Road Tested: StrideBox

Once upon a time, a few years ago, I started hearing about runner’s subscription boxes. Vic was a fan of StrideBox, blogging about them here at Scoot a Doot.

I’ve always been curious but slightly hesitant. I’m a creature of habit, I tend to stick with what I know works. However, how will I find out about new things that work if I don’t try?

You see my conundrum.

When StrideBox reached out to see if we’d like to check it out, I figured it was the perfect opportunity and seized the chance!

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First, a little bit about how the StrideBox subscription works, for those of you who don’t know. It’s a monthly service, which means that each month you get a box of goodies related to fitness/running that you may or may not have heard of before. Each box is $15 with auto renewal each month.

I was excited to dig into my StrideBox immediately! Honestly, I was surprised at how compact the box was but when I opened it, it was filled to the brim with products.

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I haven’t had a chance to try everything just yet but there are already a few clear winners. With fall allergies kicking my butt, I’ve been chugged tea and honey lately.

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Nature Nate’s is the real deal.

I’m also a huge ginger fan, which admittedly is a strong flavor, therefore I have much love for the Prince of Peace Ginger Candy (I haven’t tried the tea yet).

On the other hand, the Raw Rev Glo bar wasn’t one that I’d choose to add to my shopping list. In my opinion, it was dense and not very flavorful. But hey, now I know!

My long run is coming up and I’m planning on wearing my new belt – I’m loving that there are two separate zipper pockets. I’m always scared that something is going to fall out of my belt when I stuff things into one compartment. I’ll keep you posted of my thoughts on Instagram.

Have you ever tried a subscription box service before? Which one? Worth it? Not a fan?

Many thanks to StrideBox for the complimentary box to review. As always, all opinions are my own.

2014 AC Marathon Race Series 10k Recap

One of my tried and true, go-to race series that I return to repeatedly is the Atlantic City Marathon Series. Why? Well, it really boils down to these key points:

1. It’s in my state! New Jersey races for the win!

2. The value is phenomenal. If you sign up early with a finisher’s code, a 10k or half marathon can cost less than other single pricey 5k events.

3. Overall, it’s a really great smaller race series and I love supporting it.

Last year’s 10k was a bit on the soggy side, so I was very happy to see the weather forecast for this year’s race was sunny and clear skies. Especially considering that I’d been sick with a pretty horrible cold throughout the week.

Since I was still recovering, I decided that rather than doing Neptune’s Challenge (which was the 10k and half that I originally signed up for) I was only going to do the 10k. Spoiler alert: I made the right call!

Yes, please!

Yes, please!

In October, you never know what you’re going to get in terms of the weather, but we lucked out! And it’s a good thing because I had my cheer crew with me.

Little and Mom are in the house!

Little and Mom!

Usually I’m flying solo or with friends for races, but this time there was the added bonus of my mom and my youngest son who not only joined me for the expo but also the morning of the race.

Since I live within driving distance, we drove the hour back and forth on both Friday night (for the expo) and Saturday morning. Sadly, there was no day of race pick up – that would have shaved some travel time for us, as well as parking costs (although we got $5 vouchers at the expo). We made the best of our visits by getting treats at the candy shop on the boardwalk and wandering around.

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Little was very excited that he was somewhere that his big brother had never been before. TWICE. It’s all about the competition when you’re five.

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Really excited about this sign. The other side said, “I love you mom, because I love you.”

However, when you’re 37, it’s all about finishing the race and not hacking your lungs out on the boardwalk. Or, well, at least it was for me during this race. Because, let me tell you, this was not a fun race for me.

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The race environment was awesome, as always. Running the boards always feels good because it has that extra give; I enjoyed the running aspect.

This particular race is an out and back – the first mile is on the populated “store area” of the boardwalk, then you run along a residential area. There is a 5k turn around and further down the 10k turn around.

