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I love the running community.

And after a long weekend in Bethlehem, PA, I’m feeling more connected than ever.

A few months ago I received an invitation from Runner’s World to take part in a special weekend at the Runner’s World Half and Festival with several other bloggers. We would get a sneak peak in Runner’s World HQ, hear directly from brand sponsors of the event, hang out with each other, and participate in as many of the three races as we wanted.

I, along with most of the other bloggers, signed up for the “hat trick,” which consisted of back-to-back 5 and 10ks on Saturday, and a half marathon on Sunday.

After last weekend’s draining 50k, I wasn’t feeling as jazzed on the running part as I would have liked. It’s been nearly two years since I ran a road half marathon, and I knew I wasn’t recovered enough mentally or physically to really push for a new PR. Even on Friday, I wasn’t sure if I’d run all the races.

But after the days leading up to Sunday’s main event, everything began to shift.

A Tour of Runner’s World HQ

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We kicked off the weekend with one of my favorite events: Dinner with many of the Runner’s World editors at their headquarters.

The food was good, but the tour and chatting that followed was even better.

Even if you aren’t a Runner’s World reader, you have to admit that they’ve played a major role in the growth of running’s popularity over the past few decades. From Dr. George Sheehan to the hilarious Mark Remy, over the years, an incredible line-up of running influencers have covered the magazine’s pages.

The one and only Mayor of Running himself, Bart Yasso, along with David Willy, RW’s Editor-in-Chief, showed us around the offices just outside Bethlehem. We heard stories from Yasso and saw the passion from Willy. We also got a behind-the-scenes look at how an issue of Runner’s World comes together each month.

For a running dork like myself, it was like hitting the jackpot, and their down-to-Earth welcome reminded me just how open this community is.

A Closer Look at Altra, Time with Budd Coates, and Lots of Fun (and Karaoke)

rw-coverFriday was the special “blogger” day, as I liked to call it.

We kicked it off with a town-wide scavenger hunt (yes that’s me in a skirt at 0:24), before spending the day at the expo center speaking with some of the event’s sponsors.

One of the more interesting parts for me was hearing from Budd Coates about his book Running on Air. His breathing technique and philosophy makes a lot of sense, and I look forward to diving into the book more over the next few days. A full review will be coming soon.

I also loved hearing from the founders of Altra running shoes. I’ve been running off and on in Altras over the past few months, even using them during last weekend’s 50k. They impressed me right away, and the foot shaped toe box has done wonders for my blister prone toes.

Altra’s philosophy and story is unique and powerful enough that I want to save it for a full post and review of the two shoes I’ve been wearing, but if you’re interested in learning more now, check out their videos here.

The rest of the afternoon was filled with yoga, a talk from Team RWB, and more time with Bart and other Runner’s World staff.

After the official biz was over, Matt of No Meat Athlete, Dani of Weight Off My Shoulders, and Presley of Run Pretty decided we’d prep for the weekend of racing with a little fun.

I’ll spare you of the details, but it might have involved a few hours of Black Jack at the Sands Casino and duets with Matt at our hotel’s karaoke night. Yes, our Comfort Suites had a karaoke night. And yes, the running bloggers might have closed it down.

It was a blast drinking beers and getting to know so many of the bloggers in person. As my wife put it as we chatted on the phone, “It’s like summer camp for running bloggers. Where you can all geek out and tweet about it.”

Having Fun During A Race (x3)

Like I mentioned before, leading up to the weekend, the racing part had me least excited. Getting lost made me mentally drained, and the thought of running three road races in a row just wasn’t making my shoes dance.

So on Friday night, when some of the bloggers I was hanging with decided we’d all run the 5k together, I was relieved. No pressure to push hard, and no solo suffering.

The 8 am start came early, but jokes were flowing from the very beginning. It was the most casual I had ever run a race, and it was a lot of fun.

That first race set the tone for the next two.

An hour after finishing the 5k, we were back in the starting corral ready to do it again.

Someone in the group need to stop for a potty break? No problem, we’ll all wait.

Opportunity to run with David Willy? Sounds great, let’s all slow down and soak in the moment (he was running slow in order to chat with other runners, not because we were faster).

Spot “funny lady” Liz Miele (who performed a hilarious routine for the entire expo Saturday evening) a mile from the 10k finish? She’ll keep us laughing down the chute.

Sunday’s half marathon was no different. I may have finished over 30 minutes slower than a PR, but I had a blast. And that was the best case scenario.

Multiple stops and handfuls of candy from strangers later, the races were over. And my times didn’t mater.

These races were about fun.

I’m thankful to Matt, Dani, Presley, and the entire community we were running with that reminded me running isn’t just about pushing hard and testing your limits, it’s also about laughing, having fun, and sharing support.

I hope to keep that spirit alive through every race I participate in moving forward. Does that mean I’m not going to push or go after a PR? Of course not.

But at the core, running should come down to having fun. Because in the end, when our legs can’t handle new PRs or distances, that’s all we’ll have left. 

Big thanks to Runner’s World, you put on a great event in Bethlehem. And major congrats to all of the runners that I met and didn’t meet (especially Arun and his GF. Sorry we missed each other!).

P.S. If you’re curious, here’s the full list of bloggers that were a part of the event:

With one of Altra's founders, Brian Beckstead
With one of Altra’s founders, Brian Beckstead

 

Photo Credit: Dani Holmes-Kirk
Photo Credit: Dani Holmes-Kirk

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Author Doug Hay is the founder of Rock Creek Runner, host of the Trail Talk podcast, and fanatical about everything trail running -- beards, plaid shirts, bruised toenails, and all. He and his wife live and run in beautiful Black Mountain, NC.

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