About seven years ago, some friends urged Barbara Frech to join them in entering the Bonne Bell 10-kilometer road race in Washington She agreed, but when she arrived for the race, she was the only one from her group. The rest stayed home. She competed in the race and fell in love with road racing.

That was shortly after Frech, who lives in Arlington, first moved to the area. During a family trip from Vermont, she and her husband Jim had their car break down in Washington and they decided to stay and look for a job while the engine was being fixed. Since 1983, Frech, a swim coach at Arlington Aquatic Club, has been a competitive runner and has been an active marathon racer.

Sunday's Marine Corps race will be her fifth. Last year, she clocked a personal-best 3:15 and hopes to better 3:00 this time.

"Breaking three hours is like breaking 40 in the 10K; it's just a milestone you have to go for," she said. She surpassed 40 minutes for 10 kilometers long ago, and runs consistently in the 37-minute range now. "Last year, I wasn't in shape at all and in the previous years I trained for the marathon and I lucked out with the weather and ended up around a three hour marathon. But this year, I'm going for it, it has to be an ideal day. Everything has to work just right in the marathon."

Long competitive in many sports, including swimming, golf and tennis, Frech also has entered triathlons. Now, swimming has been incorporated into her training for the marathon, supplementing extra running miles. She swims 5,000 yards in the morning and runs 8-10 miles a day. In between, she looks after son Jonathan, 8.