I’m back!


 bad) + 58.16 (Sep) = 574.25. 

Clean out my boxes in the basement – DONE! We moved in August (which contributed to the low mileage displayed above), but since then I’ve taken several very full carloads of stuff to Goodwill! 

Clean out the desk in my room that I never use – DONE! In fact, that desk is in the garage ready to be donated/sold. 

Read 52 books: I’ve read 36 so far this year! 

Use more vacation days: I’m going to Mexico in less than a month, so I’ll be using at least a week then! 

Blog more: HAHA oops.

Actually sort through my pictures from Alaska so I can 


 blog about the experience and design and order photo books: HAHA maybe before the 2 year anniversary of the trip? The photos are mostly sorted – I just need to actually put the books together.

As I also mentioned above, I’m going to Mexico next month! My college roommate Elyssa is getting married at the Hard Rock Riviera Maya. I’ve never been to Mexico so I’m looking forward to some pool time, margaritas, and as much chips and guac as I want!

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them

 and will also be showing

Dr. Strange

 in a second theatre! Tickets are on sale now and we have some awesome things planned! For more information and to purchase tickets, click the picture! 

When I go to Mexico, I’ll also be stopping in Miami for a day on the way home. Comment below with your suggestions for things to do and places to eat! 

Training Update, and a Belt Review!

Training for my second marathon has been even more all over the place than training for my first. Between a busy summer and some nagging achilles tendinitis, there hasn’t been as much running lately as I’d like. 

But, some of the running has been fun and productive! 

My first race after running the Pittsburgh Marathon was the Brentwood 5k – it’s become an annual tradition to run with friends and then stick around for beer and prizes. They did the prizes a little differently this year and it was sort of lame, but the beer and company were still awesome!

A photo posted by Lauren Hopkins (@pghlauren) on Jul 18, 2016 at 12:57pm PDT

As a Level Up Virtual Runs Ambassador, they asked if I wanted to try out one of their new LED light-up running belts! I’ve tried several different belts/armbands, so I was anxious to see how this one measured up to the

SLS3 belt

I’ve been using for shorter runs (I use my hydration vest for longer runs). 

Easy on/off and adjusts for a perfect fit!

The LED lights are pretty cool! This would be an excellent addition to any night-time runner’s reflective gear. The battery casing doesn’t take up much room at all in the belt, and the lights have different patterns (or steady on, if you prefer). 

Great fit and it stays in place!

Want to try out the belt for yourself? Level Up Runs is offering my readers a chance to purchase it for 50% off – what a steal! You can purchase your own LED belt


. Use code RCE5FGY8 to get it for HALF OFF! 

You can also join Level Up Virtual Runs and I for the

Dog Days Virtual Race

next month! Use code SAVE10 to save 10% off your race registration – register



Comment below if you have any questions about the belt, the race, or about becoming a Level Up Ambassador! 

Dog Days Virtual Race!

Hey all! I’m excited to share I’ve teamed up with

Level Up Virtual Runs

for another Virtual race, the Dog Days 5k/10k/Half! Participants receive the awesome finisher’s medal featured below as well as a $25 gift certificate for


Second Chance


If you love dogs and running as much as I do, what are you waiting for?



Ziva loves the Dog Days of Summer! 

June Goals Update and a Weekend Update!

June Goals Update:

Successfully train for and run a marathon:


Raise $1000 for CCFA:

 $2100+ raised.

Run a sub-30 5k: 

Coming this summer?

Run a sub-60 10k: 

Coming this fall?

Run/walk 1500 miles:

 66.41 (Jan) + 76.35 (Feb) + 97.34 (Mar) + 94.08 (Apr)  + 67.02 (May) + 53.28 (Jun) = 454.48! It’s not likely I’ll make 1500 miles (since I’m only counting logged running/walking workouts and not ALL my steps).

Clean out my boxes in the basement:

 Done, I guess? They’re all in storage at the moment. We’re moving in August so maybe I’ll get a chance to sort through some of that crap then. 