The problem was that my lungs felt like they could never get quite enough air and when they finally did, I was coughing. I ran 2:1 intervals throughout and while I wasn’t feeling wonderful, I did appreciate the view.

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I mean, how can you not?

By the last mile I was so ready to be done, which is a shame, because that’s usually my favorite part of this race. This time? Not so much. The last mile definitely felt like it had doubled in length but finally, I saw the finish line!

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My mom snapped this.

I crossed the finish with a smile on my face, because, YAY! I WAS DONE! They said everyone’s name as we crossed the line, which I thought was a really nice touch and with a field of 950 participants, very doable.

I was immediately handed a medal and a bottle of water. I made my way over to the barrier where my mom and Little were cheering and Little immediately homed in on the water. “Oh, Momma, I’m SO thirsty.” Yes, he took my bottle of water.

Thankfully, in the finisher’s village I was able to snag a plethora of treats including Gatorade, Rita’s Water Ice, a banana, pretzels, bagel, and PowerBar. This was a welcome change from the end of the April Fool’s Half where the back of the pack missed out on most of the snacks. It’s always great when you know that race directors hear you!

After handing off my beer ticket, I met up with my family once more.

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Little promptly took my bagel.

Was it my best race ever? No, it was not. But not for lack of effort on the AC Marathon Series’ part. Some races will just be better than others, due to circumstances beyond control. And hey, that’s okay. My greatest takeaway from this one is that I have the best cheering squad ever! Even if one of them takes all of my things. At least he let me wear the medal.

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What fall race do you have coming up next? I’ll be at the Biggest Loser Run Walk at Six Flags Great Adventure for their 10k and kids race. Ever run a race while under the weather?

Goofy Giveback: I’ll take one of those, please!

Earlier this month, runDisney announced that they were going to take a certain amount of Goofy Race and a Half Challenge registrations (that’s a half and a full marathon for those who don’t speak the runDisney lingo) and split them, giving runners the option to sign up for the previously sold out half marathon and full marathon.

Since participating in the Dumbo Double Dare I’ve been sort of bummed that I didn’t have another Disney race on my dance card. The Goofy Race and a Half Challenge still had room; however, I already decided that I’m not quite ready for a full marathon… let alone a half marathon on Saturday and a full marathon on Sunday.

BUT THEN, the Goofy Giveback came along and the wheels in my head started turning! I’m sure this surprises exactly no one.

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What’s a girl to do? I wanted to sign up. But should I? How would we swing it? Could we make it happen?

From what I hear, winter is going to be capital W-I-N-T-E-R this year in my area. It was pretty rough last year and I slowly but surely lost my mind. I know that I’ll need something to keep the blues away in January. Plus there’s running in costume! And race selfies! And my favorite characters!

Well, needless to say, Christmas came a little bit early for me this year and I’m now registered for the half marathon. Isn’t that the MOST? To say the least!

What’s more is that I’ll be running with Brooke, which is always beyond words in terms of fun. She is the best cheerleader and since she’s coming off of her injury and I’m fairly consistent with my training at this point, we might even be able to pull a PR for me.

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To say that I’m super excited for January would be an understatement! I’m actually looking forward to winter, which is a rarity for me.

Have you taken advantage of the Goofy Giveback? The half has sold out (as of earlier today). The full is at 91% so if you’re interested, act now. Or, if you want to do the Goofy race and a half challenge, don’t delay because it’s 98% full!

Or, were you a planner and signed up when registration opened? In other words, who should I look for in January?

2014 Adrenaline 5k – PR Assist

Jay and I are quickly approaching 11 years of wedded bliss. There’s a lot we have in common, the core being that we are both nerds. We totally and completely geek out over things that we are passionate about. For example, we were both at the Veronica Mars movie Friday night, giggling and chair dancing. (Okay, maybe I was the only one chair dancing.)

