Miles with Smiles.

This post is about two of my loves, like the laces on my sneakers, tying the ACCESS College Foundation together with Shamrock Marathon Weekend.

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Shamrock Marathon 2014-Bonnie Sutton and Cheryl Jones from ACCESS, two of my biggest race supporters.

I still remember getting the phone call from our President and CEO, Bonnie Sutton with the good news that ACCESS and J&A formed a new partnership, and we became one of the official charities for Shamrock Weekend. That was the big push I needed to commit to running the Whale Challenge (8k and Full Marathon) that year, in the hopes that I would qualify for the Boston Marathon. I was able to raise over $2,000 that year for ACCESS…and I qualified! It’s no secret that I love to run, and then to add ACCESS into the mix, well that’s the sprinkles on my donut!

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MMM…Donuts.

I have personally raised over $5,000 for ACCESS through our partnership since 2014, and I’m hoping to reach my goal of $3,000 this year, please check out my fundraising site: https://give.everydayhero.com/us/meganulanich-overbey! For me it’s easy, I log in the miles and hope that I inspire enough people to get donations rolling in to help the students that I work with daily. The drive alone to raise money for a non-profit that I hold dear to my heart makes the long winter miles worth it, and when I have the day’s that I would rather do anything but train, I think about my students and how college is their finish line. Getting to that finish line for them is going to take a lot of hard work, a lot of patience, and the desire to succeed. Sounds all too familiar with what running means to me!

As an ACCESS Advisor at Granby High School, I work with 9-12 graders, primarily working with the juniors and seniors preparing them for what’s next. Right now the biggest task in the school year is helping our senior families file for financial aid, by filling out the dreaded FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Aid). It can be daunting for many, a lot of our students are from low-income families, many are first generation students, some have never been out of the Hampton Roads area before, and for many college is a pipe dream. We offer our services to help with this task, and my days fly by like Usain Bolt’s speed, counseling parents and students daily! I may feel like I was hit by a mac truck at the end of the school day, but I drive home feeling rewarded. Prior to ACCESS, I worked in college admissions, while I enjoyed learning that side of the college process, I find that there are so many options for students today, and I enjoy helping them find the perfect fit!

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We wear many hats…

The biggest barrier in the college process is cost! Watching college tuition increase each year, has me considering opening up a VA-529 College Savings Plan for my unborn. I have an awful feeling that in the next twenty years, college costs might be in the six-digits, and that leaves me dreaming about a day to retire before 90, or going back into higher education in the hopes of getting free tuition through employment. Either way, this barrier is facing my students now, and we are educating them the best way we can. I have students that work 40 hour weeks, in addition to attending high school, playing sports, and participating in extracurricular activities. Some of them are the “bread” winners for their family, and working is not an option. The stories that I hear daily pull at my heartstrings, and at times it puts everything in perspective, and makes you realize what’s important.

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Retirement, the new dorm life experience.

I had a parent recently ask me how many children I had, I sarcastically said four fur babies, she laughed, and replied, “from where I’m sitting, you have them in the hundreds.” It’s moments like this that I know I’m in the right place at the right time. It’s the moments that my students run into my office to tell me that they have been accepted into college, when they are awarded a scholarship, when they are excited about the senior prom, or the big game on Friday night, that makes it worth while. When I get the hug with a “thank you,” because without your help they wouldn’t be able to continue their education, well that makes me eager to help more! I work with students who come from many backgrounds, all of them have their own story to share, all of them have their own aspiration for life after Granby, but all of them have the same common goal, to make a better life for themselves and their families.

This quote hits home for my students and the struggles that some of them face. Sometimes I think we could all use this quote at times in our lives.

