Bronawyn O'Leary, of Cliffwood Beach, has one goal: to run a marathon in under three hours.
The feat is surely easier said than done, and the 36-year-old runner has come painfully close more than once. She missed the mark by two minutes in both the NYC Marathon and the NJ Marathon.
"It's a little frustrating, but I'll get there. It's just a matter of when," O'Leary said.
Although O'Leary ran cross country and track throughout her time at Keansburg High School and Rowan University, she never really considered running a marathon. Her sister, Bethany, thought running would be fun and approached O'Leary about it. Around the same time, their mother was diagnosed with cancer.
They chose a marathon sponsored by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and decided to run a marathon in honor of their mother. On race day, they donated about $7,000 to the cause and ran a total of almost 53 miles.
"We would do our long (practice) runs and we would end them at her house and she was so proud of us for supporting her during her battle with cancer," O'Leary recalled.
But something about the race was nagging O'Leary, who was 29 at the time.
"I thought, I can run faster. And I can," said O'Leary. "And I will hopefully break that 3 hour barrier at some point."
O'Leary now trains with a running coach and runs on Saturdays with a group called the Stingers down in Point Pleasant. She runs several races throughout the year, including everything from a 5K to a full marathon.
Each marathon, she says, has its own mood.
"You have different feelings and emotions for each marathon. The New York City Marathon is overwhelming the whole time, while the New Jersey Marathon is less rowdy. It gets the adrenaline pumping with all the people in Central Park. NJ is a little more tranquil."
But toward the end of a long race, no matter where she is, she isn't thinking about the hours of training, the miles she already completed or the people around her. Only one thing is running through her mind.
"Just seeing the finish line, just getting there," she said. "I remember when I was running a marathon last year this lady was with me and she just kept saying, 'You got it, You got it.'"
O'Leary recently ran the NJ Half Marathon and finished as the fastest among the women competing, although she and the other two top female finishers ran together until the very end.
"The last mile was really where the race started," she said. "You can win a race, but to battle out the win is really even more exciting. It was a good race. It was a good race for all of the ladies."
She finds its not just her hard work and dedication that allows her to compete and complete races so often; its the support of her husband Jamie.
"The only reason that I can do all of this is my husband. He takes my son to school and is there in the afternoon. Him helping me to get those runs in and being supportive of me trying to reach this goal is really what makes it all happen," she said.
And regardless of whether or not she achieves her goal of the 3 hour marathon, O'Leary said she is just glad to know she and her husband are teaching their 8-year-old son Joshua the importance of healthy eating and exercising.
"It's just a healthy active lifestyle that I have and I'm very proud of it. I'm proud that my son is seeing this. He has two healthy, active parents that are showing him a good way to live," she said.
O'Leary's next full marathon is in October in Hartford, Connecticut and she is working diligently toward breaking that three hour barrier.
"Hopefully, that will be my time," O'Leary said.