Runners World Half Marathon (1:24.52)

I’ve always enjoyed the Runners World Festival in Bethlehem, PA, put on by Runners World Magazine. During the Runners World Festival Weekend, there are several multi distance challenges and levlels including a kids run, trail run, 5k, 10k, dog run, and half marathon. The Runners World Festival has a race for runners of all levels. For me running the 5k and Runners World half marathon works the best (to stay healthy). The Festival is Beautiful Bethlehem, Pennsylvania just miles away from the Runners World Headquarters (ETA: Now moved to NYC).

The Runners World Half Marathon is one of the hardest half marathons I do.  Oddly enough, even after running the 5k before, I seem to run one of my faster times, and I’ve run two of my top 10 half marathon times there.

This year, my dad decided to run as well.  We relaxed and had a relatively easy morning.

Around 7 am, we walked to the start.  I found the half-mile walk to be warm up enough.  Between the 5k, warmup, cooldown and exploring downtown Bethlehem, I had put close to 13 miles on my legs the day before.  I didn’t need any extra miles before the race.

After going to the bathroom a few times, I found my way to start corral near the Bethlehem Steel Complex.  I was still wearing my leggings.  As I tried to pull them off, they got stuck on my shoes, I fell, and my shoes came off.  All of this two minutes before the race went off.  I had already made a fool of myself.  As I’m fumbling, the announcer called for us to move up and the 1:50 pacer moved in front of me.

It all worked out, and I quickly made it to the appropriate place and started next to my friend Rosie.  The course had a few changes around the start this year, and we looped around the steel mill area.  It was tough to see the mile 12 marker before crossing mile 1, but I put it out of sight.

I hit the first mile in 6:30.  There was a huge pack of people in front of me, followed by just me.  I laughed at myself in what I nicknamed: “The chase pack of 1”.  I was hoping I would not be running the entire race alone, but whatever happened…happened.

Runners world half festival me

During the second mile of the Runners World Festival Half, I began catching the pack.  It included my friend Rosie, five other women and a few males.  I wasn’t counting the men because it didn’t matter to me.  I didn’t know who was beyond that pack, but I decided to leech onto to the pack.  During the second mile, I felt like the kid trying to fit in with the cool kids but was just lagging.  The title of high school gym class.

The third mile brought all of the women running together and the men spread out.  We quickly formed a lady pack, and ultimately about five us ran nearly the entire race together.  I have run very few races with a pack of people for the whole race.  It’s intimidating, nerve-wracking, and scary.  We hit the 5k in 19:33.

The middle miles (between 4-10)  is where the course gets moderate and challenging.  We climbed several uphills as well as downhills.  The next few miles ticked off quickly and running together made it go by much quicker.  It was evident which runners were stronger in downhills and uphills due to how the pace would vary.  We were never more than a couple of seconds apart.

I believe around mile 5; someone shouted top females are coming through.  It was at that point I realized, holy $hit, any 5 of us could win right now.  To be honest, I kind of shut myself out.  I thought, if it came down to the final mile, I wouldn’t have it in me.  I also thought I might get dropped in the later miles anyway.  I didn’t have confidence in myself.  I was cruising at a pace, I wasn’t trained to be at but running surprises you.  Sometimes you have a magic gear that appears when you least expect it.

I hit the 10k in 40:23 and I was both surprised and excited.  I wasn’t sure how I would feel during the half marathon.  The year before, I had run a 1:24.17 and two years prior a 1:28.  I told myself anything faster than a month ago at the Air Force Half Marathon; I would be pleased with.

After the 10k, I was still running in the same pack of women.  No one had left our pack, and we were all appearing to run strong.  I began to realize just how painful this finish would be.  Not everyone could be a podium finisher.  It was intimidating to know that in that group, only one person would win and only three would place.  Winning was not the most important thing to me, I just had never been in that situation, and it was weird to think about.

Around mile 8, my favorite event of the entire weekend happened.  Our lady pack passed a young kid in a Batman costume.  He was trying his hardest to high five the runners.  To that point, we hadn’t wasted any excess energy.  We were running in a tight pack and cutting all tangents.  As we passed this young kid, our pack went into a single file line and each side fived the kid.  It was if we had planned the entire thing.

Mile 8 and 9, climbed a couple more hills but nothing of note.

I hit the 10-mile point in 1:04.25.  At that point, I realized it was just three of us.  Myself, Rosie, and another female from Philadelphia who had outkicked me last year.  I knew her well and knew she was the best downhill runner I’ve ever seen.  Which was not good news because the last three miles of the race are more downhill.  They aren’t total downhill, but there is more downhill than up.

At one point during mile 11, I was leading the entire race.  I laughed a bit, and of course, a video crew was filming the race there.  I waved to the camera like a fangirl and carried on.  We crushed mile 11 in 6:18.  I just kept telling myself 2 miles to go.

