He insisted on it being a selfie. He really is a cool, hilarious guy. The reputation holds.

10 Reasons The Runner's World Half Marathon & Festival Was Wonderful (Plus A Giveaway!)

Date: October 21, 2014 at 8:52 am- by Ali- Comment(s): 182

I’ve always been hesitant to attend blogger events. From runs and brunches to conferences and weekend-long events, my knee-jerk response is always a swift “no.” Those get-togethers just never seem like my thing.

But in the spirit of saying yes to everything that comes my way while I’m healthy, I quite eagerly accepted PR Guru Laura Beachy’s invitation to attend the Runner’s World Half Marathon & Festival weekend in Bethlehem, PA, as a blogger and event ambassador — and I’m so glad I did.

Almost all the bloggers! Staying toasty after the 5K.

Almost all the bloggers! Staying toasty after the 5K.

This weekend was one for the books. Or for the internets. Or the records. I don’t know. It was just super special to me, and it was so much better than I could have anticipated. Because you know how I do with lists, here are 10 Reasons the Runner’s World Half Marathon & Festival Was The Most Wonderful…

1. The Runner’s World staff made me feel like royalty. From the minute we rolled up (in a limo bus with champagne!) to dinner with the editors at the RW office on Thursday night, I felt lucky to be there and really special.

I felt a little pressure to take pictures of EVERYTHING. Everyone else was doing it.

I felt a little pressure to take pictures of EVERYTHING. Everyone else was doing it.

This event is part of their jobs — they were all technically working all weekend, and we were there playing — but they never acted like chatting with us was work. David Willey (RW editor in chief and a big big inspiration to this former EIC) and Bart Yasso (RW‘s Chief Running Officer and the weekend’s race director) are true class acts.

Bart Yasso in front of his door, which is basically blogger-famous at this point. "Everyone always wants to take a picture of my door," he told us. "I don't know why!"

Bart Yasso in front of his door, which is basically blogger-famous at this point. “Everyone always wants to take a picture of my door,” he told us. “I don’t know why!”

They spent so much time talking with us, answering our questions, asking about our running, and genuinely getting to know our blogger group.

He insisted on it being a selfie. He really is a cool, hilarious guy. The reputation holds.

He insisted on it being a selfie. He really is a cool, hilarious guy. The reputation holds.

We also spent a ton of time with the ALTRA team, since the races were sponsored by ALTRA. They all come from Utah, and people from Utah are my favorite. It’s like impossible for them to be mean. We learned the ALTRA story (zero-drop footwear, wicked comfortable, crazy light) and did a ton of events with the team, like a scavenger hunt/shakeout run to kick off the running weekend.

2. I got to know some really incredible people. (And they weren’t all just on their phones the whole time!) Blogger events can be weird. They can be intimidating. They can be off-putting. But I was introduced to this new group of people this weekend that I was downright heartbroken to say goodbye to. (Ouch, that grammar. Ignore it.)

Pushing Sarah and Lauren out of the way. Figured it was the only time I could be ahead of either of them. Speedy women.

Pushing Sarah and Lauren out of the way. I’M THE CAPTAIN NOW. Figured it was the only time I could be ahead of either of them. Speedy women.

I met Katie, who just ran an Olympic Trials qualifying time at the Hartford Marathon (a 2:41, in the rain). She’s fast as hell, super sassy, and a damn good parallel parker. I met Kristen, who was the best roommate and never yelled at me for occupying the bathroom for 95% of the time we were in the room together. I met Lauren, who is so lovely and poised and sweet and funny, and then goes and busts out a casual 18-minute 5K — and wins the race. I met Beth, who made me laugh so hard that I probably won’t bother doing crunches for at least a month because I got a solid ab workout all weekend. I met another Katie, too, who actually might be the nicest girl I’ve ever met. I want to hug her forever. (Check out her blog. She’s got a pretty amazing story.)

Katie and me and also Katie's awesome arms.

Olympic Trials Katie and me and also Katie’s awesome arms.

We had a really solid group. I loved learning peoples’ stories, both on the running level and far beyond, and think it’s bullshit they don’t all live in NYC. In my apartment. With me. And Brian.

Staying warm in the car before the half-marathon. We were cold.

Staying warm in the car before the half-marathon. We were cold.

3. The food was so good. (And people actually ate it!) Most of the food we were served came straight from the pages of the Runner’s World Cookbook. I freaked out over the mushroom tacos we had for lunch on Friday, they were so good, and was pumped I wasn’t the only one going back for seconds (er, thirds) of the white bean chili. The kale almond pesto during Saturday night’s dinner was also a stunner. Don’t hold me to this, but I might actually try to make the mushroom tacos myself at some point this week.

