Wednesday, April 20, 2016

My Boston Marathon Experience

     When people have been asking me how Boston Marathon was for me, the best answer I have is that it was a great experience.  Because this marathon is more than just a race. It is a full experience and so different from any other race that I have ever been a part of.
     From the moment I arrived in Boston on Friday, I knew this was going to be special.  The entire city embraces and supports this event.  Everywhere you look there are signs of the marathon.
     So, buckle in:  I am going to just give the highlights,  and a bunch of photos. I'll start with the expo on Saturday.  First thing I did was pick up my race number, and it was honestly a emotional experience for me. I didn't think I would ever achieve this goal of running Boston, and holding my race number was the thing that made it real to me.  This was really happening.
     It was really fun sharing the expo with the other Hyland's Find Your Finish Line  Mother Runners Donna, Meghan and Another Mother Runner's Sarah.
I also had the privilege of meeting Boston Marathon's race director Dave McGillivray. He was very gracious, taking the time to speak with all of the Hyland's runners. I also met Katherine Switzer, who was so engaged with all the runners who stood in line to meet her, and she signed my race bib!

     After the expo, I met up with some of Team Nuun on Newbury St.  A shake out run was planned, but  I elected to stay just  for the meet and greet, and we were treated to a special edition water bottle and Active Nuun tablets.  It was nice to see my fellow Team Nuun members, some of whom are also Oiselle Volee runners. As usual, it was a fun, lively group, led by the CEO of Nuun, Kevin Rutherford, who I met for the first time. 
     Next was the Red Sox vs the Toronto Blue Jays game at Fenway Park.  Hylands was so generous to provide tickets for us to attend the game.  This was so much fun, and I got to know my Hylands Team mates even better while enjoying the game. 

     After the game, I met up with some of my Mother Runner Ragnar 2013 buddies for dinner. I am sad to say that we did not get a photo, but I did enjoy the evening with Karyn, Aimee,  Aimee's husband Matt and her son Flint. It was so nice catching up with them, and introducing my new Mother Runner friends Donna and Meghan to them.  We, of course, starting talking about the race, our qualifying races, and what are plans for the race on Monday were. Cue the nerves.
     Meghan, Donna and I were able to get a photo at the finish line area on our walk back after dinner.

