by Meghan Bruce
If you follow a lot of running blogs, you probably heard about the second annual Runner’s World Half & Festival in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Runner’s World invited a group of bloggers to the event for the weekend, where they toured the RW offices in Emmaus, attended seminars, and were entered in the hat trick (5k + 10k + half marathon!). So, there was undoubtedly a lot of promotion going on via the blogosphere the last couple months! I was not one of those bloggers, but the event did intrigue me, particularly because: 1.) I’m a running nerd and thought it would be cool to meet the RW staff, 2.) I already did meet a couple RW reporters who were on my Hood to Coast team this summer and it would be great to see them again, and 3.) why not??? It was about time for a little running-related adventure outside of NJ anyway. Oh, and I wanted a 10k PR.
So, I forked over the money for the experience…on Tuesday night, a bit last minute. This is my new thing, apparently. And it’s working. I woke up early and drove the ~75 miles to the ArtsQuest center in Bethlehem, right next to the famous steel stacks. After some debate over what to do about my “long run,” I decided to do an extra long warmup and try to time it so that I wouldn’t have much downtime before the 10k started. I got my bib number and then set off on a warmup/pre-race run that ended up totaling ~5.6 miles at just under eight minute pace. It was cold, so this helped a lot!
At the starting line, they played very intense pump-up music. I was feeling really chill and relaxed, so I tried not to let the music get me too excited. Negative splits were the name of the game. Bart Yasso and Summer Sanders (Olympic gold medalist in swimming) started the race, and I was able to get a good view since not too many people lined up between the 6:00 and 7:00 pace signs.
Miles 1 & 2: 6:59, 6:37
I settled into a decent pace feeling comfortable, and I was glad it wasn’t too fast, because the first mile included a pretty big uphill. I passed the mile in about seven minutes, which was slower than what I planned on averaging, but I reminded myself that my goal was to negative-split the race, and I just went with it. The downhill came soon after, and I was instantly glad I’d conserved the energy. A quick glance at my watch told me that “just rolling” with the downhill had me close to six minute pace, so I knew then that everything would even out. We crossed over the river on a bridge and headed into the little downtown where I had warmed up earlier. There was loud music playing at the end of the bridge, and at first I was pissed it was Bruno Mars (cannot stand him, sorry), until it turned into a pretty sweet remix, not going to lie. Good sign.
Miles 3 & 4: 6:49, 6:38
I think my effort level stayed steady or increased with each mile of the race; the pace variation is purely a result of the uphills and downhills on the course. The spectators were great; if they were standing at the crest of a hill, they always seemed to say, “top of the hill!” and it made me feel better. Just before the fourth mile mark, I found myself gaining ground on the runners ahead of me, then passing them. I wanted to practice making a decisive pass, not a let’s-run-together pass, because I wanted to run my own race and see how much I could negative-split (new game, it’s been fun, and painful). Luckily, after that was a significant downhill to the bridge again.
Miles 5 & 6 (and 0.31): 6:27, 6:21, 1:51 (for 0.31, 6:04 pace)
I was hauling it on the bridge because first, I love running over bridges, and second, I wanted to keep the momentum from the downhill going. There were a lot of race photographers and I made it a point to not look like I did at the end of the Perfect 10 last week. Silly, I know, but sometimes looking calm and controlled = feeling calm and controlled. And besides, the race was not over. A guy on the bridge said to me as I passed, “I counted you as fourth female.” I’m going to go ahead and spoil this for you by saying: LIES. This was a false statement. I’m not disappointed that he said it though, because it fueled my fire for the rest of the race. After barely missing first in my age group and fifth overall in the Perfect 10 last week, and wondering if I just didn’t finish tough enough, I was determined to make up for it this week. I wanted to give everything I had and see what happened. I could see the next girl ahead of me once over the bridge, but I wasn’t sure if she was close enough to catch. I kept rolling along at the same pace though, around 6:25, without letting the faster pace get to me mentally. I wasn’t going to slow down if I didn’t let myself slow down, simple as that. On a stretch of road heading to the Sands parking lot entrance where we turned left, I managed to catch her and pass her. Decisive pass decision number two was a lot harder; I was moving faster and there was only a half mile or so to go! We went under an overpass/walkway or something, and then I could see the finish chute lined with spectators and the finish line with the arc of fire. I ended up crossing the line at the exact same time as another guy, and someone announced my name in the same sentence as his and then they said where I was from.
