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