In the final two miles, Rosie and I separated ourselves from the pack.  I could not believe it.  I was a contender to win, and so was my good friend and neighbor Rosie.  We hit mile 12 in 6:20 and it began a power sprint.  She floored it into a gear I did not have that day and started separating herself from me.  Around mile 12.5, I knew I couldn’t catch her, but I didn’t want to give up second.  I gritted my teeth and just focused on the finish.  I saw Rosie finish just up ahead and by the time I knew it, I was crossing the Runners World Half finish 10 seconds later.

Runners world half festival me

I crossed in 1:24.52 and as second female overall.  I could not believe it.  I had surprised myself in time and placing. Not my fastest course time, but my highest placing and my most competitive race.  It taught me a lot about running in a pack and not second-guessing yourself and your ability.

They announced the top three females, and it was great to stand on the podium again with Rosie.  I could not be happier for her as she is an incredible athlete and forwent a marathon this season (she’s run under three before) to train for that.

Runners world half festival me

After that, I went and cheered for my dad who ran a great race as well.

In all, I’m happy with another successful weekend of racing at the Runners World Festival.  The Runners World festival is such a fun experience, and I was telling a few people, even if I don’t run or race well, it’s just fun.  Typically the weather at the Runners World Half is beautiful, and the vibes from the race are so enjoyable.  It’s hard not to enjoy yourself and that’s why I’ll continue to go back to the Runners World Festival.

Questions for you:

What is the hilliest race you’ve done?

Have you ever run with a pack of people?

Treno Pizza Bar

Treno Pizza Bar

Recently I’ve had a few more opportunities to go to local restaurants in South Jersey.  This particular time, my husband and I were invited to go to Treno Pizza Bar in Westmont, NJ.

We’ve been to Treno Pizza Bar before, and it’s one of the best pizza spots in the area. We were invited to try the new menu.  When looking at possible days, I thought after the Runners World Festival would be ideal.  The last thing I really want to do is cook, and Treno Pizza Bar sounded much more appealing.  But really, when doesn’t it?

We arrived at Treno Pizza Bar around 5:30 pm.  The area of Westmont has had a lot of construction lately, including brand new shiny high rise apartments next door.  Honestly, if my husband didn’t need a garage, I would love to live there. Those apartments are in a prime spot to walk to several bars or fancier restaurants that serve alcohol such as Treno Pizza Bar.

When we arrived at Treno Pizza, we were greeted by the hostess. Since it was a beautiful evening, we opted to sit on the patio at Treno Pizza Bar. Treno pizza bar westmont nj

The manager at Treno Pizza Bar came over and gave us personal recommendations, including the veggie pizza and Treno Board.

As I mentioned, Treno Pizza Bar serves alcohol, including craft beer.  I immediately noticed Flying Fish beer, which I ran a local 5k at the brewery last month.

After chatting with the manager, the Treno board came out quickly with a variety of different bites including prosciutto di parma, house-cured meat, robiola, caciocavallo, roasted peppers, olives, crostini.  Everything on the board was delicious.  As someone who loves olives, they were my personal favorite.  The types of cheeses were both unique and I hadn’t had either.  Definitely a great starter! Treno pizza bar westmont nj board

As the manager recommended, I ordered the Veggie pizza.  Veggie pizza isn’t typically my first choice as I love pepper, sausage, and meat pizzas.

Heck, I even like pineapple pizza but I always like trying new things, and the Brick Oven Veggie Pizza came with butternut squash, onions, and goat cheese.  It reminded me a lot of a flatbread and something that would be perfect for a half marathon or marathon.  The pizza itself isn’t huge, which I appreciated.

Treno pizza bar westmont nj

My husband ordered the new Wood Oven Calabrian pizza which had house-made chili sausage, red onion, mozzarella, roasted corn, red sauce.  The manager mentioned a lot of people have come in loving spicy foods, so they want to incorporate more of that and to be honest, I agree.  I’m all about anything spicy.

Treno pizza bar westmont nj pizza

Both pizzas were great and I would order either of them again.  In fact, I think the veggie pizza might become a staple for before races for me.

At Treno Pizza Bar, we also decided to split the Tiramisu dessert and scoop of their vanilla gelato.  The Tiramisu came in a mason jar and had whipped cream (you know I love that!), fig jam and a biscotti cookie.  Both the gelato and tiramisu were great.

Treno pizza bar westmont nj pizza tiramisu

I had such a pleasant experience at the Treno Pizza Bar, and I appreciate the invitation to try their new menu.  Everything at Treno Pizza Bar from the food, to the service to the atmosphere, is so welcoming.  I like the idea of having smaller plates to split and snack on.  As someone who likes to try a lot of different items, this is awesome.  Plus, serving alcohol, many people need food but don’t want anything heavy.  If you are ever local, I recommend Treno Pizza Bar.

