Saturday, October 26, 2013

Runners World Half and Festival recap

Last weekend I was lucky to be able to participate in the second Runners World Half and Festival in Bethlehem, Pa. I really wanted to do this race, especially because I grew up in the Lehigh Valley and wanted to be able to do this awesome event.

The event was a full weekend event, kids races on Friday, 5K and 10K on Saturday and the half on Sunday. Runners World decided to make some challenges out of having this many events. If you ran the 5K and the 10K, it was called the 5 and dime. If you participated in all three, it was the Hat Trick. I was so going to do all three.

With my injury not letting me be 100%, I decided I was just going to focus on feeling good, and letting my body tell me what I could do. I love running 10Ks and really wanted to focus on that race.

Picked up my packet the day before the races, and could not believe everything that has been done to the area. Where the festival was taking place was the former Bethlehem Steel. In the past five years, or so, the area has been revitalized and turned in to shops and a casino, among other things.

Saturday morning started with the 5K at 8am. It was still dark with not a cloud in the sky and the full moon still shining bright. It was freezing. I ran a half marathon in November and this was by far colder than that. Decided to wear a warmer layer since I had a 10K about an hour later.
The national anthem was preformed by an electric violinist and it was fantastic. There were so many people and everyone was having so much fun. The race hasn't even started. We were told to look for the Runners World editors by their shirts. They were orange and had Runners World Editor on the back. I didn't see any this race, but keep reading.
The gun goes off and here we go. The 5K and 10K had the same start line, and all three races had the same final about mile and a half. After I hit the bridge for the first time, I could see the leaders coming down the bridge. Once we got off the bridge there was a DJ who was so much fun. He was cheering us on and getting us to forget about the race for a little while.
We went up and around some really pretty streets and headed back down the hill and across the bridge. Found a one man band with about a mile to go and really made me smile. It is still freezing. We made the  turn up past the casino and down in to the breezeway between the old buildings that haven't been changed over yet.
As you come up to the finish line, there is an arched piece of steel that was on fire. Not kidding, on fire. It is a symbolic piece that shows the transition between where we have been and where we are now. I loved it. As I'm finishing the race I see the PA announcer and decide I'm going to give him a high-five. Crossed the line in 27:15. Nice warm up and the first stop in my hat trick.
There was about an hour break between the 5K and 10K. Me and my husband found a nice spot inside the Arts Quest building and tried to warm up. Once we made it back downstairs it was time to get ready for the 10K. My husband missed most of the 5K because of how cold it was, but he told me to look for him randomly through the course. Fine.
There are a lot fewer people running the 10K than the 5K, which was strange to me. We are in the starting corrals and we are told again to look for the Editors running with us. Before we had time to think, they were singing "God Bless America" and we were going.
This race took us through parts of Lehigh University before we went over the same bridge as last race. I saw my husband right before the bridge, and I knew he didn't see me. I decided to yell, "Stop looking, I'm right here" and made a few people smile, including myself.
Once I hit the bridge, I felt really good and knew there was a ton of hills coming up, which I love. While on the bridge there was a man who was also running the hat trick. He was running backwards and started screaming "It ain't nothing but a hill, baby. Nothing but a hill." I start laughing again. This is great. Met back up with the fun DJ then it was off to a new area of town.
Hills are my friends. They always have been, so I was very excited with the amount of them through the 10K. We hit the three mile mark, and I finally saw one of the editors. I didn't know if I wanted to bother him, but he was talking to everyone so I decided to give it a shot.
This wasn't just any editor, it was the editor-and-chief of Runners World, David Willey. I thanked him for running with us and we got to talking. He asked me about the 5K and told me I had really great form and control. I told him about my IT Band struggles and he gave me some tips. He even said he would have never known I was hurt from how good I looked. I wanted to cry. I instantly feel like I had an energy boost and decided to speed up. I thanked him again and he thanked me. I had two miles to go.
Made it back to the bridge and started to move. Knew I was seeing my husband soon and I didn't want to have to yell to him again. This time I didn't. He found me and told me to hurry up. He's so encouraging.
Back up the hill by the casino I met a really nice man who told me I looked strong and asked if I wanted to pace off of him to the finish. I said sure and we picked up the pace for the final mile. As we made it to the buildings again he decided to speed off. I heard a voice from behind me that said, "Lets finish strong" and it was David again. So cool. Saw the ring of fire, and knew I was just about done. Gave the same PA announcer a high five and crossed the finish line. 10K time was 53:11, with a faster average pace than the 5K. Two down, one to go.
My leg was really starting to hurt after the 10K, and I knew the half was going to be tough. We decided later that night that we would go back to the expo and go to one of the lectures that Runners World was putting out. It was Bart Yasso talking about where running has taken him in his life. It was incredible. He is an amazing person, and if you ever get to listen to him talk, or read his book, it is well worth it. After the lecture I got to talk with him briefly. Day was made for sure.

