Runners World Half & Festival Recap: Day 2

When we last left off I had crashed after a whirlwind of Runner’s World fun at the unofficial RW Half & Festival Opening Ceremonies, and was getting ready for another busy day. After a good solid night’s sleep in a super comfy bed (those Comfort Suites people know what’s up), I woke up at 5am, had a little breakfast and met up with the rest of the Ambassadors and our PR leader Beachy for a jog to the Steel Stacks where we’d meet up with Brogan Graham, one of the founders of the November Project, for a pop-up NP workout followed by breakfast, meet & greet, and book signing.


I was a little nervous: it would be a “group” jog to the Steel Stacks less than a mile away, but I worried I’d be the slowest at the back of the pack, making everyone resentful at how slow they had to go so I could keep up.


But as it usually is, all the worry was for nothing, because we took off down the sidewalk outside the hotel in a tight little pack, laughing and chatting while Ty led the way with his Run Lites and I entertained us with some Jay-Z and Drake on my iPhone.


thanks for taking a MUCH better pic than I could manage, Amy!

When we arrived at the workout, Brogan was already there with his booming voice and gigantic arms giving out hugs and welcoming folks, and I was starstruck. If you haven’t heard of the November Project, go get yourself educated ASAP – and if there’s an NP tribe in your area, check them out!

We started right at 6:29AM with a group shouting and jumping session, went right into a ridiculous warm up where we ran up about thirty thousand steps to the top of the Steel Stacks, across the span of the whole factory then back down, then split up into lines for drills of skipping, sprinting, and more – one round even had us do a somersault and I DID ONE! Crazy what you’ll do when a 6’7″ guy in man capris and a denim vest tells you to do it.

Next we were told to grab the hands of two folks near us to form a team of 3 for the workout: 4 stations where we broke up each exercise and took turns, with one of us taking the stairs each turn. Mike, Jorge and I KILLED it, if I say so myself.


After that, the “cool down” was one more lap up the stairs, across the span of the Steel Stacks, and back down through a human tunnel which I will admit gave me goosebumps. It was surreal running with a pack of like-minded folks, laughing and sweating as the sun came up, and cheering each other on through some super challenging moments.




Photo Credit: Brogan Graham

After our group pic, Mr. Yasso himself (who had done the workout with us!) wandered by as I was taking a selfie and wanted one with us. Then Ty saw the shot and wanted in on the action. We runners are a selfie-loving bunch of folks I tell ya.

We were herded into the Arts Quest building where the Expo was about to start, and they had a nice little breakfast spread and coffee, glorious coffee, for us to warm up with while Brogan told us about NP and his new book.

After breakfast, we were treated to a behind the scenes look at Altra from the founder himself, Golden Harper. This guy is passionate about what he does, and what he does is keep people running happy and healthy with his shoes. He created the first pair of Altras in a toaster oven, for crying out loud.


He had some interesting stuff to say about what makes Altras a smart choice, backed up with a LOT of science and research. That’s all well and good, but what mattered was the fact that I’d been wearing them all morning and had yet to experience any foot pain at all. After my disastrous showing at RnR Brooklyn the previous week and some touch-n-go runs the week after the half before RW weekend, I was scared of the foot pain I had, to put it lightly. And the Altras made it all better. I’ll write a full post about them later for sure!


::heart eyes::

Once Golden finished with the presentation we were split up into groups for personalized running analysis from Golden himself and more Altralympics fun: a magazine scavenger hunt!


Let’s just say it’s a good thing Ty was killing it on social media, because neither of us broke any records finding the stuff we were supposed to be searching for in these magazines!

Next we were ushered outside for the final Altralympics game: an egg/spoon race that, with Ty’s expert guidance, I WON. WHILE BLINDFOLDED. Not like I’m bragging or anything. But I am the best. Ever. If you stare directly into my awesome I am not responsible for any cornea damage that may occur.

[no photos exist of the egg race because I was blindfolded and too busy WINNING to take pictures.]

After the race, Dean Karnazes just came wandering up on the grass – it turns out he was going to be our next celebrity encounter at lunch, and he was early. NBD.