Thank you for the invitation Treno and I look forward to coming back!

Questions for you:

What is your favorite type of pizza?

Have you tried tiramisu before? 

Have you been to Treno Pizza Bar? 

Key City diner phillipsburg
Key City Diner (Phillipsburg)

Key City Diner (Phillipsburg)

Recently I went to the Key City Diner in Phillipsburg.  It came highly recommended so when the opportunity presented itself; I drove a bit out of my way to go.

I arrived at the Key City Diner around 5 pm.  It wasn’t too crowded, and there was plenty of seating.

Key City Diner Atmosphere: A
You can’t miss the Key City Diner.  When driving by, there is a giant Key Sign, and it looks like a stereotypical diner.  It’s a big metallic, shiny, diner and is everything you picture in a diner.  If you’re looking to bring friends to a picture-perfect NJ diner, this is your spot.

Key City diner phillipsburg

The inside feels as if you stepped into a time machine when diners were created.  Interestingly enough, there was also a decently sized salad bar too, which is something many now lack.

Key City Diner Service: B
The waitress at the Key City Diner was a bit awkward and either new or not comfortable.  She did refill our beverages, and the food came out quickly, but every interaction was awkward.

For instance, I ordered a beef gyro, and she miscorrected me of how to pronounce gyro.  Then later, she pronounced it a different way: not a big deal, just many small awkward interactions.

Key City Diner Coffee: B
There was nothing unusual or unique about the coffee, but it wasn’t bad either.  The waitress brewed it hot and kept it refilled.

Key City diner phillipsburg

Key City Diner Food: B
The Key City Diner menu has everything you could picture in a diner.  One the Key City Diner menu, there is breakfast all day, multiple dinner meals, salads, and seafood.  As I mentioned, it also has a salad bar too.

Key City diner phillipsburg

I opted for a beef Gyro with a Caesar salad. The gyro itself was good and had plenty of beef.  It came with fries which they gave me an entire plate.  The Caesar salad was filled, and I appreciated they already added the dressing.

Cost: $
For my gyro, salad, and coffee, the cost was $12.

Overall Summary/Would I come back to the Key City Diner?
I enjoyed the Key City Diner, and if I’m back in the area, I will come back.  The Key City Diner is above average, and in the middle of diners, I’ve been too

Atmosphere: A
Service: B
Coffee: B
Food: B
Cost: $8-$20
Overall: B

See More Diner Reviews Here

Questions for you:
What’s your favorite type of salad?
What is the coolest restaurant sign you’ve seen?

Runners World Festival 5k (18:46)

I’ve always enjoyed the Runners World Festival in Bethlehem, PA, put on by Runners World Magazine. During the Runners World Festival Weekend, there are several multi distance challenges including a trail run, 5k, 10k, kids run, dog run, and half marathon. For me running the 5k and Runners World half marathon works the best (to stay healthy). The Festival is Beautiful Bethlehem, Pennsylvania just miles away from the Runners World Headquarters (ETA: Now moved to NYC).

The races themselves are scenic and feature Bethlehem’s historic neighborhoods including the Bethlehem steel complex.

After running the Runners World 5k twice (in 2015 and 2016), I knew what to expect with the course.  I knew the first mile was hilly, the second mile had a nice downhill, and the third mile had a couple of hills but nothing like the first mile.

I didn’t sleep well the night before.  I’m not sure why, but my body decided that 5 am was a good time to be wide awake.  So with that, I was up at 5.  I ate breakfast and just kind of waited around in my hotel room.

Around 7 am, I went for a warmup.  My legs didn’t feel good, but they felt decent.  Due to Runners World Influencer events and a busy day before, I felt more exhausted than normal but I knew I would.  We did a HIIT class, and you can ask any of the bloggers there I was definitely the caboose in fitness there.

I don’t run Runners World Festival to PR, I run because I like the atmosphere, Runners World, and it’s fun.  Not that I’m in PRing shape anyway.

I also knew it wouldn’t be my fastest time because of the hills but also because I’m not in the same fitness as last year.  Never the less, I was excited to run and my husband and I went for a 3 mile warm up.

By the time I realized it, it was 8 minutes until the race and I wasn’t at the start.  I hustled over and on the way, the policeman told me I was the last person.  Ha..I arrived at the start at 7:58 for the 8:00 am start.  I quickly threw my things in the bushes, and one minute later we were off.  Despite being awake early, I seem to cut every race close.

The first mile got out fast.  There were several women in front of me, and I figured if I could place in my age group again I would be happy.  Slowly, I began catching women, and by the time we went over the bridge I found myself as third female overall.