     Sunday I woke up fairly early and got a short 2 mile shakeout run in. It was incredible to see so many runners doing the exact same thing! Hylands provided our accommodations, and we were ideally situated in the Copley Square area, very close to the finish line area.  I started my run in the Public Garden, and then completed the run on Boylston, right across the finish line.  I started to visual what it would feel like to make that turn onto Boylston, and to hear the cheering crowds. Already a goosebumps moment. 
     Next we were treated to a lovely brunch at the home of Margot Murphy Moore. Margot is the President and Chief Strategy Officer of Hylands, and represents the third generation of her family in Hylands. She is also a force to be reckoned with.  Her energy and enthusiasm is incredible.  She was so welcoming and gracious to all of us throughout the entire weekend. I cannot thank her enough.  She leads by example, and all of her team made us feel like rockstars. 
     After brunch, I returned to the expo to attend a Runners World Seminar highlighting Amby Burfoot's new book First Ladies of Running, with some of the women runners profiled in the book present and speaking for a few minutes each. It was very interesting and engaging. 
     Dinner Sunday night was along the marathon course, right around the half way point in Wellesley with more members of the Another Mother "tribe".  We had a lovely dinner at Alta Strada. We partook in an abundance of carbs, and nerves started kicking in as we discussed the race.  Sarah from AMR and I were the only ones present at the dinner that were actually running the race the next day, and we shared with each other that we were starting to feel that pre race "dread" that happens in the hours before a key race.  Months and months of preparation and anticipation, and then you start feeling panicked, wondering why you chose to do this in the first place.  Not unusual, but a bit disheartening. Special thanks to Adrienne for driving us to Wellesley and getting that great parking spot! 
     The next thing I knew, it was Marathon Monday. I had an  early wakeup to catch a special bus provided by Hylands at 6am that would take us to the starting line in Hopkinton.   I tried to relax as much as possible, and get myself ready for the race, which for me did not start until 11:15. The weather was warmer than I was hoping for (70 degrees), with not a cloud in the sky.  Not ideal racing conditions, but I vowed to stick to my hydration plan of stopping at every water stop and keep my pace even and controlled.  
     As Sarah and I were starting in the same wave and corral of the race, we walked over to the start after dutifully performing our Dynamic Flexibility stretches as prescribed by our coach Briana. Walking to the start was a good warm up walk, and my emotions really started kicking in.  As they started to countdown to the start, the tears finally came.  It was such an incredible feeling, standing there, knowing that I was going to run this historic course.  It was such a different feeling than I had ever experienced before.  I took a deep breath, wiped the tears, and reminded myself to enjoy the experience and take it all in.  
    As far as my goals for the race in regards to finish time and pacing, due to the weather, I was hoping that I would finish right around 4 hours.  By mile 4 or 5, I knew that I was going to have to keep my pace in check. My face was already caked with a layer of salt from sweating, and the effort of my running was already feeling too hard.  I was trying to keep the pace right around 9 minutes per mile, even with all the downhill sections. I felt like I could manage this pace, as long as I stopped and hydrated at every mile, and took my Gu energy gels according to my preplanned schedule. I was not planning on taking the provided Gatorade at the water stops, but because of the conditions, I decided to try that, taking it in at every other mile starting at mile 4.  
     I had heard that the crowds along the course were going to be like no other, and that certainly was true, beyond my expectations.  I can't remember any part of the course that there weren't people along each side of the course, with encouraging and humorous signs, and so much cheering. So loud at times, especially, of course at the Wellesley Scream Tunnel.  The weather was ideal for spectators, and at times it was almost overwhelming.  I tried to look around as much as possible, and I heard many chants of "Go Oiselle!" which was great. 
  It was also at the halfway point that I was able to see the Oiselle Cowbell corner, and two of my friends Ashley and Courtney.  Ashley caught some photos of me, and I gave them both sweaty hugs.  I was so happy to see them; it gave me such a boost. I was feeling tired already, and for a moment I wished I could just stay there and cheer on the other runners! 

     Once I passed the half way point, I was having cramps in my stomach, and some nausea.  This is the first time I have experienced this in a race.   Because I had not used Gatorade in my training runs, I became concerned that maybe the sugar in it was upsetting my stomach. I decided then to stop drinking it, and just going with water and my Gu gels.  I began taking the time to walk through the water stops and swishing and spitting out the Gatorade and then drinking two cups of water each time. This seemed to help, and the cramping lessened as I went forward.  
     As I entered Newton, and the famous Newton hills, the race became pretty tough.  I knew my pace was dropping off and I did something I had never done in a race before. I pulled out my phone and texted my husband to let him know that I was okay, that the heat was getting to me, but I was fine.  I knew he was tracking me at home and I didn't want him to become concerned.  Plus, my phone battery was getting low ( I had resorted to turning on some music a few miles in) and I wanted to make sure he heard from me at some point before the battery died.  As I ran through the rolling hills miles 16-19.5, I had difficulty maintaining even a 10 minute pace.  I just kept telling myself to keep moving forward. Quitting was never an option. I was hot and tired and my energy was pretty low, but there was no reason to stop.  I tried to stay positive, thinking about getting to the water stop, the next timing mat and running as well as I could on the downhills.
     Heartbreak hill was not quite as I expected. .  I was expecting a steeper hill, and wasn't entirely sure when I had gone over it.  It was a long hill, but it would not have been particularly difficult in normal circumstances.  I only knew that I had gone over it when I saw a sign from a spectator that said something like "The Heartbreak is Over". I was relieved that I didn't have to worry about it anymore, and that the significant hills were behind me.  
     Miles 21-25 were uneventful, I just kept moving forward, looking forward to reaching the finish. It became my new goal to finish in 4:15. I don't know why I picked that number, it just seemed like something I could aim for and it kept me going at a pretty steady pace.  My music turned off at mile 22 as the battery had finally died.  