Oh hey, Dean. Did you hear I just won the egg race? It’s so nice to meet a fellow celebrity. Fame is exhausting isn’t it? Where are you going?

We all walked over to lunch with Dean where the folks at Wild Planet had prepared a fantastic little appetizer course (the Tuna, Feta, and Quinoa salad was the BOMB). For a main course they had prepared a spread from Run Fast, Eat Slow, and I won’t lie to you: I went up for thirds of the mango avocado salsa.

PS: my stomach just growled looking at these pics again.

After we ate, Dean Karnazes did a little talk about his book and offered to stick around and sign our copies before he planned on running TO the trail race set to start in about an hour (consummate professional, this guy), and I was slightly starstruck as you can see in the pic we snapped:


Not pictured: the fact that I may have peed a little in excitement, like a small chihuahua.

At this point, some ambassadors had to break off to head to the Trail Run (which I had opted out of simply because I am the klutziest klutz to ever klutz and I imagine that Runner’s World’s insurance policy only covers so many broken teeth.

After wishing our fellow ambassadors good luck, Ryan of Real Ryan Run and I wandered through the expo for a bit to pick up our bibs, say hey to the awesome sponsors, and get taped up by the Tape Angels at the KT Tape booth.


Andrew, my KT Tape Angel. He was flattered. I swear.

After the expo, Ryan and I made plans to meet up the next morning to walk to the start of the Five & Dime together and parted ways. By the time I made it back to my hotel room, I was exhausted. I had plans later on that night to meet up with my friend Arun and his gf Erin, so I showered up, caught a quick nap, and headed out for our delicious dinner at Fegley’s (try the beer cheese and Bavarian pretzels).

Much like the day before, once I got back to the hotel at the end of the day, I crashed HARD. The next day was going to be just as crazy – AND I had to run 9 miles! I was scared but happy – if my feet held out, they held out, and if not, I’d walk. I wasn’t gunning for a PR or anything (she said, completely oblivious as to what was about to go down in 12 hours).

Stay tuned for Day 3!

Runners World Half & Festival Recap: Day 1

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you’ve probably noticed I’ve been ALLLLL over the place with the great stuff happening at the Runner’s World Half & Festival this past week – but now that I’ve finally got some time, I’m so excited to recap everything for you! Let’s start from the beginning and take it one day at a time, shall we?


Back in August I was asked to be an Ambassador for the Runner’s World Half & Festival, and I’m not going to lie: I thought they’d made a mistake by asking me. The other bloggers and ambassadors were SO much more well known! I’d already been following all of them in some form or another, and couldn’t believe I had the good fortune to get selected. So after geeking out for pretty much the entire two months leading up to the weekend, I found myself loading up my car and heading out to Bethlehem, PA on the Thursday before everything went down.

After I got into my hotel room I squealed at myself in the mirror for about an hour and dove into the ridiculous goodie bag the sponsors dropped off. Seriously, it was like the Oscars Gift Bag of Running: Balega, KT Tape, White Claw Hard Seltzer, Krave Jerky, Cal-Ez, Real Time Pain Relief… craziness.

At around 5 we all met down in the lobby for the first time and I nailed my first interaction with a famous blogger: when Jason Saltmarsh of Saltmarsh Running introduced himself to me, the conversation went something like this:

Jason: Hi, are you here for the Runners World thing?

Me: Yes, hi!

Jason: Hi, I’m Jason Saltmarsh, from Saltmarsh Running… ::extends hand in normal person handshake::

Me: ::floundering and stuttering, thrusting clammy claw-like hand at him:: gah yes! Hi! Jason, yes! ::shakes hand and nods during awkward silence before realizing this is where I introduce myself:: Ahh, this is Jess! ::points at self:: Jess runs happy! I’m on instagram mostly…


basically me

To his credit, he did not laugh at me (thank you, Salty) – in fact, just the opposite happened. Because he is one of the kindest, most encouraging folks I’ve ever met, just like the rest of the gang that soon joined us in the lobby for the party bus ride to Runner’s World HQ in Emmaus:

These folks are seriously amazing. We all had such a blast together. If you haven’t heard of them, you must go follow them all, immediately, on every social channel they’ve got. Go ahead. I’ll wait. I’m just hanging out with my tea at Starbucks… OK.