Some things he geeks out over, I just… I don’t understand. Like Lord of the Rings. Let’s not even talk about the fact that I didn’t see Star Wars until he forced me to watch it in my late twenties. Or his reaction when I fell asleep while we watched.

To be fair, the pendulum swings the other way as well. I geek out over running. And try as he might, he just isn’t at the same level of Running Geek as I am. Bless his heart! That’s why when he actually signs up for a race and seems slightly excited for it, it makes me even more stoked. Think puppy with peanut butter.

I’ve participated in the Haddonfield Adrenaline 5k for the past three years; the first year I was fairly new to racing and he was there for emotional support, last year he joined me on the course for his first ever 5k. This year we decided to stick together so that I could help him PR.

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This race is in its 9th year and the reason why I think it’s an area favorite is because of one simple fact- it’s a race for runners, by runners. The Haddonfield (Moorestown/Mullica Hill) Running Company has been in business for 17 years and hosts the event; they know what runners want.

Close parking – CHECK
Packet pickup both prior to and on race day – CHECK
Fun/fast course – CHECK
Party after at the store – CHECK
Another party that evening at a bar – CHECK (not that we were there, but parties are always a good time!)

Since it’s a favorite among the area residents, we always see a good handful of people we know at this race. It’s not uncommon to post “Who’s going to be at the Adrenaline 5k?” on Facebook and have resounding YESES come back at’cha.

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Hail, hail, the gang’s all here!

It was a bit rainy prior to the race which was a surprise and we all watched the clouds overhead to see what Mother Nature was going to throw at us. However, she was just playing around this time. Probably because she knew it was Megan’s 40th birthday!

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Close to 9am, Jay and I moseyed on over to the starting line, waving to our fast friends and placing ourselves toward the back of the pack.

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Just over 900 runners.

The game plan was pretty straight forward, we’d run the first straight away and then switch to 1:1 intervals for the remainder of the race. I decided to ditch my watch and just go with what Jay felt comfortable with, taking my cues off of him for pace.

Promptly at 9am, the race started and we crossed the mat around 1:06. From there, I followed Jay. The first half mile or so, I hung directly behind him so that he could weave and find a comfortable spot in the pack. The race is through the local town which is super cute, so I spent a good portion of the run checking out the houses and waving to the residents along the route.

We took advantage of the down hill (that comes before the uphill in this race) and Jay grabbed a quick drink of water around 1.8 miles. There’s one uphill and it comes just before the mile 2 mark. I wasn’t sure how Jay would approach it but when I tell you that he FLEW up that hill, I’m not exaggerating. He seriously pushed and it was crazy impressive!

As we wound our way back to the main road and the final stretch of the race, I could tell that he was ready to be done. During these times I tried to push the pace on the walking intervals so that he wouldn’t slow down too much.

There were adorable little girls giving high fives in the middle of the street that helped make that last stretch more fun (I was having fun the entire time but I was trying not to be too rah-rah cheerleader). You can see the finish line about a quarter mile down the road and it definitely helps the morale to know you’re nearly done.

Once we were about a tenth a mile away from the finish, Jay was ready to push hard and finish strong. Right around this time, our friends were along the route, cheering as we went by! We crossed the finish line, he stopped Runkeeper and realized he’d hit a personal record, cutting his time by nearly a minute.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

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Brandi and Sean found us and we got a couple of post-race snacks (they had an assortment of bagels, bananas, oranges and water) before heading over to the Running Company store for the post-race party!

Two of my favorite race buddies.

Two of my favorite race buddies.

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Why yes, those WOULD be Jersey cakes. Jersey pride!

The store hosts an ah-mazing party, with food from the local catering company, Apron. There was an incredible sweet potato salad that was called Born to Run salad that was so good, it would have made Bruce sing. We chatted with friends, snacked on food, and drank beer (yes, at 10am). And since we were there, Jay and I got our long overdue running shoes.