     Once I reached mile 25, I was so relieved.  I knew I could make it to the end, and I mustered every bit of energy I had to enjoy the last mile.I saw the Citgo sign and then  I saw the sign that said "One Mile to Go" and I heard the crowds shouting "You've got this" "You're almost there"and they kept me going.  I saw ahead that the runners were turning to the right, and I knew this was Hereford Street. I had remembered "Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston, and I kept reciting that in my head. 
     It was incredible turning that corner on Boylston, hearing the crowds and seeing the finish line in the distance.  The day before, a triple blue line had been painted on Boylston, leading to the finish line.  I just kept following the blue lines, trying to finish strong. 
     Once I reached the bleachers on each side, I raised my hands and just gave it my all to the finish. I said aloud "I just ran the Boston Marathon!" with a big smile on my face.
     A friend had described her race later as "amazing and awful all at the same time" and I would wholeheartedly agree.  There were some dark moments, but overall it was the experience of a lifetime.  The Boston Marathon is like no other, and it completely lives up to the hype.  
Finish Time: 4:15

     Time for thank you's: First of all, to my husband Chris who is my biggest support in all things. Thank you for always believing that I would get to Boston and handling things at home so that I could be worry free while I was away.  You were in my thoughts through every mile and I knew that no matter what, I would make you proud.
  Thank you to my kids for putting up with their tired, marathon training mother for months (years?) to get to this starting line.  And thanks for understanding when I had to be away during so many big things happening at home this weekend, including my oldest son's first time shaving,(How long was I gone??!!) my middle's son's ballet performance, and my daughter's Healthy Kids race on Sunday.  I know you guys understand how importance this race was to me, and knowing that you were cheering me on from PA kept me going all the way to the finish.
     Thank you to Briana, ,my coach for my qualifying race last year, and for the Boston Marathon. You made me a stronger, more confident runner and I will always carry that with me.  Thank you for always believing in me, and helping me to believe in myself.  I share this Boston finish with you.

     Big thanks to Sarah at Another Mother Runner for reaching out to me when this opportunity to run Boston Marathon came about unexpectedly.  Your support and encouragement carried me through the last few months.  Sharing that starting line with you was very special for me.

  Thank you to all the people of Hyland's that supported me along the way to Find my Finish Line  This was an incredible opportunity and I am truly  honored to be a part of it.  Thank you for bringing our team together, and treating us all like royalty.  

   Thank you to Oiselle for their continued support, and for keeping me in #Flystyle.  The community of women Volee continues to grow and I felt the love on the race course and beyond.
    Thanks to Team Nuun for continuing to keep me hydrated on and off the course. What a nice surprise to have Nuun offered to me at mile 17! I think my exact words at the moment I saw you was "Thank you Lord!" Let's hope that more race courses will feature natural hydration in the future. 
     Finally, thank you to all the family and friends that cheered me on before, during and after the race.  I loved reading every text, FB message, tweet and email.  This truly did help me carry on when the going got tough.  
     I hope that you will continue to follow me along as I find many more finish lines! 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Boston Baby!!

 I have some wonderful news to share.  I thought that my Boston Marathon dream was not meant to be for 2016, despite a Boston Qualifying Time at the New Jersey Marathon.  I had started to train for another Spring marathon, with the hope of running Boston Marathon 2017.
  A very unexpected opportunity then presented itself, and I jumped at it.  Ready for it???

  Hyland's Leg Cramps is sponsoring me to run Boston Marathon this year!!! I will be participating in Hyland's "Find Your Finish Line" Challenge.  Check out this website for more information, and to follow all the runners along their journey to the Boston Marathon.
     So, you may be wondering, how did this happen?  Another Mother Runner reached out to mother runners, like myself, as candidates to benefit from this wonderful opportunity. AMR has a partnership with Hyland's, who are the Official Cramp Relief sponsor of the Boston Marathon.  I am happy to report that I, along with 2 other mother runners, and 7 other runners will be participating in this unique challenge.
  This is a dream come true for me, and I hope you will follow along.  Less than  a month to go!!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Runner's World Half Festival 2015: A PR in Fun!

