Housekeeping 1: Congratulations to Annette, winner of the amazing glow-in-the-dark New Balance jacket! Thanks to all who entered. Housekeeping 2: I just HAPPILY completed a $50 donation to The One Fund for Boston. $30 for your comments on this post and $20 because every penny counts. ###
Normally, this is where I’d give you my standard disclosure. That Runner’s World invited me on an all expenses-paid, swagtastic, race entry comp’d blogging extravaganza and that all opinions are my own. That’s all true (and you can read my full disclosure policy right here) but it’s just not enough. Here’s how I really feel.
What I do — write, take pictures, share details of my life — is work but it’s the type of job I wake up every single day excited to do. The benefits are pretty fantastic. I get to know so many incredible people, I have access and invitations to the world’s best events and opportunities and I’m given STUFF. Lots of it. I get to do and see things that just aren’t available to everyone, and I don’t forget for a single second how lucky that makes me. It’s my privilege to take advantage of these opportunities — and I hope, to pay it forward. I honestly want to bring YOU along with me, if not in person, then through photos and words and experiences. And in each one of those…every picture, every tweet, every post…I hope you sense my extreme gratitude for not only the sponsors and organizations that for some reason see me as a valuable member of the team, but for YOU, my beloved readers. I live a charmed existence, for sure, and it never fails to make me emotional when I think of how blessed I feel. This weekend, in particular, shocked my system in the best way. From the Runner’s World staff and editors to the volunteers to the passionate sponsors who seemed truly excited to meet and work with us, this weekend affected me deeply. Thank you is not enough, but I hope that by saying it over and over, you know how thankful and gracious I feel to be able to do this work.
OK, on to the weekend that replenished my heart and soul in a way I didn’t know I needed so desperately.
I met some incredible people, discovered some really amazing products, hung out with some of the most inspirational people I’ve ever met and figured since I got a couple of awards (finisher medals for the 5K and the 10K), I should give some virtual awards out myself.
- …HILLIEST RACE COURSE IN MY HISTORY: Bethlehem, PA
I thought Clearwater had hills? Or Clermont? DUDES. You warned me, and you were right. Even the 5K course challenged me on the up and downhill sections. Beautiful, beyond words. From the leaves that had just started to change color to the incredible finish along the steel stacks, Bethlehem exceeded my expectations. But boy, did my lower back and hamstrings hurt on Saturday morning. Also, it was cold.
I didn’t stick around for the half marathon on Sunday, but from what I understand, that one was hilly too.
- …BEST PACER EVER: Jamie
My friend Jamie is fast. Like, BQ fast. But she is also one of the kindest and sweetest people I know. At my very first 5K ever, she finished way before me, but then came back for the last quarter mile to cheer me on. I have never forgotten that. So when she asked to run with me for both races on Saturday, I couldn’t believe it. She was not racing, just needed the mileage, and it was such a treat to talk to her (and while I didn’t push nearly as hard as I could have, she definitely kept my spirits up for the entire course). Plus, we made pretty cute cover girls.
- …FUNNIEST TRAVEL EXPERIENCE: “Candy” at the coffee shop
I traveled through Charlotte on my way to Allentown, and I was shocked to hear thick, southern accents at the airport. I honestly couldn’t understand the barista (he was very nice, though!) and apparently the feeling was mutual. In North Carolina, just call me “Candy.”
- …AWESOME ROOMMATE WHO IGNORES THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM: Theodora
Nothing like the roar of a breast pump to make conversation a little awkward, huh? Theodora, one of my favorite people in the world, was kind enough to let me whip my boobs out and pump when I needed to, and didn’t even blush (much).
I also could have and maybe should have given her the award for best hotel sommelier.
- …MOST ECLECTIC GROUP OF BLOGGERS: Us
Mushy time! The bloggers on this trip were a fascinatingly mixed crowd. Some blog full-time, some are hobby bloggers. Some run FAST and some less so. But we all had a blast and I think — hope — appreciated how amazing this opportunity was.
In our group: http://carrotsncake.com/ http://www.hungryrunnergirl.com/ http://skinnyrunner.com/ http://www.eatingbirdfood.com http://www.runeatrepeat.com http://losingweightinthecity.com http://katywidrick.com http://www.sweetlifeericka.com/ http://relentlessforwardcommotion.com http://www.irunnerblog.com/ http://racepacejess.com http://enthusiasticrunner.com/ http://www.runningbun.com/ http://dietitianontherun.com/ http://www.susanruns.com http://www.runningbecauseican.com/ http://www.fairytalesandfitness.com http://JanetOber.com http://runninglovingliving.com http://www.running4two.com plus the very welcome event-crasher http://stuftmama.com/
- …MOST INSPIRATIONAL COMMUTE-TO-WORK PROGRAM: Runner’s World
Bart Yasso took us on a tour of Runner’s World HQ, which had all sorts of interesting nooks and crannies. But the one that had me gasping most was the room full of bikes — because so many of their employees ride to work. (Dear Santa…)
Honestly, what a cool company. I didn’t meet one employee who didn’t smile, talk passionately about his/her job or truly care about telling good stories. And they were awestruck by us? Crazy. I absolutely believe they work hard and have stressful jobs, but darn if they don’t make Rodale a pretty inspirational place.