All in all, an incredible time, as expected! We’ll be back and maybe, just maybe, I’ll turn Jay into a full-fledged Running Geek.

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What do you geek out about? Ever run with a friend (or a husband or a wife) and “help” them PR? Did you see Veronica Mars? (Because we should TOTALLY geek out together over that.)

Scooter the Running Shelf Elf

Hey all, Scooter here from Elf on the Shelf! I was tickled pickles when my good friends, the Scoot Chicks asked me to do a guest post for their blog. Naturally, as a newbie elf runner I have something fun and exciting to bring to the table.

You all know us elves for sitting on shelves, and doing wild and zany things like the ol’ Toilet Papering the Tree trick and Ice Skating on the Dining Room Table.

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But all work and no play makes Scooter an angry little elf. That’s why this year I decided to take up RUNNING. I mean, a crazy amount of my Facebook friends have been talking about their mileage and sharing maps of their runs, so I had to get in on the action so that now I can share all MY training on Facebook too.

Defriended Jingle soon after this - I don't need that type of negativity in my life!

(Defriended Jingle soon after this – I don’t need that type of negativity in my life!)

I started running last December after helping Santa eat all those cookies that he picks up along the way. 2013 was my first full year of running. When I start something, I go BIG.

All the medals! All the races! (Okay, fine, these aren’t all mine. Some are Candy’s. Most. Most are Candy’s.)

I learned just how therapeutic a long run can be and furthermore, I perfected the art of a selfie elfie! All my Instagram friends and I share our awesomeness on the regular.

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Who needs an ice rink when you can have an ice bath? Brrrr, it’s cold in here – there must be some elves in the atmosphere!

Who needs an ice rink when you can have an ice bath?

I learned how to rise and run effectively (by setting TWO alarms, of course!) and how to foam roll those pesky IT bands.

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I discovered my favorite post-race treat.

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Of course, I had to do a Color Run. See that smile? It really IS the happiest 5k on the Planet.

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Finally, I discovered a whole world of support from my friends and from the online running community.

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photo 1Now it’s time for me to get to “work” as a shelf elf. Thank goodness I had an incredible year of running so I don’t feel too bad about sitting on my doot for this month. And helping Santa with those cookies again. But come January? It is ON.

Scooter’s day job includes sitting on shelves, avoiding the hands of children and creeping out many adults. His night job is part magic, part ninja. He enjoys spending time with his girlfriend, Candy.

Road Tested: LaceLocker shoelace fasteners

Shoelaces and I have a love/hate relationship. Actually, it’s more of a neutral/hate relationship: I don’t pay them any attention when they do what they’re supposed to do. But I hate when they decide to revolt and untie themselves. I am clumsy enough as it is; I don’t need my laces’ help in tripping, okay?

Needless to say, I was pretty stoked when Stash Sporting Goods reached out to us about trying their LaceLocker shoelace fasteners, which are designed to securely store your tied laces so that they don’t come loose or get dirty/wet.

The question was this: was it possible that I could actually get through an entire walk without having to find a safe spot to retie my shoes?

I took to the streets to find out. First, though, I had to get these little contraptions onto my sneaks. They looked a little daunting at first – insert this tab into this place, then fold and fold, etc. As I mentioned in my Fitbit review, I hate reading directions, but there are just four steps to get your laces locked into place so even direction-loathers like myself can deal with it.

Easy as 1, 2, 3, 4!

Easy as 1, 2, 3, 4!

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Ta-dah!

The process was ridiculously quick and easy, which I sincerely appreciate as both a mother and an eternal lazy person. Then! To the streets!

Bottom line is this: my shoelaces didn’t budge. Like, at all. I be-bopped (okay, fine, dragged myself) up and down some gnarly hills and my laces stayed locked. And while I might not use them for every single run, you can bet your sweet booty that I will use them for every single race. I definitely think LaceLocker fasteners are a must-have for every runner on race day, especially for those of you who are looking for your next PR. There’s not a chance you’ll have to stop to retie your laces. 