Sunday morning is cold again. Not as cold as Saturday, but I'm in a skirt, it's pretty cold. There are about 3,000 people running the half, and 1,000 of us are still going strong for the hat trick. They also announce that there are more women running than men, which is really cool. I have had this awful trait of not looking at course maps, but I knew I wasn't winning, so I could follow everyone else. My leg is absolutely killing me, and at this point, I just want to finish.
The gun goes off and away we go. My mom decided to join my husband to watch today, and I saw him very early in the race. He knew I was in pain, but he told me to have a good race and then I continued on that first downhill. We ran through Lehigh again and back over the bridge. I heard the same guy yell about the hill and the same DJ with the same amount of energy.
This is about all that is the same from the other two races. It seemed like for the first six miles all we did was go up and hill, then back down a hill. With a bad IT Band, this was hell, but I still felt in control.
I have trained my body to not need a water stop for about six miles, so after a killer hill, there was my water spot. When you got to the water spot, there was the company Running Skirts giving out free skirts! Since I was already wearing one, I had to pass. Got my water, opened my gel and realized, I'm starving. I'm not even half way done and I am starving! Thankfully, there were tons of people who lived in the neighborhood we were running through out to support us. One older man even had candy, and I could not have been more thankful.
As we came up to mile 8, I hear something behind me. They were two firemen in full gear running with an American flag representing the fallen firefighters from 9/11. It was amazing. We all clapped for them and told them to keep going. They were giving high fives to the spectators and saying thank you to all the volunteers. It was something I won't soon forget.
I realized about mile 10 that I am kinda slow. I know I'm injured, but still, I should not be this slow. I decided I felt good enough that I was going to pick up the pace. The final water stop I took was mile 11, right before we went over the bridge for the last time this weekend. I finished my gel and picked it up.
After the bridge I can see people who have already finished walking to their cars. Ugh, I'm really slow, but I bet none of those people ran two races yesterday and have had this kind of pain for two hours. Yeah, I'm doing great! I see my mom and husband. They both are talking my picture, all bundled up and all I can do is wave and smile. I yelled, almost done, and continued for the final mile and a half.

We ran up the same hill by the casino, and at this point, I take back any good thing I ever said about hills. I am tired, starving and ready to stop. Then I decided in this final mile, I was going to reflect. It was a short 12 weeks ago that I was so injured I could barely run a mile without pain. It was six weeks ago that I could run six miles but hurt the entire time and not even two weeks since I could run double figures with only a little pain. Here I am, about to finish my third half marathon in a year and 22.4 miles in a weekend. I did not walk once, even though I wanted to. I was finishing this race strong, and I was going to be damn proud of it.
Made the final turn through the buildings and could see the ring of fire. I want to cry. I actually did this. This is amazing. I see the PA announcer and give him a high five. I cross the finish line in 2:15:30 and I could not be happier. I hear my mom yell, "Yay Steff!" I get my medal and some apples and make my way to my family. Heck yes, I did it!

This was one of the most amazing experiences I have had with running. Mostly because I could prove to myself that even with overcoming an injury, I will always be stronger than I think. I would love to thank Runners World for putting on a great event. Everyone was so nice and helpful. The only thing that was missing was someone throwing a hat, which my husband processed to do when we got home.


  1. Way to go Steff!!!! Your mom is VERY proud !!!

  2. This just got me all jazzed up for Runner's World this year!! Congrats!! :-)

  3. This sounds like an amazing event! I've read so many post about it and it makes me want to go.