I never played organized soccer or hockey, thus I’ve never had a real shot at a hat trick. So when I heard about the opportunity to run a “hat trick” of my own at the Runner’s World Festival, the only answer possible answer for me was “Hell, yeah!” It wasn’t until my virtual coach for the upcoming ING NYC Marathon alerted me to the fact that the aforementioned “hat trick” would, in fact, equal a whopping 22 miles over 2 days that I tilted my head to the side, squinted my eyes, smiled slightly while I wondered aloud “Can I do this?!” I knew I could do it, but there certainly was a moment where I wondered, “What have I gotten myself into?!” running the hat trick.
The glorious fact is I was one of 1,000 runners going for the hat trick, fellow crazies who decided that 22 miles over 2 days was a fabulous idea. I mean, why not, right? What else were we gonna do during the weekend mornings at a running festival, sleep? It would have been a shame to miss the gorgeous sunrises, those beautiful autumn leaves, and all those wonderful people who came out to cheer us on. My opinion, life is for living and I wanted to soak it up so I laced up my running shoes.
DAY 1: 5k & 10K
The first official day started earlier than my kids wanted it to. We’d spent the previous two days visiting family in Lansdale, Pa., where I was VERY generous with their bedtime, and that along with the timezone finally caught up to them. But once we got everyone suited up and bundled up (it was chilly), we walked the ½ mile to the start line and were ready to run. And the 5K was wonderful! I’d always planned to take it easy during this race and run it with my family. I love running with my kids. I ran with Spider, my five-year-old son, and Erik ran with Skye, our six-year-old daughter. We were about a ¼ mile apart. Every time someone cheered for Spider, he would get so embarrassed and cover his face and and then speed up. We also had a couple dressed up as Superman behind us who would get close and yell, “Here we come Spiderman!” That would get him sprinting again, only giggling instead of hiding! Nearing the finish line, the greatest motivator of all, my 5-year-old took one look at me and said, “I am leaving you in the dust mom!” And he did, sprinting all the way thru with a HUGE grin.
Skye and daddy came rolling through a few minutes later, and we got together with our medals for a family finish photo. It was the perfect way to start my hat trick. I wasn’t running hard, I was running with joy and pride for my kids. There is no better way to teach your kids the importance of a healthy lifestyle than by example. (And it’s so cute they way they cherish their finisher medals.)
I then said goodbye to my hubby and kids, who went back to enjoy breakfast, and walked around to meet some new friends before the start of the 10K. To be honest, the 1ok is a rather new experience for me. I had only run maybe one other in my life, so it was charting new territory. And that made it even more fun because I had zero expectations. I was pulled onto the stage for the start, and it was fun standing up there , looking out at the happy faces of my running family all lined up and ready to go. There were so many people smiling, just happy to be running and to be a part of this awesome environment. I lead the countdown for the start, sounded the horn, and even high-fived a few runners as they went on their way. And then I hopped down to begin my own 6.2.
I chatted with several people along the first couple of miles, so much so that the time and distance flew by. Then I heard these girls chatting away as they came up behind me. I recognized them from the Friday running bloggers event, so I hopped right in with them, and we went for it. Jennae held us to an AMAZING pace, and all I could think was thank goodness she kept up the conversation because I was out of breath! We ran well and actually had some speed left at the end to finish strong, which was one of my goal for this weekend’s events. We all finished with a smile, followed by the first words out of my mouth once I caught my breath, “There is NO WAY I can run the half-marathon like that!” But being pushed by some new running friends was fabulous. My time, 45:03… fourth in my age-group!
I was tired at the end of the day, and I did have a thought or two about whether my 41-year-old body was going to be able to handle the 13.1 ahead. So I did what any sane person would do, I had an awesome pasta dinner and went to bed early!
Day 2: Half Marathon
The next day started with my alarm at a lovely 6:15 a.m. (which I may have pressed snooze on once or twice;) I finally rolled out of bed around 6:50 a.m. and got my gear on in a the dark hotel room. My crew was sleeping in, and I didn’t blame them. In fact, part of me wanted to climb right back into my toasty bed, but I couldn’t…I wanted that hat trick! So I made my way to the race start with my fellow half-marathoners, all 3,000 of us! Every half I’ve ever run feels like a fun group to me, and I love how many people at this event were venturing out to tackle their first half. I recognize that running your first big race is a huge moment, and honestly seeing them all fueled my enthusiasm and motivation to race.
The only big, noticeable difference I found racing back-to-back days is that my body really needed a little warm up and a good stretch prior to starting out. Walking from the room toward the starting area, I was very aware that my legs were sore and I knew my hamstrings needed a little TLC. So I took a 5-minute jog around the Sands Casino parking lot, and then went inside to stretch in the warmth. And it worked wonders! My legs felt fine after and ready to go. My mindset for this race was to go out very easy and practice feeling strong at the end of the race. So I held back as much as I could.
In the early stages, I met a fella named Andrew and we chatted about our kids. Another woman joined in on our discussion, and we all rattled on about our kids’ obsessions with Teen Beach Movie. Classic right?!?! Nothing takes your mind off of the pain of a race like some Disney conversation. Somewhere along the way, Andrew and I separated, and I started running with others, including Scott from Australia. He and I briefly chatted about the state of Aussie swimming, as he was not pleased with their last Olympic showing.
While on the route, I also jumped myself into a free running skirt and was offered a Bloody Mary, which I really wanted but declined. Then I ran into Molly. She was jamming, and we were running right next to each other, sort of feeding off each other so I asked her if I could run with her until the end. She replied, “Yes! I was trying to stay up with you.” So my new buddy and I sprinted along together the last mile, picking up a few people along the way by encouraging them the “get a GREAT finish.”
As I crossed finish line of the final race of my hat trick weekend, I was happy and proud. I was happy I had actually done it, and equally proud to be part of such a great group of people. The running community never ceases to amaze me. The weekend was competitive, but in such a positive and friendly environment. Runner’s World Chief Running Officer Bart Yasso, himself, got on the mic and said a few nice things about you near the finish, and you couldn’t help but smile and run a little taller after that.
There was this moment well after I had finished my half, when Erik and I had moved over to a play area near the last 25 yards of the race with the kids, that I was stretching while watching waves of people cross the finish. I said to Erik, “Look at this sweetie. This is why I LOVE running. Many of these people have never finished a half marathon before and we’re lucky enough to be here and witness it. It is pure joy!” That’s why I run, not for the times but for the joy of running.