Plus, how adorable is that name? They really ARE little tiny lockers for your laces!

Stash Sports were awesome enough to offer up a pair of LaceLockers to a lucky Scoot reader. To enter, click on the cute Rafflecopter pic below. The giveaway runs through 10/8!

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Click the pic to enter!

Disclaimer: I received one pair of LaceLocker fastener for review. All words and opinions are my own. Giveaway prize donated by Stash Sporting Goods. 

Guest Post: Non-runner to half-marathoner

Six months ago, I wasn’t a runner.

Today, I’m a half marathoner.

The story of how I went from non-runner to half marathoner begins and ends with the same person: Chick Vic.

Vic and I both work at the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, NY, and she’s the newsroom captain for our team for the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge, an annual 3.5-mile race that draws 10,000-plus runners who work for Rochester-area companies.

In early April, I was at a conference in St. Louis for work when I got an email from Vic saying when this year’s race would be. She sent it to me, I presume, because I had expressed some interest in running and had tweeted some about my difficulties on my once-a-week treadmill runs at the Y.

Even though I didn’t really enjoy running at that time, I had always been intrigued by the Chase because my colleagues all seemed to have a great time every year. By the time I left the conference, I had decided to reschedule an event I had planned for the night of the Chase and register to run. I left the hotel in St. Louis the morning of Sunday, April 7, walked past runners competing in the St. Louis Marathon and headed to the airport with no idea that I’d soon have plans to become a marathoner myself.

Eight days later I was at work when bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. As with most everybody else, I was sickened by what happened, but the thing that moved me to tears over the next couple days was the power of the running community. The stories of runners who pushed exhaustion aside to help those who had been injured. Of the finisher who gave his medal to a runner who had been stopped at mile 25. I was so moved that I decided that I wanted to be part of the running community.

Two days after the bombing, I tweeted out a new fitness goal: To get myself into good enough shape to run the half marathon in Rochester on Sept. 22.

I had no idea what this would entail. I had never run a road race before. I had never run “farther” than six miles before. And I say “farther” because I didn’t actually go anywhere; my only runs to that point had been on the treadmill.

I spent the rest of April researching how to train for a half marathon. Vic and some of the other distance runners I work with gave me some advice, and articles online provided a wealth of information. Ultimately, I decided that I would modify Hal Higdon’s Novice 2 program, extending it by four weeks so I could start it right after the Chase.

I immediately increased my running from once a week to four times a week to get ready for the Chase. And I started to run outside some. The results were immediate. I started to run faster. I started to enjoy running. I started to think about running all the time. I started to look up other races I could run. I was hooked.

Getting my first taste of racing at the Chase just cemented my addiction to running. The atmosphere before the race was incredible. I lined up with Vic and several other members of team D&C. For the first couple miles, Vic, Traci Bauer and I ran as a group, a tremendous help to me since I had almost no experience pacing myself. I pulled away with about 1.5 miles to go as they cheered me on and when I saw the finish line I got a jolt of adrenaline and was able to sprint to a 30:43 finish.

The rest of the summer was some of the best fitness self-control I’ve ever exhibited. My training plan called for four runs a week for 15 weeks, so 60 total. I did 59 of them, skipping one three-mile run in July because my knee hurt.

I ran three more races between the Chase and the half marathon: the Firecracker 5-mile (44:22) on Fourth of July, the Jungle Jog 5K (25:23) a few weeks later and the Summer Fest 12K (1:09:20) at the end of August. I loved all three races. The feeling of crossing the finish line is one of the best imaginable, and my times in the races made me feel like I had a good shot at hitting my goal for the half marathon: two hours.

junglejogBen finishes the Jungle Jog 5K in July

The unexpected part of the summer was that my journey to a half marathon became more than just me, my training program and some advice from friends.