“What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” -Robert H. Schuller

For every $1 given, we leverage $20 in the services we provide to our students. For just $5, we would leverage $100, that would be several testing/college application fee waivers for our deserving students. If you would like to contribute to the ACCESS College Foundation, please consider donating to my fundraising page. It doesn’t take much to make a difference: https://give.everydayhero.com/us/meganulanich-overbey

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A little bit of this…a little bit of that…

Throwback to two weeks ago at the Virginia Beach Distance Races for some friendly competition at the 100k Relay with “Team Chafing the Dream!” It was an early start, it was a cold/dark winter day, and I knew we would be out there for the long haul. It didn’t matter what place we would come in, it was about bringing us together and having fun, trash talking included. I knew it would hurt, I’m not 100%, but I needed to be out there with my friends, and to be able to look forward to something. It was advised by my coach that it wasn’t a good idea, but for those that don’t know me well enough yet…I’m stubborn! I had no idea how much it would hurt, and I questioned if I could continue after each leg. My body was shutting down, and I didn’t want anyone to know. I was actually somewhat impressed I could hit sub 7:00/mile splits knowing that I hadn’t been running much, and my pain level was at a 10! This relay may have kicked my “piriformis,” but it was worth it!

Meanwhile, it’s the bottom of the ninth and I’m warming up the bench! Throw me a salted pretzel and hand me a beer! It is difficult to be sidelined right now with an injury, and because of it I have had to make some tough decisions about my training plan. After the 100k Relay, I paid for it, and I finally surrendered! It has been two years that I have dealt on and off with this nagging injury, and it’s time to get healthy. As much as I would like to be out there running, I would also like to enjoy my daily work day, driving in the car, “deep couch sitting,” and sleeping pain free.

I can’t complain with this minor setback, I had a great year running, had the toughest training plan with the highest mileage I have ever done, and set some big PR’s. It’s easier said than done, I won’t lie, I have been in a funk for weeks, and it has affected me all around. Running has always been a release for me, and when you take that out of my daily routine, it has left me feeling those winter blues. My plan now is to take a step back, and think long term. I still run when I can, it’s not making my situation any worse, and I have dusted off some old friends Tony Horton and Shaun T to help with my cross training. If I can’t run the way I would like, at least I can sweat it out with some P90X and Insanity.

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One of the toughest decisions I had to make was to forgo Boston this year. I knew it was coming, but I kept it to myself. I’m disappointed, but know it’s the right thing to do. I already qualified for 2017, so maybe I’ll tackle Heartbreak Hill next year! As for Shamrock Weekend, I’m playing it day by day. If I feel good, I race, if I don’t I will be the loudest cheerleader I can be to support all of my friends that are running that weekend! A good friend, and a person who’s story has touched so many including myself, has the motto, “turn scars into stars.” This may be a scar in my journey for the moment, but I have a lot of stars in my life, and I’m so proud of them and their journey to get ShamROCK ready, I can’t wait to be there to support them!

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I’m lucky to have a support system of friends and family, and a coach that sees the endless possibilities of what’s to come with my running talent. I’m starting to believe that the surface hasn’t been scratched yet, and I look forward to what’s next! I saw this quote the other day, and it couldn’t be more true. My relationship with running has changed over the years, and I’m happy with my J&A family!

“A good Coach can change a game, a great Coach can change a life.” –John Wooden

In closing, I have to give a shout out to my fundraising page for the ACCESS College Foundation, an official charity for Shamrock Weekend. I encourage you to check out our mission, and consider supporting this great non-profit! This is my third year raising money for ACCESS, in the hopes of reaching my goal of $3,000! everydayhero-MeganUlanich-Overbey #thirdtimesthecharm

Me, Myself, and I…

2016 jumped out of the corral like a fresh pair of sneakers ready to race! I rang in the night with the best of friends, and scored a surprise midnight kiss by my love with eight minutes to spare!

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Cheers to 2016.

During a work team meeting last week, we discussed what motivates us the most. The majority of us had similar answers. I included family, friends, money (let’s be real), personal goals (a lot of that involved around running), my career helping students, and donuts (who am I kidding). After the meeting, I had my “aha moment,” the biggest motivator in my life is ME! If I can’t be inspired by my motivation to get up every morning and tackle the day, then all the other motivators won’t be important. You have to be happy in the things you do for it to be successful, or to have a desire to improve in all areas of your life. My only hope is that my motivation rubs off on others, and I continue running through life one mile at a time! What motivates you?

