Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Runners World Half Marathon & Festival

How do you reduce the enormity of 5 amazing days into one blog post that won't take an hour to read? It's truly difficult to put into words the last several days, the whirlwind of events, the exhaustion at the end of each day, and the royalty of specific moments.

I was invited by Altra Zero Drop Footwear to help them as the title sponsor of the Runners World Half Marathon & Festival. It was the inaugural year and it needed to go well. We flew into Newark airport on Wednesday and drove out to where the festival would be held in Bethlehem, PA. After checking into the Hotel Bethlehem, an iconicly old and potentially haunted hotel, we went on a four mile run through the city. It is truly a stunningly beautiful town and we were there at the perfect time of the year.

Thursday was spent setting up the booth at the expo, an enormous undertaking considering we were the largest one there and had an immense amount of gear. That being an all day event we looked forward to attending a Bloggers dinner that night at Runners World headquarters in Emmaus. More than 25 bloggers were invited to come to the event, be treated like VIPs, and then hopefully they would share their experience all over the internet. As the title sponsor we provided them with shoes and then planned to take them on a morning run with Bart Yasso the following day.

Legigh River and the Bethlehem Steel Stacks

 Friday morning was rainy and chilly. The water that dropped had run down the pavement and soaked the carpet we laid under the booth, making for a soggy couple of following days for people trying on shoes. The run with Bart went off without a hitch though as the weather broke just long enough for us to get in almost four miles. Bart stopped the group every half mile or so to share some historical fact about Bethlehem. That man is an encyclopedia, it's amazing. The rest of Friday was spent manning the booth while thousands of people came through packet pick-up. We sold an amazing amount of shoes and felt like the vibe was super positive for not just our product, but for the the whole festival. Runners World was definitely doing it right.

Saturday morning started with the 5k at 8am and then the 10k at 9:30am. Runners who would participate in all three races over the weekend would get three medals and a 'Hat Trick' hat to commemorate the feat. Of course, I planned to do them all. My plan was to take it easy in the 5k and 10k, saving some energy and legs for the Half on Sunday. However, 400 feet elevation is way easier to run than where I spent my summers, around 8000. Both races went well and I was able to PR in both the 5 and 10k. I paid for it though. Between running in lower profile shoes and on pavement faster than I normally do my calves were extremely sore. Add the next 11 hours of standing on my feet selling more shoes and taking down the booth and I was worked. Sunday was going to hurt!

 5k start. Photo courtesy of Altra

The Half Marathon started at 8:30am. I had gone to a VIP breakfast at 8am and then walked the half mile over to the start. When I got to the starting line there were already nearly 3000 people lined up ready to race. The Runners World execs saw me and ushered me over for a chat and then walked me through the front gate and across the starting line like I was a celebrity. It was pretty cool, but my nerves took over and I tucked in about 5 rows back. The race was tough; not just the course, but my calves were wrecked, my legs were tired from standing for 15 hours the day before, and at about mile 7 my peroneal tendonitis flared up worse than ever. None of that seemed to matter though because it was so beautiful and inspiring to be running. I put up a respectable time considering my ailments and went on to have a fun afternoon meeting with runners and taking down the rest of our booth. We then checked out of the hotel and drove to Newark to stay the night before flying home Monday afternoon.

 The start of the half marathon

 Fist bump to the guy that tried to out-kick me to the finish

 A last photo with some of the awesome bloggers

So what do you do with nearly an entire day to waste before catching a flight out of Newark? You take the train into NYC and run around Manhattan, that's what you do. While we didn't get down to Ground Zero we did run just about everywhere else. We also had lunch with a few of the Runners World execs, which made us feel special. It was an amazing way to cap off the weekend. I can't wait to go back and take my wife to New York. What an awesome place.

 First thing we saw was the Empire State building

 Times Square

I can even find trails in a big city. Central Park

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