According to my Garmin…6.31 miles in 41:46.5 (6:37 or 6:44 pace average – for 6.2 – depending on how you look at it)
After the race, I met a couple other bloggers who were doing the hat trick that weekend and wandered toward the stage where they would be giving out awards. I was pretty sure I placed, thanks to the man on the bridge who can’t count. But my name wasn’t coming up in the searchable results. I found out I definitely wasn’t top three, which was okay (that would’ve been really cool – hello, cash prize – but also would have been surprising!), but they also didn’t call me up for any F20-24 awards. Huh. Long story short: I was confused and really hoped my bib had registered when I crossed the line. They had said my name, that had to mean something?! It turns out it took longer for my results to show up, so I did place (second I believe), but someone else got to go on stage and get the award because the computers didn’t show my name. So that was sad. The results still show a time that is over 20 seconds slower than the time on my watch, and they don’t show me finishing within a second of another guy (which happened, photos will tell), so I’m actually not trusting anything for a few days; maybe they need to sort things out. They are a magazine, not a timing company, after all.
AFTER THE RACE
After successfully managing to get a shower (I always find a way…) and have lunch, I headed back to the ArtsQuest building, and continued settling in right where I belonged: the expo! A post-race expo, for me; that was a first. It was certainly a small expo, with only a handful of vendors compared to bigger marathon expos. I met up with a friend I run with in Princeton who was running the half the next day, and we took photos on the “cover” of Runner’s World! I can’t say they ended up looking amazing, unfortunately:
At 3:45 I ended up watching a movie, “In the High Country.” It was basically a documentary film following the trail running life of Anton Krupicka. Spoken words were far and few between, but the cinematography was stellar and I’m pretty sure that was the main point – to capture what it’s like for him running up in the mountains. I have to admit, it did get me hungry for some trails soon; it’s been about a month since I tackled any serious trails. Anton and another man involved in the film came out for a Q & A at the conclusion of the film, but unfortunately I had to duck out because I’d signed up for the 4:30 PM “dinner with the editors.” I sat with my reporter friend and some other bloggers, plus two other RW staff members (one was a photographer I believe). At 5:30 they all went to Dave McGillivray’s talk. I could have joined but I wasn’t sure if there were spots left, I hadn’t pre-registered, and I didn’t have quite enough cash. Oops. I did have enough cash for…an expo beer! That’s right, there was a bar at the expo venue, and the beer was cheaper than usual. ‘Twas a win. I was happy to enjoy a Shock Top while sitting with my half marathoner friend on the deck overlooking the steel stacks as the sun set. It was good to relax and reflect on my race with her (and get her excited for her own!). Summary: the steel stacks were beautiful with the purple lights shining on them at night, and expos are more fun when they are attended after a great race and they have a bar.
General thoughts on the event:
I do regret not going to at least one seminar; it would have been cool to hear what some of the speakers had to say. Then again, I seem to hear from the best of the best more than the average runner, so the seminars were definitely better reserved for the runners who don’t spend their works days thinking and talking about running. I think it’s great that Runner’s World basically opened up their own world to the public and created an event that was essentially a running nerd’s dream weekend. I don’t regret spending the time instead with like-minded runners, some of whom I just met for the first time that day. Another really awesome part of the event was the race course(s). It was never boring or confusing, and there was nice spectator support. As for the steel stacks…there is just something electrifying about a huge, majestic, man-made structure that is representative of so much history. I’d seen them a few times before, but never up so close. That statement ostensibly could be said about a skyscraper…but it’s so different. It’s like a dinosaur skeleton in a museum; it used to be alive and operating and fueling the steel industry of America. Now it sits there rusting, but for some reason, the city of Bethlehem has made it appear almost beautiful. Back to the race…obviously, I would improve the timing efficiency. I’d probably hire someone else for the job, to be honest. Aside from that, I think it would be pretty cool to offer tours of Runner’s World Headquarters in Emmaus as part of the festival. Not very realistic given that the Rodale office is 10-15 miles away from the race, but it would still be neat. Okay, maybe I’m just jealous of the bloggers who got to take a tour invade the facility prior to race weekend. Someday!
Thank you Runner’s World for a great weekend at the races!