After I completed the Hat Trick at the Runner's World Half Festival last year, I knew I would love to come back to this race weekend again. Not only was it a great opportunity to participate in a race weekend close to home, but I also met up with some friends and last year even achieved a PR (personal record time) in the Half Marathon.

     As this year's race weekend was approaching (Oct.16-18), I knew that my training would not produce any PR's.  After the New Jersey Marathon in April of this year when I was able to achieve a big PR and Boston Qualifying time, I took a step back in my training, running for fitness and stress relief, but with no big goals in mind.  The hot, humid summer made it difficult to run with any quantity or quality.  Still, I did a few double digit long runs and knew that I would at least be able to finish the distance of a half marathon on October.  The one PR I think I set this year was a PR in Fun!
      So, this will be a quick summary of the race weekend, with some photos to tell the story.  The photos were offered for FREE after the race, which was an added bonus.
     I registered for the Hat Trick again ( 5k and 10k on Saturday, 1/2 marathon on Sunday).  There was also a trail run added on Friday afternoon, at a distance of 3.8 miles, which would bring the total mileage for the weekend at 26.2.  This was just irresistible to me, so I added that to my itinerary.
     The trail run was at South Mountain Park. It was a ton of fun, and a very challenging course. Rocky and hilly terrain with a single track for most of it caused me to slow it down. I finished in 45 minutes. There was pizza at the end, and a swag bag with an REI Kleen Kanteen. It was definitely worth the effort to get there on Friday for the trail race. I even ran into two Oiselle teammates- Lisa and Shannon.
    Friday night I had planned an Oiselle Team meetup with a few of the ladies from the local area.  We met at Bethlehem Brew Works for a nice dinner and yummy beer, of course.
After dinner at Bethlehem Brew Works: Katie, Shannon, me and Tiff 
    I checked in to the Sands Casino Hotel for the weekend, and was happy to reunite with my Another Mother Runner Ragnar Relay friend Nikki. Nikki is from Pittsburgh, and had been on Dimity's team. It was great sharing a room with her and getting to know her better. We also met up with Joan who had also been on Dimity's team. She had traveled from Virginia with her family.  I love AMR reunions!!
Fun times with NIkki and Joan
    Saturday morning was the 5k and 10k races.  Staying at the Sands was so great, because we were within walking distance of the race start.  We also were able to stay warm in the Arts Quest building before the race started.  Both these races went well for me. Again, no PR's, but I was able to put in some solid effort given the hilly courses and pushing the pace at the end, finishing strong.
Finishing strong 
     After getting a quick shower in, and grabbing lunch, we headed over to the Arts Quest building for some great free seminars.  This is one of my favorite parts of this race weekend.  I love attending the seminars, gaining new information and interacting with other runners.  I attended Jordan Metzl's "Getting the Most from you Machine: Secrets to Strong, Injury-Free Running", "The Female Running Body Through the Years", Liz Applegate's "Performance Nutrition", and the best of all, "A Conversation with Deena Kastor", hosted by David Willey.  I absolutely loved hearing Deena's perspective on her running career, balancing racing and family life, and some of her mental strategies in life and in her running career. Her positive attitude is so infectious.  It is no surprise to me that she has had such a successful career.  What a pleasure it was for me to have a chance to meet her in person.  We had a nice chat about Oiselle and masters running, and she was nice enough to pose for a photo with me.
This was a highlight of the weekend. Deena is fantastic!!

