were DYING!!! We promised each other that no matter where it stopped (if it stopped at all before 207th), we would get off and run or Uber back to my car. It finally stopped at 125th Street and I have never gotten off a train faster! Hahaha

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As seen on our run back to my car!

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We left the city around 6 PM. When we were walking back to my car, we saw some runners in their 23rd mile right before they enter Central Park. It was CRAZY to see them because it was already getting dark outside, but at the same time, there were some runners who didn’t start until almost 11 AM! So it sort of made sense to see them then. I don’t know how I feel about the start time though…I think when I run a marathon, I want it to be over when it is still light outside! But I suppose when I finally work up the strength for a full marathon, I can’t really be picky about how or when I finish, as long as I do!

Because there were some roads that were still closed, leaving the city was a little challenging. I ignored Siri for awhile and then let her direct me. I usually take her directions with a grain of salt because she is usually wrong or making me go the long way, but with all the road closures when we were trying to leave the city, I gave in and started listening to her. The night before when our taxi couldn’t move, I mentioned how no one should ever be allowed to drive in Times Square EVER unless they are a bus, taxi, or Uber. And then good ol’ Siri said open mouth, insert foot, because driving through Times Square is exactly how we left the city. Shockingly, it was very easy! And then we got on the highway and Siri turned a four hour drive into a six hour drive. She’s a gem, I tell ya!

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Central Park, you have my heart.