So after a round of introductions, we all piled into a sweet party bus for the 15 minute drive out to RW, during which I got to chat with Hollie up there. A fellow NJ runner, she and I bonded over our love of Jersey diners, chatted about local races, bonded over our recent injuries, and more. It was so fun to talk with someone I’ve followed on social media for a while and discover that we have so much in common (i.e. our love of sweet things follows roughly the same order: buttercream > whipped cream > caramel, and butterscotch ranks in there somewhere too).

Once we got to Runner’s World HQ, I won’t lie: things started happening FAST and I legit had to pinch myself a few times. Bart [FREAKING] Yasso came out to meet us outside the bus, showed us the garden that the RW folks grew right outside the building, and led us into the building, Willy-Wonka-style, to a dining room where a BBQ buffet had been set up and about 30 Runners World staff members were there to greet us.

They assigned us to tables with our ambassador partners and placed a few editors and staff members at each table too, so while we ate we chatted with folks like Reporter Kit Fox and Editor-in-Chief David Willey. And the Wassner twins were right next to me too! Full disclosure: I was starving, but I did not eat very much. You try looking cool eating a burger the size of your face in front of world class athletes and the editor in chief of Runner’s Freaking World. Go on, I dare you! I guarantee you’re going to be staring, starstruck, as these folks chat nonchalantly about how to balance real life with training for and winning international events, all while your burger goes cold.


Having said that, I DID eat the whole burger. It was incredibly delicious. I also had a brownie and a lot of White Claw Hard Seltzer to take the edge off. It worked.

For the weekend, we were paired off into teams of two for what they called the Altralympics: a weekend-long competition sponsored by the main event sponsor Altra Running, where we would complete challenges to earn points towards a grand prize pack. I had the great fortune to be paired with social media guru Ty from Seeking Boston Marathon  who had already been killing it online. Ty, if you’re reading this, THANK YOU.

Our first official game in the Altralympics was a Flag Contest: in this tumultuous political scene, the idea of seceding from the union is all too enticing, so we were tasked with creating our own countries, complete with a flag and a motto – in 20 minutes. Ty quickly found a quiet spot to brainstorm while I grabbed tape, construction paper, glue and scissors. Clearly our teamwork skills were already ON FIRE.


the artist at work. paper, marker and glue, 2016.

Starting with the idea of a running utopia, we began tossing out the things our new country stood for. Unable to move off the idea of running for donuts and wine, I tried out a few versions of a motto and after Ty tweaked a few words, a lightbulb literally went off over our heads; thus, our beautiful nation was born. The idea of the blue & yellow Boston colors and the stripes was mine, while Ty figured out the 4-image quadrant in place of a sea of stars, and down to the last minute we worked furiously gluing and cutting washi tape into donut sprinkles. Once time was called we all got to present our countries to the applause and laughter of the RW staff and our fellow ambassadors:

There were lots of laughs: namely over the sucking up almost every team decided to do by including Bart Yasso somehow in the name or motto of their country. Finally, Ty and I presented our creation: Runtopia, where We Count Miles, Not Calories.


Not ashamed to admit that flag is hanging proudly in my home office right now.

After our country presentations, Bart Yasso himself took us on a private tour of Runner’s World Headquarters, and he delivered with a personal touch. He’s like the great laid-back uncle you wish you had.

Every corner we turned, he had a funny anecdote to share about this person’s working habits or that department’s history. It was one of those moments in life where you find yourself in the middle of it, telling yourself, “Remember every second of this, it’s truly incredible.”


Where the magazine is built, page-by-page, each month.

After our tour, the bus took us back to the hotel where I called my mother and squealed for 15 minutes about everything being so cool, called my husband and squealed all the same stuff to him, laid out my flat runner for the following morning’s 5AM wakeup call, and passed out HARD.


I fell asleep smiling and reliving all of the craziness that had happened in the previous 6 hours, completely oblivious to just how great the next few days were going to be.

Stay tuned for Day 2!