     The fun on Saturday continued with Happy Hour with the Editors of Runner's World, followed by dinner.  I also met Gene Gurkoff from CharityMiles.  I have been logging miles for Charity Miles for the last 2 years, and I really love this organization.
Meeting David Willey at the Happy Hour
     The last event of the weekend was the 1/2 Marathon on Sunday.  It was a chilly morning, 32 degrees- brrrrrrr.   Again, staying at the Sands was fantastic. Nikki and I were able to walk out to the race start 10 minutes before and jump into the starting corral.  My plan was to start out nice and slow and pick up the pace as much as I could in the second half.  The first 8 miles of this race are challenging, with some decent hills.  I was able to average a 9 min pace during the race, which I am happy about. This included a "skirt" stop between mile 4 and 5.  Aardvark Sports Shop had a water stop, and were handing out Running Skirts. They had done the same thing last year, but since I was gunning for a PR in that race, I didn't stop.  This year I knew that I wanted to stop.  I was able to snag a really cute skirt, although in the photos it was riding up a bit and didn't look quite as flattering over my Roga shorts.  I will definitely wear my Stride shorts under the skirt the next time!
Photo credit goes to Joan - thanks!
     I finished the 1/2 marathon in just under 2 hours, 1:59.  I met up with Nikki who finished a few minutes before me, and we enjoyed a beer before heading back to the hotel for a nice warm shower.
     It was a fun-filled weekend, with some happy miles thrown in. I've already registered for next year- The Hat Trick plus the Trail Run, which is now dubbed the "Grand Slam".  If you want to join me, register here.

Thank you Runner's World for a Great Weekend!!


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

When Enough is Just Not Enough... Or is it?

When I achieved my Boston Marathon qualifying time at the New Jersey Marathon , I immediately started planning on getting to run the historic race that is the Boston Marathon in April of 2016. 
  This was my 7th marathon in 8 years.  My first marathon was the Zurich Marathon on April 1, 2007. I completed that race in the time of 4:45 at the age of 37. I never dreamed that I would be able to achieve a BQ time.
  I continued to run, through raising children, military moves, injuries and all the challenges that those things bring.  The crazy thing was, that it was getting easier. And I was getting FASTER. And, as luck would have it, I was getting OLDER.
 Which, in the running world can be a detriment as well as an advantage.  For those unfamiliar with Boston Marathon qualifying standards, as you age, you gain minutes on your qualifying time. For example, for a women who is age 35-39 the qualifying time last year was 3:40, age 40-44 it was 3:45, and for me last year age 45-49 the time was 3:55.  A whole ten minute "cushion" to achieve in the older age group. 
 For the first time in this whole running journey I had been taking, I actually thought I could have a chance to achieve the previously unattainable goal of a Boston Qualifying time.  I set my sights on achieving this crazy goal.
  I trained harder than ever, first attempting the time at the Philadelphia Marathon in November of last year.  The day didn't turn out as I expected, and I finished in a disappointing 4:06. I knew that if I was really serious about this BQ attempt, I would have to get serious. I decided to hire a coach, who not only helped me immensely in pushing to my physical limits, but also gave me such confidence that I actually believed that it was possible. With Brianna's help, I went to the starting line of the New Jersey Marathon fully ready to achieve my personal best.
  I ran hard that day, and was able to complete the race in the time of 3:53:15. That is 1 minute and 45 seconds faster than the qualifying time.  I was thrilled. It was an almost 13 minute improvement on my previous best marathon time.  That is a huge PR (personal record)!  I believed it would be enough to get me into the Boston Marathon in 2016.
  But, alas, it was not.
Dear Nicole Hart:

Thank you for submitting your application for entry into the 2016 Boston Marathon. Regrettably, we are unable to accept your application due to field size limitations and the large number of applications we received from those runners who met the qualifying standards. The B.A.A. recognizes the achievement of everyone who has met the qualifying standards that we have established for the race. Those who meet -- and aspire to meet -- these standards have helped distinguish the Boston Marathon from any other marathon in the world, and we realize the effort, training and commitment involved with achieving the qualifying times for the various age groups in both genders.

