NEW CANAAN — When Jose Bijl, 21, first came to the United States a little over a year ago, she never expected to train for a marathon — let alone the New York City Marathon.

That race last year set a record for the largest marathon in the world with more than 50,000 runners.

Bijl found herself at the New York City Marathon last year, but as a volunteer, thanks to the agency that aided her arrival from the Netherlands to the States, Cultural Care Au Pair. Bijl arrived last August to work for a family in Wilton before moving to New Canaan.

“Seeing those people pass by ... it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience to volunteer there,” Bijl said. “I didn’t know if I’d be staying for here longer than a year, so that was something awesome to put in the bucket list.”

When the opportunity to apply to run the marathon this year — scheduled for Nov. 4 — via the same agency came up, Bijl was one of the 26 or so people selected in April. She will be running along with Carrie Smuckler, a local child care consultant with Cultural Care Au Pair.

The Tholen, Netherlands, native admitted she wasn’t much of a runner months ago, but after scheduling long runs, changing her diet and modifying her social life, she recently completed a 20-mile run and her first official half-marathon last weekend.

More Information

To see more about Bijl’s fundraiser, visit: https://www.gofundme.com/JoseBijl

To learn more about Cultural Care Kids First Foundation, visit: http://www.culturalcarekidsfirst.org/

“The beginning was hard. I wasn’t even capable of two-mile runs without stopping,” Bijl said. “After running a half marathon this weekend, it felt good; it was one of my goals. I’m much more comfortable with the idea that I can run the marathon and I’m confident.”

For Smuckler, who has been involved with Cultural Care for 13 years, this is her first time running a marathon, as well.

“It’s not easy,” Smuckler said. “But it’s for a great cause, and all the money we raise goes to children in all parts of the globe. We come together with au pairs and it’s part of what defines our mission.”

Bijl is running the marathon next month with a group managed by Cultural Care Au Pair, the Kids First Foundation. Au pairs participating in the marathon also raise funds for the foundation, which uses the money to advance educational opportunities for children in impoverished countries.

“We raise an amount of $500 each,” said Bijl, who has set up a GoFundMe page. “We’d like to raise $15,000 total.”

As Bijl and Smuckler prepare in their last weeks leading up to the marathon, they enjoy the process that has put them together.

“Participating in this race, it’s the ultimate challenge as an au pair, and it makes your experience even bigger because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” Bijl said.

For information about Bijl’s fundraiser, visit gofundme.com/JoseBijl

humberto.juarez@hearstmediact.com