Clean out the desk in my room that I never use:


Read 52 books:

 30 books read to date. 

Use more vacation days:

Big fail on that so far this year, but I’ve got a trip to Mexico in the fall and hoping for a few long weekends here and there as well. 

Blog more:


Actually sort through my pictures from Alaska so I can 


 blog about the experience and design and order photo books:

Sorted, but no photobooks yet. 

I had a pretty solid July 4th weekend: I enjoyed craft beers with penguins at the Aviary on Friday, had yinzeritas on Saturday, went to a Daniel Tiger birthday party for two special girls on Sunday, and ran a new course PR at the Brentwood 5K on Monday! How was your holiday weekend?

Happy the Penguin tried to steal some ShuBrew!



For The Community of Runners

My latest post is up over at the Smart Panel Blog, and I’m really proud of how it turned out. I was asked to choose a photo related to my hobbies and write about it, and of course it turned into a post about running. Check it out here and let me know what you think! 

You’re probably going to see this picture posted forever and ever. 

May Goals Update

I crossed off some HUGE goals in May! Here’s an update: 

Successfully train for and run a marathon: DONE. I still can’t believe I did it! In fact, I’ve already registered for my 2nd marathon (Erie, in September) – when I announced this on social media, I learned just how many people do not read hashtags. 

Raise $1000 for CCFA: $2100 raised.

Run a sub-30 5k: Coming this summer?

Run a sub-60 10k: Coming this fall?

Run/walk 1500 miles: 66.41 (Jan) + 76.35 (Feb) + 97.34 (Mar) + 94.08 (Apr)  + 67.02 (May) = 401.2! I’m not sure I’ll make this goal of 1500 miles, but I’ll definitely go more miles than I’ve ever gone before! 

Clean out my boxes in the basement: Done, I guess? They’re all in storage at the moment. 

Clean out the desk in my room that I never use: Done! 

Read 52 books: 28 books read to date. 

Use more vacation days: I’m using a few this month, including one for a trip to Idlewild with my niece and nephew, but I really could’ve used a few more days this month. Work had other ideas.

Blog more: Oops.

Actually sort through my pictures from Alaska so I can finally blog about the experience and design and order photo books: I’m actually through most of these and will likely finish sorting this week. Maybe I’ll be able to get photobooks ordered before the 1-year anniversary of our arrival in AK!

What about you? How are you doing in achieving your goals? Comment below!

#GameOnPGH: That time I ran 26.2 miles and lived to tell the tale – Part Two

Read Part One here. 

May 1 had finally arrived. There were no more training runs, no more carb-loading meals, no more injuries to stretch out. Just a mere 26.2 miles to run.

Best Sister ever!

My sister drove me downtown that morning and served as an amazing Race Crew for the day! She walked me down to the Westin where I did my VIP bag check-in and met up with my on-course support team, Chelsea and Jeff. We made our way to the corrals, which were a giant cluster, and the fact that Penn Avenue was still open to vehicle traffic was mind-blowing. 

I’m not going to recap every mile of the race because I can’t put it into words. What an incredible experience. Pittsburgh is a special place, and the Pittsburgh Marathon is an amazing race. I could not have asked for a better first marathon experience. Sure, my hip got REAL cranky about 15 miles in, and I came out of it with a black toenail and a huge blister, but that’s all trivial compared to the feeling of crossing that finish line, especially knowing that I was able to run a race that reflected my training and that I came in under my goal time! 

I do, however, want to talk about two very special people. Without them, I would not be a marathoner. I might not even be a runner. And my world would be little less bright. They say that you have to be crazy to run a marathon. Well, if that’s the case, you have to be a special kind of crazy to run a marathon for the sole purpose of helping another person. Jeff and Chelsea are that special kind of crazy. I literally could not have run this marathon without them. 