- …BEST CONFERENCE FOOD: Runner’s World
Local. Organic. Vegetarian-friendly. I was not kidding when I assigned the Mushroom Tacos al Pastor a place in the Top 5 Meals Ever list. Even carnivores at my table were blown away.
Farro. Black bean cupcakes. Kale-almond pesto. YUM. YUM. YUM. Most of the meals we were served were out of the Runner’s World Cookbook (not an affiliate link) — and I liked it so much I bought Jamie a copy (we all got one free but I was not about to give mine up!).
- …COOLEST NAME BACKED UP BY THE COOLEST STORY: Golden Harper
Golden is…well, a character. A speedy runner (2:44 marathon at age 12) who now does ultra distances, Golden is also kind of Dr. Running Technique. He started pulling his running shoes apart as a kid, even putting them in the toaster to better manipulate things and that eventually led him to start his own company — Altra. Believe me this: I have tried a lot of shoes and met a lot of great brand ambassadors, but Altra has stolen my heart. I really believe in what he taught us about the power of zero drop design. (I’m still running in different brands — Altra for triathlon, Saucony for middle and long distances and New Balance for long distance and cross-training. It depends a lot on what I’m hoping to achieve.)
- …BEST LEGS IN A RUNNING SKIRT: Bart Yasso
I mean…does it get better than running beside Bart Yasso while we all wear running skirts? Take a look at the video that Running Skirts put together:
- …FUNNIEST SCAVENGER HUNT PARTNER: Heather
Heather from Relentless Forward Commotion was one of the only bloggers who had arrived when I got to the hotel, so we hung out … and talked about EVERYTHING. Motherhood. Running. New England. Then, we tackled the absolutely amazing 30-item scavenger hunt that Runner’s World had set up for us.
She and I may have been among the most competitive in the group, but having her beside me as we tried to find some crazy things was pretty awesome.
- …CRAZIEST/COOLEST SWAG: see below
We got the hookup, and I’m still trying to pick my jaw off the ground.
Sponsors who gave us their items or special support included: Altra (shoes!) Running Skirts (skirts! or in my case, sleeves!) Ortholite (shoe inserts!) Icon Fitness (yoga mat! yoga bag! yoga block! a resistance band! a foam roller!) Bondi Band (headband!) Injinji (toe socks! a hat!) PRO Compression (compression socks!) SPIBelt (a belt!) The Stick (a stick!) Wild Planet (tuna!) Belvita (breakfast treats!) Deer Park Water (Nestle) (water!) Run Donna (an iPhone cover!) Bermuda Marathon (information and a coupon!) The yoga tote, by the way, is pretty awesome. It has a built-in spot for a yoga mat and is so big that I actually put my original carry-on bag INSIDE it for the plane (too cheap to check a bag unless I have to). It’s only $20 at Wal-Mart (http://www.walmart.com/ip/Lotus-Deluxe-Yoga-Tote/27396058).
- …CELEBRITY WHO PRETENDED IT WASN’T WEIRD WHEN I FAN-GIRL GUSHED ALL OVER HER/HIM: tie for Summer Sanders and Dave McGillivray
I’m sorry but I’m not sorry at how crazy I went when I met Summer Sanders. I had her poster on my wall when I was a young swimmer. I loved the most recent article about her in Runner’s World. And when she walked in, she amazed me even more with her genuine EXCITEMENT to meet us!
The PR team had to basically force me to move away after Summer gave me an autograph. WORTH IT.
But truly, the man who inspired me most this weekend was Dave McGillivray. Among many, many other things, he’s the Race Director for the Boston Marathon.
I bought a copy of his book right after his presentation and read it cover to cover on the plane.
- …BEST BREAKFAST FOR UNDER $10: William’s Family Diner
On Saturday, with 15K behind us, a group of us went in search of pancakes. And we found it. Running Bun has a baby bun on board, so she ordered extra cheese fries and I ordered plate of corn fritters…in addition to everything else. And yet with tip, it still only ended up being about $13 per person.
- …MOST PATIENT AT-HOME SUPPORT STAFF: Lucas and Audrey
Gotta get mushy again. I could not have left my 1-year-old for nearly four days if I did not have their love and support. Lucas, by the way, already asked when I can leave again so they can have another daddy-daughter adventure. They even sent me photos and Facetimes through the weekend letting me know that they were proud of me. Seeing her smile when I got home was amazing. There’s more to say. I want to share more of what I learned from Dave and Bart and Golden and Summer and Melanie and more, and I want to tell you about how it felt falling in love with running once more. But that’s for the future. For now, and for always: thanks for reading. Your support makes all of this possible. If I ever stop remembering how lucky I am, smack me.