As I began focusing on my race, I noticed a familiar face.  Not because we were friends but because I recognized her from photos.  Ryan Hall’s oldest daughter, passed me as if I was standing still.  I looked several feet ahead and noticed Ryan, himself, was jogging in sweats in front of her.  I hit the first mile in 6:18 which with the hills, I was happy with.

The second mile begins the nitty gritty of the race.  Of the three miles, it’s the easiest with a few downhills to charge and make up time for the first mile.   I passed two women and hit the second mile in 5:54 which is my fastest mile since returning to the sport.

My legs were tired during the third mile, but I wanted desperately to hold on.  My good friend Rosie was catching me (Spoiler: we ran the entire half marathon together until she floored it for the win).

During the last half mile, I told myself I’ve been working on my kick.  I need to take it to a gear I haven’t been in a while.  I have one of the worst kicks of any runner and chances are, if you are near me in the final strides you can outkick me.  I lost a lot of races in the spring due to being outkicked by a few seconds.

Last Saturday, I kicked as hard as I could and finished at a 5:49 pace, barely holding onto second.  If it was a 3.2-mile race, I can guarantee Rosie would have passed me.  I finished in 18:46 which is only 5 seconds slower than last year and last week (last week was a much easier course).

Runners World 5k me running

After the race, Hanna, Rosie, and I accepted our awards and the Hall’s were kind enough to even take a photo with me and chat for a few minutes.

To be honest, it was one of the most surreal moments of my life.  I’m standing there accepting an award with two of the greatest distance runners and just babbling about who knows what.  Not my first time making a fool of myself as I made Kate Grace choke on a hotdog a few years ago. Despite being a challenging course, I enjoy the Runners World Races through Beautiful Bethleham, Pennsylvania.

Questions for you:

Do you have a good kick?

Have you ever met a famous runner?

Runners World Festivities Recap

The Runners World Festival is one of my favorite weekends of the year.  I was lucky enough to participate in both 2015 and 2016 too.  Every year as I leave, I drive up the steep hill out of Bethlehem thinking: “Could this have been any more fun?” and it’s surprised me each time.

The short version recap is: I had, even more, fun in 2017, how that is possible, I’m not sure.

I was able to participate again as an influencer.  As an influencer, we arrived in Bethlehem the Thursday before, and receive a tour of Runners World and dinner with the editors.

The Runner’s World Organic Café has delicious food and to be honest if I worked there, I don’t know if I would ever come home with a paycheck because I would eat there all of the time.

Runners World Festival
We made salad bowls with grilled chicken, green goddess dressing, and roasted vegetables.

Friday was jam-packed, and we were out of the hotel at 6:45 am.  Typically, I’m running at home by then.  We did a shakeout run with a good friend Suzanne and Ryan Hall.  It was about 30 minutes, relaxed and I didn’t even bring a watch.  We stopped and took a photo with the sun.

Runners World Festival
Photo Credit Marty D.

After that, we met at the Steelstacks and the Altra founder: Golden Harper gave us a briefing on how Altra came to be.  He described creating the first Altra shoes in his toaster oven and how the term “zero drop” came about.  It’s a fascinating seminar, and if you ever get the chance to hear from him personally, I highly recommend it.

Runners World Festival Altra Clinic

As someone who works in a running store, I nerd out to it anyway, but Altra shoes are unique in many different ways.  They are foot shaped and allow the toes to spread out as feet naturally do and are balanced front to back with the same amount of cushion in the front of the shoe as well as the back.  You can read my recent review of the Altra Escalante here.

After that, Golden gave us a clinic on form and running more efficiently.  It’s always a useful clinic and a few of his tips such as a higher arm swing has helped me throughout racing.

After that, we had lunch and listened to the Mayor Running, himself, Bart Yasso discussed his new book Race Everything.

Bart is retiring after 30 years, and it is always such a treat to have him talk to us and listen to his stories.  He gave a powerful speech about various times he has connected with people and it made me tear up.  You never know how you are influencing someone.

Finally, we checked out the expo and picked up our bibs.  I always appreciate the unique and smaller companies at Runners World.  This year anyone doing the hat trick 5k/10k/13.1 received a hat, and anyone doing the Grand Slam 3.8 trail race/5k/10k/13.1 received a nice backpack.

Influencers were also given a tote bag filled with goodies such as socks and fun gear.  They even gave us a free one to give to readers.  All you have to do is comment with someone that has influenced or inspired you and why.  Winner will be chosen over the weekend and announced Monday.

After that, we prepared for the weekend of races. I left Friday feeling inspired by meeting so many different bloggers and Runners World Editors.

I’ll recap both the 5k and the 13.1 in the following days.

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