Someone asked Joanna Golub, editor of the RW Cookbook, for tips on taking pictures of food. She said "Hire a professional photographer." Which is what I obviously did for this snapshot.

Someone asked Joanna Golub, editor of the RW Cookbook, for tips on taking pictures of food. She said “Hire a professional photographer.” Which is what I obviously did for this snapshot.

4. I most definitely want like 100 children after watching the kids’ races on Friday night. (But I want to give them back after they cross the finish line.) Kids’ races are the cutest things in the world. I don’t really have anything else to say about this, except that when (not if) you go to the festival next year, you must make spectating the kids’ races a priority.

OMGGGGGG.

OMGGGGGG.

5. Bethlehem is a really cute town, and the famous and historic steel stacks are amazing. I developed an obsession with these steel stacks because you know how I have an affinity for very large structures and very tall people? The steel stacks fit firmly into category number one. They made for a great backdrop in all my photos.

SEE THE STEEL STACKS IN THE BACKGROUND? Zoom in.

SEE THE STEEL STACKS IN THE BACKGROUND? Zoom in.

6. One of the events on the schedule was basically “sit in a comfortable chair for an hour and laugh as hard as you can.” I love comedy shows because I love that the sole purpose of going to one is that you’re supposed to laugh and have the best time. What’s greater than that? I hadn’t previously heard of Liz Miele, the runner/comedienne on the lineup, but she was hysterical. And she’s Brooklyn-based, so I’ll get to go to her local shows probably every night now. She talked about running, racing, dating, and cats. So if you’re into those things, she’s your girl. Let’s go to her shows together. We can have a sleepover together after. Bring string cheese.

Funny girl. Check her out.

Funny girl. Check her out.

7. I logged some serious girl bonding time. I was so happy to have nestled myself into a group of girls early on in the weekend — something I had been a bit worried about in the early hours of the trip. I didn’t know anyone coming into the event, and man, it’s shocking how quickly you get transported back to grade school (grade school? WTF?) days and those feelings of “who am I going to sit with?” and “will they like me?”

5K + 10K = mojito time!

5K + 10K = mojito time!

Several of the bloggers seemed to know each other already, either from the internet or from previous Runner’s World events, and then there was me. But fortunately, I pretty quickly connected with girls who were as nice and kind and supportive as they were badass. Girls who won the 5K, and were consistently in the top 7 across the board for all the weekend’s races. Girls who love mojitos as much as I do. Girls who eat “first dinner” and “second dinner” and “snack” followed by “desserts plural.” Girls who believe in me and, after knowing me for just 3.5 days and three races, believe I can run a sub-23:00 5K.

8. The seminars were actually interesting. Sometimes they’re lame. I hear the word “seminar” and I’m like nope, going to eat a Snickers bar in the corner over here instead. But I attended several seminars throughout the weekend and they were all pretty kickass.

Mark Remy, one of my favorite writers!

Mark Remy, one of my favorite writers!

Golden Harper (co-founder of ALTRA, the race’s title sponsor) gave a running clinic, Mark Remy of Remy’s World fame talked about crafting his column, and Bart Yasso spoke about “My Life on the Run.” In each seminar, I learned something, I laughed, I engaged, I asked questions, and I felt my life (and my running) change just a little bit.

This is Bart Yasso talking about that time he ran a race tied to a burro. Hysterical. I realize you "had to be there," but the donkey's name was Taco Bell. Hearing Bart Yasso talk about "running with Taco Bell" just about killed me.

This is Bart Yasso talking about that time he ran a race tied to a burro. Hysterical. I realize you “had to be there,” but the donkey’s name was Taco Bell. Hearing Bart Yasso talk about “running with Taco Bell” just about killed me. I was all giggles.

9. The races were three of the funnest ones I’ve ever run. The races truly were the highlight of the weekend, and I actually loved each one equally.

Happy girls after the half! (From left to right: Kristen, Lauren, Katie, Beth, Legwarmers)

Happy girls after the half! (From left to right: Kristen, Lauren, Katie, Beth, Legwarmers)

My plan going into this weekend was very “we’ll see.” I could choose to run the 5K, the 10K, the half-marathon, or any combination of the three. Running all three is dubbed the “hat trick.” The 5K and 10K were both on Saturday (the 5K going off at 8 AM and the 10K at 9:30), and the half-marathon was Sunday.

Lauren, Legwarmers, Beth, and Katie at the start of the half-marathon.