Name of ApplicantGenderAge on
Qualifying Time
Nicole HartF463:53:15

Entries from applicants in your age group were accepted through and including the time 3:52:32.
So,  not quite enough.  Or is it?  The more I think about it, I knew that I did the most I could for that day.  The work I put in was not wasted. I qualified for Boston.  No one can take that away from me. I could walk away knowing that the work was enough. I am enough.
  But I do know that the journey isn't over for me. I will go back and do it again.   Maybe just a few minutes faster.......
  The journey continues.

Friday, May 1, 2015

No Regrets: A Marathon Journey in Numbers

Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty five thousand moments, oh dear
Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

Okay, how about how do you measure a Boston Qualifying Marathon time?

In 7 marathon finishes in 8 years

In 16 weeks of training with a fabulous Coach

In  543 training miles

In   21  pre dawn runs with headlamp and reflective vest

In  112 Treadmill miles

In  48  Spin classes taught

In  28   TRX classes

In    -20 degree and 80 degree (while on vacation in Mexico)  temperatures

In   8  Snow days and countless school delays

In  3 -5k races, each one faster than the first

In one tumble down a hill repeat, resulting in a busted up knee and twisted ankle

In 10 ice baths

In many tubes of Nuun Active and Nuun Energy

In countless loads of laundry to wash all my Oiselle #flystyle

In a solid race plan

In 7 Gu Energy gels

In 13 water stops

In 26.5 Garmin miles

In a 3:53:15 finishing time

See you at BOSTON 2016!!!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Wrapping up 2014

I had never gotten around on posting about the Philadelphia Marathon, so now I will take this time to sum up 2014 and include that.
 As I reflect back on 2014, it was a great year.  We purchased our first home, and moved into it in April.  I started working at the Army base fitness center in August as a trainer, teaching TRX, Spin and leading 2 running programs.  In August I travelled to Bend, OR for Birdcamp. 
  November 15 I joined my Couch to 5k group that I had been coaching for 10 weeks to run The Drumstick Dash.  I had several ladies complete the race, and I even PR'd!!
 This whole experience of meeting with the group twice a week and coaching them in their 5k training was very rewarding. I am hoping to do another program in the Spring.

Couch to 5K

Next was the Philadelphia Marathon on Nov.23. This was my "A" race of the year.  I had trained quite well for it.  I made sure I got all my long training runs in, as well as running many of those long run miles at "race pace".  I was aiming for a sub 4 hr, time, as well as a Boston Qualifying (BQ) time of 3:55 or better.  The day before the marathon, I stopped by the Expo to pick up my number, and to meet up with some ladies from Another Mother Runner.

At the Philly Expo with Sarah Bowen Shea and Karyn Ryan

Race Day started out very well. The weather was great, cold at the start (mid 30 degrees), and warmed up to high 40's by the end.  I felt really great for the first 17-18 miles, right on pace for a sub 4 hr marathon.  At mile 19, I started feeling tired physically. My legs started to slow, and no matter how my mind tried to will them to go faster, they wouldn't.  The last 6 miles were really rough, but I kept moving forward, only walking through the water stops, taking electrolytes and energy gel regularly.  I was not able to pick up my pace, and I finished in a disappointing 4:06:00 (yes, right down to the second).  Although it was a 3 min and 58 second PR from the Napa Marathon I ran in 2012, I had not reached my goal of sub 4hr, or BQ time. 
  Looking back now, I most likely went out a bit too fast in the first half. The pace felt so easy, and I may have pushed it too much while I was feeling great.  I believed I fueled well, taking a Gu gel every 4 miles, just like I had in training.
 I am now looking into hiring a coach to help me in training for my next marathon.  I would really love to achieve a BQ time before September of 2015 so that I can run Boston Marathon 2016. 
 I am proud of my running achievements this year though.  I did achieve PR times in the 5k, 10k, 10 mile, 1/2 Marathon and Marathon.  I was injury free the whole year, and I was very consistent with my running and cross training. 
  I would like to thank Oiselle and Nuun Hydration for continuing to support my training and running.  I also loved having the support of the Another Mother Runner community.  I absolutely love getting "Kudos" from all the ladies on Strava
  Here's to a great year in 2015!



Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Top Ten Reasons Why I Loved the Runner's World Half and Festival

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of participating in the Runner's World Half and Festival.  Here are my top ten reasons of why I loved it:

10. The timing of it worked out perfectly in my training for the Philadelphia Marathon (Nov.23) and for the Another Mother Runner 13.Fun Challenge.

9.  The different race distances made it accessible to family members as well. My son, age 13, decided since he was coming with me that he would run the 5k on Saturday.
Mother-son bonding weekend.

8. The option of race day pickup for racing bibs.  I wanted to get there Friday night, but wasn't entirely sure I would make it to the expo in time.  Knowing that I could pick up my number on Saturday was great. This is rare in running events, but much appreciated.

7.  Runner's World Half and Festival app for my smartphone.  This was a free app that allowed me to check the schedule quickly, keep updated on weather, and look up results after the race.

6. Bethlehem, PA: What a beautiful city.  I had never been here before, and the setting was perfect, especially at this time of year for a road race.  I loved running over the Fahy Bridge and enjoying the beautiful Lehigh river, as well as some of the quaint neighborhoods that we had the pleasure of running through.  I also enjoyed the restaurants, especially Bethlehem Brew Works, where I enjoyed spicy fish tacos and a delicious oatmeal stout.

5.  Free seminars offered Saturday afternoon.  I attended Women's Running with a panel of women, including Tish Hamilton and My Life on the Run with Bart Yasso.  I also attended Course Strategy: How to Run the RW Half, which was especially helpful.  Having the route explained ahead of time really helped me to prepare my strategy the day before. It was a hilly course, and it was nice to be prepared mentally.
Tish Hamilton

Race director of the weekend events, Bart Yasso.

Editor-in-Chief David Willey

4.  Getting to meet some of the people from Runner's World in person. I have been reading Runner's World for at least 14 years, just a short time after I first started running.  Through social media, especially twitter, I have enjoyed getting to "know" them.  They were all so friendly at the seminars, and even on the race course. 

3. This was one of the most organized, runner-friendly races I have experienced.  From the emails I received before the race, all the way to the finish area, everything went exceptionally smoothly.  There were plenty of helpful volunteers, no lines at gear check, clean bathrooms and porta potty's, and a nice warm venue for my son to wait while I ran.  I stayed at the Hyatt hotel, which was only a 5 minute drive away, and offered special rates for the race.  There was always plenty of parking, as I went back and forth all 3 days.  An added bonus was having Bart Yasso greeting the runners at the finish line and calling out our names. How cool is that?

2.  Reuniting with some of my Another Mother Runner Ragnar teammates.  Karyn and Joan were able to come for the weekend as well, and we all stayed at the Hyatt.  We had fun catching up and supporting each other at the races.
Mother Runners Karyn, myself, and Joan

And the number one reason I love the Runner's World Half and Festival...........

 The Hat Trick.  What a fun challenge this was! I would encourage people to sign up for this, rather than just one of the races.  It allows you to really enjoy the entire weekend race experience.  It includes a 5k on Saturday at 8am, followed by the 10k at 9:30.  On Sunday morning, you line up to run the Half Marathon.  I decided to use the 5k as a warm up, with some strides at the end.  I pushed a bit on the 10k, and came close to setting a PR.  The biggest surprise was achieving a PR in the Half Marathon, on a quite hilly course! I came away from this weekend feeling very well trained and strong for the Philadelphia Marathon on Nov.23.

Elevation chart from Strava from the 1/2 marathon course. I loved the downhills!
Some nice hardware earned in this challenge! Plus, a hat, t-shirt and pair of socks! And of course, a shiny new PR! Sweet.

So, if you're looking for a fun weekend, and a great challenge, sign up for the 2015 Runner's World Half and Festival. Registration is already open: Come on, I know you want to try the Hat Trick!