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True Story.

I have less than 100 days to Boston, and while training has not gone off without a hitch, I have to keep a positive attitude. I’m extremely grateful to be coached by Jerry Frostick of J&A Racing, who has told me from the beginning “that we haven’t even scratched the surface.” I trust his guidance, and know that the rest will fall into place. I have become a better runner because of him, the friendships I have made over the year are the laces to my sneakers, and I know I’m a better person because of this sport. I still have the nagging glute pain, and it is a pain in my ass…no pun intended! I was diagnosed with “piriformis syndrome,” and I can’t thank Direct Performance enough for all of their help in trying to get me back out there at 100%. What’s next for me? We scratch the original plan for right now, and come up with a new one. We throw in more cross training, and know there is still a lot of time to train, but the focus is to get healthy. I have been dealing with this since 2014, it’s time to stop running through it, and do something about it. It does make me hopeful for what’s to come, if I’m 100% healthy, I can only assume more PR’s are in my future.

This past Sunday, I laced up the sneakers to start a crisp 70 degree January morning in Virginia Beach. I swear our weather is as dysfunctional, as I was this week plotting out what I was going to do with my Power Ball winnings. The plan was to run an easy four miles on the Boardwalk with three ladies that I admire, and who have blogs that I hope mine will come close to one day. The miles went by in a flash, because when you put four ladies together, the chatter is at a maximum. After some obnixous selfies, we headed for a post run refreshment and conversation. We all shared what started our running careers, what pushes us, and what goals we have for this spring. In those moments listening, I felt more excited for their journey than my own. The great thing about all of us, is that we run because we love it, but it doesn’t define us, it is not the top priority in our lives, but it helps to keep everything in balance. I often say, that there are all these balls in the air, and if one falls, they all fall…if running stops for me, I can’t keep everything else together, that is my time, and I cherish it daily. Each of us will tow the line at Shamrock, each of us has a different goal, each of us has a reason, and each of us will high five at the finish line regardless of times on the clock. That’s the great thing about this sport, we all understand what drives us, what motivates us to be better…to be faster, and when we have an “on,” or “off” day, we get it! These three ladies are inspiring for so many reasons, and I’m glad to have them as friends! I highly suggest you follow their journeys, and I hope that we will share again together in the future. (Jess Horton, Kris Lawrence, and Kristy Maute) #jogandblog #shamrockon16

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Until we meet again King Neptune.

Like promised in my last post, it was time to take the pen to the paper and come up with my 16 for 2016, thanks again to a good friend who had the idea. Not all 16 may get checked off this year, but it’s early, and I’m not a quitter! #16for16

  1. Tackle that pesky kitchen junk drawer weekly…and mail pile!
  2. Add another big six marathon to the bucket list.
  3. Read more…watch television less.
  4. Run a sub 1:30 Half Marathon.
  5. Run a sub 3:00 Marathon. (“If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.”)
  6. Take a cooking class. (say WHAT???)
  7. International VACAY!
  8. Complete a Ragnar with 11 friends, 2 drivers, and a partridge in a pear tree.
  9. Learn to play golf.
  10. Volunteer more.
  11. Tackle my fear of heights, and hit the ropes course.
  12. Whale watching tour at Rudee Inlet in Virginia Beach.
  13. Buy a new crib. (Chip and Joanna Gaines, I vote YOU!)
  14. Ride Bicycles to Carova.
  15. Swim in the Pacific Ocean.
  16. Take horseback riding lessons. (I loved riding as a kid, time to bring that back.)

Rarely Calm. Always Bright.

It’s HOLIDAY time…or sort of, as long as Christmas movies are still playing, and my vacation is still happening, I don’t hit the reality button until January 4th! The only thing that I said a heartfelt goodbye to earlier this week were the leftovers in the fridge that added to my waistline this holiday. Thank God, for trash day Tuesday!