Lauren, Legwarmers, Beth, and Katie at the start of the half-marathon.

Being fresh off Steamtown, I had no idea what to expect from my body. No expectations, and no pressure, and no plans. I was thinking maybe I’d run the 5K easy, skip the 10K, and then run the half-marathon as my long run for the weekend, since I’m running the New York City Marathon on November 2 and want to find the balance between recovering and tapering (um what?).

So I ran the 5K and my plan to take it easy didn’t quite happen. I took the first mile easy, but then I felt great and wanted to feel a little speed in my legs, so I ran “comfortably hard” for the next 2.1 miles. I ended up finishing just 20ish seconds off my PR! Go figure.

Negative splits. Like a boss. A boss of a negative splitting company.

Negative splits. Like a boss. A boss of a negative splitting company. (Official finish time was 23:28, which is a 7:32 pace.)

And then, because I had so much fun during the 5K, I lined right back up for the 10K. I took this one easy, for real-ish. I started easy, and then gradually picked it up somewhat unintentionally as I went, just running by feel and very rarely looking at my watch. I ended up with pretty solid negative splits for both races, which basically never happens, so I’m an expert at running now. Let me know if you have any questions.

Some 10K splits for you to look at and discuss with your cats.

Some 10K splits for you to look at and discuss with your cats. (52:56 official time, which is an 8:31 pace.)

I also wrapped up each race with a solid finish line kick. I like to think that despite whatever else happens on the course, I can finish strong, and I did that for each race this weekend — including the half!

Arms crossing over the body, as they do. This is "poor running form."

Arms crossing over the body, as they do. This is “poor running form.”

The half-marathon was also so so fun. Each course started and finished similarly, but the middle miles varied. For the half, we got to cruise through the Moravian College campus, down Main Street in Bethlehem, and through some really cute neighborhoods.

There's a Sands Casino in Bethlehem. That's where the half starts. IT'S NEAR THE STEEL STACKS.

There’s a Sands Casino in Bethlehem. That’s where the half starts. IT’S NEAR THE STEEL STACKS.

I was shocked by how much course support we got from the locals. The half-marathon course was fairly hilly in the first half, but I loved it. For each up, we got to go down, and I felt comfortable the whole time.

A little elevation, if you're into that.

A little elevation, if you’re into that.

I am an expert at inconsistency, apparently. But in my defense...it was hilly? And I wasn't trying to run a specific pace? What other excuses can I have for why these numbers are all over the place...?

I am an expert at inconsistency, apparently. But in my defense…it was hilly? And I wasn’t trying to run a specific pace? What other excuses can I have for why these numbers are all over the place…? (Official time 1:51:40.)

Perhaps most importantly, I ran happy from start to finish for each race, and never needed a bathroom along the way. (So seriously, body, WTF happened to you at Steamtown? You behaved so well this weekend! Are you OK?)

I also had the very best spectators at the half-marathon finish!

Parents + steel stacks + just ran a race = happiest Ali in all the land.

Parents + steel stacks + just ran a race = happiest Ali in all the land.

My parents were at a wedding in Pennsylvania this weekend, so they swung down just in time to catch me attempting a finish line kick at the end of the half. Lucky me.

Posing with a Nittany Lion! We're a Penn State family.

Posing with a Nittany Lion! We’re a Penn State family.

The races were so well organized, they weren’t too crowded, and the finish chute was awesome (there’s a big steel-or-some-metal arch and they lit it on fire!). There were tons of bathrooms — I can’t get over the fact that I didn’t wait to use a bathroom, indoors or outdoors, the entire weekend — and everything was as pro as it gets. It was hands down the most professional, well put together event I’ve ever attended. That’s saying a lot. Big cheers to the RW crew for making it all happen so seamlessly.

Hanging with David Willey after the comedy show. He's going to come to a November Project workout the week of the marathon. YESSSS.

Hanging with David Willey after the comedy show. He’s going to come to a November Project workout the week of the marathon. YESSSS.

Also a high five to my body for cooperating, surviving, and playing along. Good job, legs. Good job, stomach. Good job, jazz hands. You came to play, and I appreciate it.

10. They played the Celine Dion version of “God Bless America” at the start of the 10K. I lost my shit when I heard that first note of my favorite karaoke jam. So if you weren’t yet sold on attending next year’s events, I’m pretty sure this just did you in. Right? Right.

Hugest THANK YOUs to Beachy, David Tratner, Bart Yasso, David Willey, and the entire Runner’s World staff for making me feel so welcome and so happy in the most superstarish way for four days straight. These people are as good as it gets, and I’m really grateful to have had this opportunity.

