Marriage, Motherhood and Marathons

Julia McElroy is one of the few women of Westchester county to finish a Boston Marathon. She was in the top 100 women finishers, placing 94th with a time of 3:07:44 this past April.

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McElroy currently resides in Tarrytown with her husband, Matt Behrens and their nine month old daughter, Emma Grace. McElroy put in her running dues and has accomplished more than she ever thought she would in the world of racing. She has completed six marathons, each in less than three and a half hours and missed the Olympic trials by 21 seconds.

McElroy began running in her mid-twenties, primarily for health reasons. After eight years of smoking, she decided to kick the bad habit and get in shape. "After I quit smoking, I joined a gym. I hated it," she said.
Instead, McElroy found herself running a mile everyday. "Running is an efficient sport," she said. "It doesn’t require any equipment; you just throw on your sneakers and hit the sidewalk."

At the peak of her running career, McElroy and her husband found out about a baby girl on the way. She could not do as much as she used to, yet she continued to run outside until the middle of her third trimester. Her doctor then forced her to switch to no-impact, deep water running.

McElroy was stubborn about changing what she was doing, but there was no way around it. Although the pool was a boring exercise for her, it kept her in shape. Prior to her pregnancy, she had already qualified for the Boston Marathon; however, now with the arrival of Emma, McElroy was wary about actually running it.

"To run a marathon, you need to be selfish in the sense that you need to really dedicate yourself to training," she said. "I have to be smart about my running, I still need to wake up the next day and take care of a baby."

McElroy received her acceptance via email from the Boston coordinator. The elation she felt soon turned to a slight panic, having only eight weeks to train.

"I’m older and just not taking care of myself anymore," she said. "Marathon running is all about you, you, you. With a family it’s not all about just you anymore."

The pressure was on. McElroy would run back-to-back training sessions on the weekends when her husband was home to watch Emma. During the week, she would take the baby out in the jogging stroller and get in her endurance running.

One week prior to the race, McElroy nearly reached her breaking point. She was tired; she felt burnt out and was having serious second thoughts about traveling to Boston. Her husband, however, gave her the support and motivation she needed to change her mind and get back on her feet. The family soon found themselves venturing up to Massachusetts.

Much to McElroy’s dismay, the race did not start off well. At mile four, McElroy could feel a huge blister forming under a callous on the bottom of her foot. After a brief stop, she forced herself to continue, knowing her family was waiting at the finish line.

At mile seventeen she spotted her husband amidst a sea of faces. She saw nothing but support for her all over his face. It was the perfect pick-me-up she needed to battle through the remaining nine miles.

"Having someone you love at the finish line is really great," said McElroy. "I was thinking about them and how my life had undergone so many changes—that was a huge motivation."

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