I have been enjoying winter break with family and friends! My plans were simple, do more with the ones I love, eat Christmas cookies (we don’t need to discuss how many), watch Christmas movies (still ongoing), and enjoy the much needed time off to recharge (AMEN)!

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We made a family Christmas Card this year! We are those crazy “fur-children” parents, and embrace it!

 

Still not training yet, just running for fun, and enjoying the strength workouts with  Functionally Fit at Direct Performance. They are challenging, and I love a challenge. I kick myself for taking time off from Insanity and P90X, and think that with this next training cycle I will incorporate them back in weekly. For those that don’t know this, they brought me out of an exercise retirement back in 2009, and totally helped me shed the pounds, and got me back running again. They have been helpful to have over the years, and pay off big time! I have been experiencing a lot of pain in my glutes and lower back, something that I need to make a priority to fix. It has made my runs difficult, and anything that has me sitting for more than 20 minutes, I start to feel very achy, and will do anything to stand up. Hoping to kick this problem before training really starts up to get ready for Boston. One change I’m making to my daily routine is getting a stand up desk before going back to work. I know it will help for the short term, but most importantly in the long run…no pun intended!

Surf-n-Santa was the last race for 2015! I had a plan, go out and have fun. I hadn’t trained since Philly, so I was not in race ready shape at all, not to mention the pain I have been experiencing lately. My Coach even questioned me running this race, but we came up with a “fun” race plan that allowed me to get out there with my friends! Well that plan went out the window at the start line. I shared in laughter with friends waiting at the start, and figured WTH, go for it! I knew it was too fast at mile two at a 6:30 pace, and I was in some pain, but surprisingly the effort felt easy. I use to be scared of seeing those times, now I feel more comfortable. There was a Gingerbread Cookie stop at mile two, thanks to Baker’s Crust and J&A Racing for always showing runners a good time, that I desperately wanted to stop at, but I refrained and kept on trucking along. I guess races that go unplanned, can have great results:

Chip Time-34:28/6:54

Overall-74/3,760

Gender-10/2,413 (Group Place 30-34-1/361)

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Last race of 2015! An oldie, but a goodie! One of my best friend’s Meggan even came down from Northern, Virginia to run this race! 

I was pleasantly surprised to be selected to be a Nuunbassador for 2016! I’m very excited to join the Nuun Family and look forward to using more of their great products, and promote them to others. I started using Nuun over the summer, and it helped a lot with hydrating, especially with the tough workouts in the summer heat. #stayhydrated

I have to give a special shout out to a story that Rick and I have been following for months, Poh the Dog. If you need a feel good story, please consider following their journey. Poh’s journey started as a bucket list road trip to live out his last days with his parents. Well Poh had a mind of his own and has been thriving, has had two great road trips, and is currently on his third! We were lucky to meet them on the second road trip when they made a quick stop in Virginia Beach this past summer, even bringing our beloved Zoe to meet the famous Poh. Rick and I had the same idea to gift each other Poh’s books for Christmas, and found out we even made a cameo!

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Great minds think alike when selecting Christmas gifts! Zoe girl excited to read Poh’s story, and call herself a celebrity!

Like all good things, they must come to an end! That’s the magical thing about NYE, it’s a time to reflect back on 2015, and have hope for 2016! It is one of my favorite days of the year, and I can’t wait to celebrate it with sparkles, bubbly beverages, and good friends! A good friend, Ryan, who brought his blog out of retirement (check it out here) this week, had a great idea for 16 goals in 2016! I plan to steal this idea, and will be brave enough to share them soon! #16for16

Until we meet again in the new year, I leave this quote:

“Maybe life isn’t about avoiding the bruises. Maybe it’s about collecting the scars to prove we showed up for it.” -Unknown

100 Days

 

Wow! Can it be…100 days away to Shamrock Weekend? That sneaky leprechaun is around the corner! I almost want to hit the snooze button, and hide under the covers! Coming off from Philly two weeks ago, I’m still riding the “recovery train.” I took off the week after Philly, and enjoyed some much needed down time celebrating Thanksgiving with family and friends. At times I felt like an infomercial for a vacuum cleaner, eating just about everything in sight…and pie! All things in moderation is what I like to say, to be honest, I rarely give up anything during training. I’m just more cautious about eating better to sustain my training, but I don’t deprive myself of a sweet treat here and there, besides I work too hard to do that.

