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I’m still talking about this race weekend, if you can believe it. The next chapter in my mini novel, titled “that time I thought Runner’s World would never invite me back to an event again after that one viral post, but they did...” is a summary of the half marathon, which completed the “Hat Trick” and unofficial “Grand Slam” (All four races in one weekend).
Here goes nothing.
We left off with Jen, Erika, and I shoveling pizza and really good beer into our post Five & Dime stomachs. Runner’s often joke that we only run so we can eat, but I’m not going to lie, it’s a great perk.
We spent the rest of the day eating, relaxing at both the expo (attending a few of the free seminars), eating some more, and then made our way to the pasta dinner. The food was absolutely fantastic, as it always is at any of the Runner’s World events. The speaker was Ted Spiker, founder of the Sub 30 Club. I found it crazy that I have never heard of this club, with nearly 4,000 members.
Ted’s speech was short but motivating; you could feel the admiration people had for him and the movement he started (It seemed almost everyone in the room except for our small group of influencers was a part of the Sub 30 club). But again, thankfully, the speech was short…which was great because I was EXHAUSTED. It was nearly 8:30 pm, and this old lady needed to go to BED.
Sunday morning. I awoke feeling completely exhausted and unrested, partially because my legs were feeling the two previous days of running, but mostly because our hotel neighbors decided it would be a great idea to drunkenly sing and shout at each other all night long. I heard things I simply could not un-hear (it was bad), but I chocked it up to just another hilarious story to tell.
Another breakfast of champions (Dunkin Donuts chocolate sprinkle donut), and we headed down to the start line. It was significantly colder this morning compared to the day before (around 29 degrees), but my legs were slightly too sore to run just yet (all of this pavement was kicking my butt). Thankfully the heated bathrooms were open once again, so we were able to spend a few minutes in the warmth.
But not too long, because bag check and the start line were a good 10 to 15 minute walk away.
We got to the start with mere minutes to spare and decide to line up around the 9:00/mile mark. With sore legs and absolutely ZERO desire to actually “race” (not to be confused with running, running is good) I told Jen that I had no time goal for that day. Heck, I’d be happy with even a leisurely 2:15 or 2:30, I just wanted to enjoy the morning. Jen agreed…we were ready to go.
The start had to be one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. The traditional count down came from the crowd. We got to “three, two, one…” and emcee Walt held up the air horn to signal “GO”. Well the air horn was either faulty or frozen, I’m not sure, but it let off the most pathetic little squeak, which brought a huge wave of laughter across the crowd.
We ran anyway.
The first few miles alternated between my legs yelling at me with fatigue, and my body feeling really, incredibly strong. Angry legs, strong legs, angry legs, strong legs. Eventually, the strong, yet angry, legs won the argument, and it seemed the miles were ticking by almost effortlessly. Yet still, I wanted to take it easy. Jen and I talked throughout the entire race which certainly helped make the miles pass quickly.
The entire course was pretty darn hilly. Around mile 6 we climbed what felt like a mile long hill. According to the elevation profile, my estimate isn’t too far from the truth. Despite the fatigue in my legs, I ran up the entire thing, picking off people left and right. To be quite honest, this shocked me, since I’ve spent the last 4 months training in flat (let me emphasize the FLAT) coastal South Carolina.
Initially our plan was to run easy and stop and take pictures for our blog posts, like this very one you are reading right now. But for some reason, I totally failed this blogger task, as my legs were feeling too good to stop, so I didn’t take any pictures. The course, however, was absolutely gorgeous. We ran through both historic downtown Bethlehem, a few more urban (think: strip mall) sections (these were very brief), and a lot of residential neighborhoods. These “neighbors” were out in full force cheering us on, some holding signs, some holding twizzlers and other candy, and one guy even had a sound system hooked up, blaring Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run”.
I pretty much had a smile on my face the entire race, I was that happy and content out there on the course.
For the last few months, I’ve been working on training my body to rely on internal fuel stores rather than external (i.e. stuffing my face with chews and gus every other mile). Therefore, I somehow managed to only stop for one single Clif Shot Blok at the aid station provided at mile, oh, 8 ish? That one single chew was surprisingly enough to keep me going for the entire race. Three cheers for all of the pizza and beer consumed that weekend.
Around mile 9, still feeling amazing, I took a peek at my watch and did a little math. I said to Jen, hey you know, we can probably finish this thing in under two hours. She told me to go on ahead if I wanted to, but she couldn’t promise me anything. I totally understood, and said “No, I’m staying with you”. I didn’t really care about my time. A few strangers running near us chimed in and told me I was looking really strong, and if I wanted a sub two, I could totally get it. No, no, I REALLY didn’t care about my time…
But that little competitive voice inside of my head wouldn’t let it go.
We hit mile 10 at almost exactly one hour and thirty minutes into the race. We were also cruising along easily at an 8:30/mile pace, and though the course wasn’t “all downhill from here” as promised, it was proving to be significantly more downhill and flat than uphill, for once. I turned to Jen and said something like “no really, we’re going to run a sub 2 hour half, no extra effort required” and took off.
The last mile back into town really WAS downhill, and it was fast. We flew in to the bridge that took us back towards the steel stacks along the same route that the 5K & 10K finished on. Up over the hill, past the casino, hard left into the last 0.2 mile stretch. The crowds cheering us in (and even a huge marching band!) were loud and enthusiastic.
More high fives to emcee’s Walt and Bart, and we crossed the finish line at 1:57:49. My legs were sore but I couldn’t get over how GOOD the whole race felt. We grabbed our medals, grabbed some post race snacks, and hopped in the line for a free beer from Saucony Creek Brewing.
I wanted to stay to the very end of the half marathon and cheer in the back of the pack, but unfortunately I had a shuttle to catch to Philadelphia, and a plane to take back to the Carolinas.
And I was truly sad to go…but wouldn’t leave without one more PA pizza slice and microbrew. I told you there was a lot of pizza and beer this weekend…
Once again, Runner’s World put on a phenomenal race weekend…which is no surprise. I mean, who knows runners and racing better than Runner’s World? The course was gorgeous, the hills a GOOD challenge, the crowd support fantastic. The cost of the Grand Slam (all four races) for 2016 is currently $140, which is SIGNIFCANTLY cheaper than many other “multiple races in one weekend” events (cough, cough, Disney), especially considering all of the great swag you get. And Bethlehem PA is a fantastic, scenic town to visit with plenty to see, eat, and do, for the entire family.
In short, would I recommend this race weekend? YES, without hesitation. In fact, I’m already planning on returning in 2016…
*disclaimer* race entry, travel, and accommodations for the RW Half weekend were provided for me by Runner’s World. All opinions are my own.