A little before the Chase, Vic mentioned that Scoot A Doot was holding a giveaway for PROCompression socks. I didn’t really know anything about compression running socks, but I like free stuff, so I entered (I didn’t win, but I ended up buying four pairs of PROCompression marathon socks over the course of the summer).

As many of you know, getting entries to the giveaway entailed following Scoot A Doot on Twitter and Facebook, tweeting about the giveaway, etc. That led to me learning about more giveaways, which of course I entered. Which led to me following more people on twitter and following more blogs. Which led me to chatting about running on Twitter with people I may never meet and getting tons of encouragement from an online running community I never even knew existed.

It was, and is, amazing. The thing that pushed me into running was that I thought it would be great to be part of the running community. I was right. The specifics of what that would mean just weren’t exactly what I expected.

When I finished my final training run before tapering, a slow 10-miler the Sunday before the race, I felt incredibly content. Whatever happened in the race, I had already fulfilled the fitness goal I set out in that tweet five months earlier: to get myself in good enough shape to run a half marathon.

The morning of the race, my nerves weren’t as bad as I might have expected. I was glad I had already run four races earlier in the summer. I knew what routine worked for me and I just made sure I gave myself plenty of time to get ready. My wife dropped me off down the road from the start line about 25 minutes before the race, which was perfect.

As I wandered around among the thousands of people gathered around the starting area, I saw Vic. We hadn’t planned to meet at the start (she was actually looking for a different friend she was going to run with), but I was glad to see a friendly face. She reassured me that I’d do great and, as the start time neared and she still hadn’t found her friend, she said she’d run with me until she felt like she needed to slow down. This was just supposed to be a training run for her as she prepares for the New York City Marathon.

I won’t go into as much detail as she did in her recap last week, but she never slowed down. We ran side-by-side, almost step-for-step at times, and chatted for 13 miles. It was so much fun. I think most non-runners, and even some runners, are skeptical when people say running can be fun. And certainly, not every run is fun. This one was. I enjoyed every minute I was out there on the course.

Some people asked me if I had a time I was shooting for. My response was always the same: two hours would be nice, but it’s not a big deal if I miss. I was lying. I wanted to be under two hours badly. As we ticked off each mile, I become more and more confident that I’d make it. We were setting a great pace and felt comfortable doing it.

Also as the miles went past, I became more confident that Vic was going to keep up with me the entire way. At some point I asked her what her PR was. “2:03:something.” I got even more excited for a potential sub-two-hour finish. It’s one thing to set a goal, work for months toward that goal and then achieve it. A intensely satisfying feeling, to be sure. It’s something else entirely to have somebody give you encouragement and advice every step of the way toward that goal and then, unexpectedly, be able to help them reach a goal of their own. It was wonderful running karma that all the help she gave me in preparing for my first half marathon led to me being able to help her break the two-hour mark.

As the finish line came into view, we could see that we had plenty of time to cross before the clock would read 2:00:00. I got my usual finish line adrenaline surge and Vic, sensing that I suddenly had a lot more energy, told me to go. I sprinted to the line and crossed in 1:58:56 for a net time of 1:58:38. I got my medal and turned to cheer on Vic, but she was already across, finishing seven seconds behind me. Traci (whom we had seen briefly about halfway through the race) finished nine seconds after Vic.

sprinttofinishBen sprints to the finish at the half marathon

We hugged. We high-fived (badly; we were tired). We grinned from ear to ear. We got some post-race food and drinks. We took pictures. We discussed the race. We reveled in our achievement.

Over the summer, when I told people I was training for a half marathon, they frequently looked at me like I was crazy and/or told me they could never do that. I used to feel the same way. Then I started running. I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

sub2clubThe sub-2-hour club: Vic, Traci and Ben

Ben is a husband, father, runner and editor. This week he started training to run his first marathon in February at a race to be determined (but hopefully in Florida). He can be found on Twitter at @bjacobsroch.