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Enough said…

I have to start out by giving a special shout out to the love of my life, we hit our five year wedding anniversary last week! I’m one lucky girl, and I wouldn’t want to ride the roller coaster of life with anyone else! Here’s to the next 50 years!

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Watch out, he’s taken! 

This month is all about recharging the batteries and using this time for recreational work outs, not a concrete training plan. I started an eight week class with Direct Performance, targeted for runners through a strength and conditioning program. The program is designed to correct strength and muscle imbalances, improve mobility, and build runner specific strength, durability, and work capacity. While strength training is not foreign to me, and back in my day Tony Horton and Shaun T were my after work special, this class is targeting areas that I never focused on before, and is allowing me to focus on doing it correctly. I highly suggest Direct Performance to my local friends, they are amazing, and have helped me overcome some injuries along the way through dry-needling, and physical therapy. Stay tuned…

My training plan will start back on the first of the year, with two big “A” races on the calendar, Shamrock and Boston! I joined the J&A Shamrock Training Team over a year ago, and it was the best decision I ever made. The Shamrock Training Team had a launch party at Murphy’s Irish Pub yesterday, and the room was filled to the brim! The team is led by the fearless leader, Ryan Conrad, J&A Training & Charity Relations Director, and close friend, who said it best yesterday, “Welcome Home!” This team is more than just training, it is a family, and I’m lucky to be apart of it! I highly encourage joining a training team, or community running group if you haven’t joined one. The motivation, accountability, support, and friendships along the way are not only inspiring, but life changing.

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Let’s ShamROCK 2016!

Tis’ the season for giving! If you want to know the way to my heart, then help out the students that I work with daily! If you know me, you know I work for the ACCESS College Foundation. ACCESS partnered with J&A three years ago, and we are lucky to be one of the official charities for Shamrock Weekend! My fundraising efforts over the past two years have raised over $5,000, and I hope to reach my goal of $3,000 this year. I couldn’t have done this without the support of my family and friends, and for that I applaud you! You can view my fundraising page here:                         everydayhero Megan Ulanich-Overbey

My agenda the next couple of weeks is to focus on my goals for 2016! I will take time to enjoy the reason for the season, and spend my free time surrounded by the people I love. And if there is time, I will not feel guilty that I make it my mission to watch every Hallmark/Lifetime holiday movie…all in moderation!

 

Third Times the Charm

I have always been a runner, but now I’m learning what it means to race. My most recent triumph was this past Sunday at the Philadelphia Marathon. It was my third marathon, and I trained harder this cycle than ever before.

My Coach had a plan for me, and we executed it. The past 100+ days was a mix of speed work, tempo runs, cross-training, and high mileage, more than I have ever done solo training. There were minor bumps along the way, just like any training cycle. There was a pulled hamstring (twice), glute pain that has been nagging since 2014, and my near death experience with a Chihuahua, or what I like to call my new spirit animal. I just needed to get to the line as healthy as possible, and give it all I had.

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There wasn’t a bronze Chihuahua in the city, but I picked something better, the MOOSE!

The goal for Philly was to PR, but hoping for a 3:15, I knew I could do it, but keeping that pace made me nervous for the 26.2 mile journey. This training cycle I hit the 18 miler and it was a good day, but never hit the 20 miler, that left some concern if I could do it. For marathon runners, hitting the 20 miler is confirmation that you are ready, but we played it smart after experiencing my nagging glute pain through the end of the training cycle, and backed off.