The Pittsburgh Marathon Bloggers all received the VIP package for race weekend, which included indoor restrooms, special gear check, and post-race massages, among other things. But if you ask me, I got the real VIP treatment having Chelsea and Jeff there to help encourage me, keep my pace steady, grab drinks and fuel for me, and remind me that the pain was only temporary. Jeff, ever the Run Butler, carried a sign the entire race – one side telling everyone this was my first marathon and the other celebrating Chelsea’s back-to-back marathons (Hall of Fame Marathon and Pittsburgh Marathon in consecutive weekends). 

The crowds were amazing. I knew they would be, but they surpassed my expectations. The wonderful people of Homewood lived up to their reputation of being the best neighborhood on the course. We got to run with a greyhound (who graciously slowed down to our mere human pace). Joanna‘s family cheered us on with a sign and rejuvenated us with freeze pops. For real, why don’t more people give out freeze pops? They helped SO much! Perfect strangers told me they believed in me, that I could finish the race, and that they admired what I was out there doing. I saw Katie from CCFA at around mile 22 (I think?) – my hip was hurting pretty badly at that point so it was a nice surprise to see her face and get a hug and some words of encouragement. 

The Best Run Butler in the history of Run Butlers.

Probably planning our next trip to Alaska.

Chelsea and Lindsey had been texting throughout the race, with Chelsea letting her know where we were and how it was going and Lindsey letting her know where we could see her out on the course. As we approached the 26 mile marker, Chelsea told me Lindsey was up ahead and there she was with my dad! Right after we saw them we saw the Run Ohana who screamed their faces off and then we turned the corner onto Boulevard of the Allies and there it was. The finish line. I bolted towards it. Chelsea later asked me where the hell that final sprint came from and I still have no idea. I couldn’t feel my feet and hoped I wouldn’t trip that close to the finish and I ran out of air with about 100 feet to go but there wasn’t anything that could stop me. 

The taste of sweet victory.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you to Jeff and Chelsea for helping me achieve this goal. You two are amazing. 

The Marathoners of the family!

The future marathoner. Look out, Kara Goucher! 

Those things were NOT sturdy and I almost fell over multiple times.

<3 <3

This photo from the finish line sums it up the best:

#GameOnPGH: That time I ran 26.2 miles and lived to tell the tale – Part One

Leading up to registration and throughout my training, there were many times where I questioned whether or not I would actually be able to pull this off and run a marathon. Do you know how many miles that is? A LOT (well, 26.2 to be exact). SO MUCH RUNNING. 

Do I even like running that much? I still don’t know the answer to that but I know that I love the feeling of crossing that finish line knowing I’ve accomplished something that half of one percent of the US population has accomplished.

Look, I’m flying!

It wasn’t until I completed my 18 mile training run solo (due to scheduling and whatnot during Easter weekend) that I could finally see how people actually do this. The run went really well and I finished it feeling tired and a bit sore, but thinking, “Ok, I could do 20 miles. And then I could survive a 10k after that.”

Two weeks later I joined the wonderful women of the 11:30 pace group from Elite Runners and Walkers (or should I say Pro Bike + Run now?). When I first started marathon training, I had intended to join this group for more Saturday runs but my schedule just didn’t work out that way.

If you had told me in January that my longest training run – 20 miles – scheduled for April – would be one of the snowiest runs, I would have laughed. But it was. We slugged it out for 20 miles with the snow pelting us in the face and the wind blowing us into one another on the sidewalks. But again, I finished feeling pretty good and thinking, “Ok. I can do this. I can run a marathon. A WHOLE marathon.” Special thanks to Joanna for helping me through those 20 miles and for laughing (and complaining and judging at times, haha) with me – I couldn’t have done it without you, especially in that craptastic weather. 

About halfway done with the 20-miler! Notice the snowflakes stuck to our clothes.

Runners talk a lot about tapering. After your longest training run, you cut your mileage back in the weeks leading up to the race to allow your body time to heal and recover. Taper talk often comes with discussion of frustration and mood swings and anger. I didn’t experience any of this. Yes, I noticed I had so more “free time” because I was running less, but I was so busy with work and life and other things that I didn’t actually have any more “free time”. There was never a time where I was sitting around doing nothing.  