Thanks for the sweet pic, mom.

Thanks for the sweet pic, mom.

I’m really glad I said yes. All this yes-ing is making for one hell of a 2014.

I’ve never done a sponsored post, and I’m not sure if this qualifies as one, but here’s the disclaimer! Runner’s World paid for parts of my travel and accommodations, as well as my race entry fees. Do I say that all opinions are my own? Isn’t that obvious, since this is my blog? If I had a bad time, I would tell you. But I had the best time ever.

And, if you made it this far, how about a giveaway! I loved all the food I ate this weekend so much, and I want you to get to experience it, too. So I’m giving away a copy of the Runner’s World Cookbook!

Everything is delicious. Everything is special.

Everything is delicious. Everything is special.

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this post. Tell me one (or all, because I’m interested!) of the following:

  • Your favorite race you’ve ever run.
  • Your favorite post-long run food.
  • Your top highlight of 2014 so far.

The giveaway ends this Thursday, October 23, at 5 PM. Good luck!

Comments (182)
 
See? I was having the best time ever for at least, like, three minutes during the race!

Steamtown Marathon Recap

Date: October 15, 2014 at 9:27 pm- by Ali- Comment(s): 33

In the months, weeks, and days leading up to the Steamtown Marathon, everything was lining up perfectly for me. I was the healthiest I’ve been in years, I was trying out a high volume training plan that seemed to be […]

 
I'm worried the line between thinking "aw, cute photo!" and "whoa, I wanna punch that face!" is a very thin one.

One More Day I Get To Run

Date: October 11, 2014 at 4:31 pm- by Ali- Comment(s): 24

Tomorrow, I will run my fourth marathon. This marathon feels so different from the previous three. The first one — the Hamptons Marathon — was significant in every way. My training was perfect, I felt in the best shape of […]

 
DONE!

Ragnar Relay Adirondacks Recap

Date: October 7, 2014 at 11:30 am- by Ali- Comment(s): 45

This is my longest post ever I think. Three runs in one recap. Sorry. Proceed with patience. For years, I avoided relay races. I know people love them, but I hated the idea of not always being right next to […]

 
The real-life sunset last Sunday night. Un-stinkin-real.

71 & Done

Date: September 23, 2014 at 5:45 pm- by Ali- Comment(s): 41

I’m tapering. Oh thank the sweet running gods (or coaches, or calendars, or whatever), I am tapering. Yeah, my training plan for the Steamtown Marathon is “only” a 12-week plan, but boy has it done me in. My body feels […]

 
On Friday, we ran to Queens. It took 10 miles (and a few wrong turns, I think). I was tired.

To The Races

Date: September 10, 2014 at 9:12 pm- by Ali- Comment(s): 43

Summer is over. This is what I have to show for it: I went to the beach zero times, I went in zero pools, and I didn’t take little weekend vacations beyond going to Brian’s bike races. I don’t know […]

 
This is Lucy. RAWR.

Back On The Run

Date: August 27, 2014 at 10:51 am- by Ali- Comment(s): 41

Blog? What blog? Eeeeesh, I suck. I know. To think I used to write daily here… But the absence is with good reason, you see. Last summer, I abandoned this blog for weeks at a time because I was too […]

 
I will plank forever if I can do it alongside these people. Though this particular plank was being done in a little alleyway near Penn Station, and I think I got a little bit of hepatitis that day.

This Endless Positivity

Date: August 6, 2014 at 9:44 pm- by Ali- Comment(s): 65

I can’t stop bouncing and wiggling today. As soon as I finished my workout this morning, I’ve had this nonstop energy that I can’t burn off. I figured I’d hit an afternoon slump, but it never happened. Instead, I jammed […]

 
Happy, shiny people in neon. Love this group so much. Join us!!!

A WednesDAY In The Life

Date: July 29, 2014 at 7:28 pm- by Ali- Comment(s): 66

Haha. WednesDAY. So this blogging thing. Eesh. I’ve been not awesome about it, which is sad (probably only for me) because I’ve had plenty to share. I’m training for a marathon! I have a coach! I’m the healthiest I’ve been […]

 
During the July 4th class, Instructor Terri made the best playlist and it included "Party in the U.S.A." My yoga is more fun than your yoga, probably. But it can be OUR yoga if you want to come with me!

Adjustments

Date: July 8, 2014 at 9:49 am- by Ali- Comment(s): 59

I’ve been wanting to write for a while. A big reason I haven’t been posting — so much for that “groove” I thought I’d hit — is that I simply don’t have time. A bigger reason for the absence is […]

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9