The time had come to hit the road, my friend Kris and I headed up to Philly on Friday morning. Check out her blog, Kris Lawrence, she is the true example of hard work and talent, an elite runner with a big heart. We went to the expo, picked up our race packets, and indulged in dinner with a glass of wine, per Coach’s orders! On Saturday, we went for a light jog around the city to catch the finish of the 8k, after several obnoxious selfies with city statues including ROCKY, and a quick run up the ROCKY steps, it was back to our hotel to put our feet up. We watched the movie “McFarland,” a must watch if you love to run, and are in need of a feel good Disney moment. Later that evening we headed out for dinner, our last meal. A lot of friends always ask me what do I eat the night before a race, for me it is normally pizza, or Subway. I seem to be a roll with Subway, it has worked each marathon for me, so fingers crossed it keeps on working. Then it was time to hit the hay for an early morning wake up call.

Race morning…everything went out the window! The weather predictions had changed. Instead of the 30 degree weather, without wind, it was about 50 degrees with wind. The biggest change this past year for me is my race outfit selection. I hate the cold, I would run in a parka if I could, Under Armour would be lucky to sponsor me for their “coldgear” line, but on race day, the less clothing the better. Grin and bear it is what I like to call it!

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Race Day Ready

In the corral waiting to start, I zoned out. It was go time, and I had to think good thoughts. The last song to play over the loud speakers was “Sweet Caroline,” while this is not particularly the best pump you up before a marathon selection, it allowed me to reflect on Boston. I had done it there, and I would do it again. I had a race plan with the advice from my Coach, start out behind the 3:15 pace group, and evaluate at mile 6-10 to pick up the pace. I never made it to the 3:15 pace group, the corral was too crowded, it was up to me to race my pace. At first I liked the idea that the half marathon and full marathon started together, but I realized quickly that it was difficult to hold back. I went out at a sub 7:00 minute pace, I was excited, but knew that the majority of the people around me had a shorter journey that day. The race was long, and I had to control it. I felt great, my nutrition was on point, the crowd support was overwhelming, and knowing that family and friends at home were tracking helped push me forward. At the split from the half marathon, I knew I had a PR in me. I was concerned at mile 15 when I saw the 3:15 pace group ahead of me, how, that wasn’t possible, I was ahead of that pace. I’m no Math major, but the Garmin was on target. At mile 20, the turn around, I knew I could hit goal, my legs were starting to feel tired, our Virginia Beach flat land inclines had nothing on these hills/mountains, but I had more fight.

At mile 24 a lady yelled out “nice guns,” which made me smile a little bit bigger, and allowed me to give it all I had. A friend on the J&A Training Team told me you can do anything for two miles, that stuck with me, and I was ready to bring it home. I crossed the finish line with a Garmin time of 3:11:31, and an official clock time of 3:12:57. For my non-runner friends, races are always slightly off, they are course certified, so you always know that you have bank a little extra time to hit the goal. I had set a personal goal of 3:13 that I shared with my Coach days prior. Why a 3:13? I want to run the NYC Marathon, and while the lottery has been tough to get in with the amount of applicants, three years denied now, I felt my only option was to try qualify by time (standards harder than Boston), is it enough to get in, maybe not, but I did it.

It was time to head home, the weekend had come and gone so quickly, much like big events in life. Kris and I had the best laughs this weekend, found out we are “ladybug” sisters, and I’m lucky to have a great friend and training partner like her in my life. Meanwhile, at home, Chef Rick was cooking up a storm for our return to celebrate “Friendsgiving!” It was the perfect way to end the weekend, and share what’s important this holiday season, great friends!

I have to give a huge shout out to my family, friends, Coach, Hunger Games, and my loving husband for being supportive of my running lifestyle. I couldn’t do it without you! On to the next phase, it’s Thanksgiving, time to HEAL, and RECOVER! It is all about recreational workouts for the next couple of weeks, and training will kick off again in January for Boston 2016. Until the next post, I eat pie!

Race Stats:

Finish-3:12:57/7:21

Division-24/639 (30-34)

Gender-92/4,078

Overall-664/9,163

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Live, Love, Run