Patrice – she promised that the weather would not ruin race day and she was right! The evening ended with Kristy, Chelsea, and I introducing Kathleen and Mar to tacos and margaritas at my new favorite, Bakersfield

In 2015, The Pittsburgh Marathon introduced The Steel Challenge. You earn an extra medal if you complete both the 5k on Saturday and either the half or the full marathon on Sunday. I completed the 5k and the half last year and knew I would do The Steel Challenge again this year. 

Because I was running a marathon the next day, I knew the 5k would be at a slow and steady pace. This actually turned out to be a lot of fun because I got to run with Chelsea, Kathleen, and Lynne! We had a great time together and I finished feeling good and still ready for the Big Day.

Of course the weather was great on 5k day.

We were actually on a walk break, so I faked running 😛

Final preparations for race day included finally deciding on an outfit and a spaghetti dinner at Chelsea’s (ok, and a beer too). 

The weather forecast made it really hard to choose a shirt! 

The Big Day finally arrived. There was nothing left to do but run 26.2 miles. Stay tuned for part two tomorrow!

April Goals Update

Here is April’s update on my 2016 goals – I’d say it was a productive month! 

Successfully train for and run a marathon: By Monday, this will hopefully be done. The weather reports indicate Sunday is going to be pretty rainy, but what can ya do? 

Raise $1000 for CCFA: DONE! In fact, I raised over $2000! This is amazing! More coming on my fundraising experience in a post soon.

Run a sub-30 5k

Run a sub-60 10k

Run/walk 1500 miles: 66.41 (Jan) + 76.35 (Feb) + 97.34 (Mar) + 90.51 (4/1-29 since I’m writing this in advance) = 330.61 I’m hoping to catch up on some miles in the summer months where I do a lot more walking on non-running days! I’ll also have at least 3.1 to add to that total with completion of the Pittsburgh Marathon 5k tomorrow!

Clean out my boxes in the basement: Done, I guess? They’re all in storage at the moment. 

Clean out the desk in my room that I never use: Done! 

Read 52 books: 21 books read to date. 

Use more vacation days: I’m using a few days through Marathon Weekend and my birthday celebrations, so that counts?

Blog more: Not sure I actually made progress on this. 

Actually sort through my pictures from Alaska so I can finally blog about the experience and design and order photo books: I actually started this! I made folders and sorted maybe 100 photos, so there’s still a long way to go, but it’s a start! 😀

What about you? How are you doing in achieving your goals? Comment below!

Six Things Sunday: 4.24.2016

This was supposed to be a a Five Things Friday post, but that just didn’t happen. So here’s six things for this Sunday night!

1. I attended the Ecolution Fashion Show with Jenn at the Fairmont on Thursday. There were also yummy cocktails and tacos involved in the evening. 

A photo posted by Lauren H (@pghlauren) on

2. Several years ago, I was introduced to a hockey player (at the time he was playing with the Adirondack Phantoms) – he was a star for Team Canada and has played on various teams in North America and Europe since then and has quite a story to tell. Check out Stefan’s blog series on The Hockey News, including a special shoutout to his fans, Legein’s Legion (a name coined by yours truly!). 

3. Thanks to my sister who advises the programming board at Penn State Behrend, I got to meet Panic! At The Disco before their concert on Friday. They played a great set!

4. We switched email providers at work and thus switched to Outlook. Any tips and tricks for how to sync my Google calendars and contacts would be much appreciated! 

5. ONE WEEK TILL THE MARATHON. Actually, less than a week since hopefully I’ll be done by this time next week. EEEEEEEK.

6. Thanks to some amazingly generous donations, I am only $75 away from DOUBLING my initial goal of $1000! I’m also only $130 away from the top CCFA fundraiser! Any little bit you can spare would be SO appreciated