I’m not the greatest snooper. I have trouble lurking behind the scenes (shocking, I know) except when I’m feeling overwhelmed and awkward, which was the case though out the Runner’s World Half and Festival weekend.

RUNNER'S WORLD HALF & FESTIVAL

As you all know by now, running is my passion. I absolutely love to run for so many reasons and, because of that passion, I have come to know and love so many things and people in the running world. Obscure to most, these running heroes and legends I have followed, read and cheered on for years, were amazingly right before my eyes last weekend and it was surreal. I was desperately trying not to geek out too much, but it was increasingly difficult from the very start.

Here’s a glimpse into the sights and sounds from a weekend in my dreams where mentors and Oylmpians were all around me.

Deena Kastor

Although I met Bart Yasso first, I have to start with Deena, mostly because when I saw her I wasn’t quite ready for it.

The very night we arrived we were loaded onto a bus and driven to Rodale/Runner’s World HQ. Rodale is the parent company of Runner’s World and we were told Bart Yasso and a lot of the editorial staff would be there. Literally two minutes after entering the building, Deena Kastor walked around the corner with her entire family. Holy ********!

What we know

Deena holds American records in the marathon (2:19:36), half-marathon (1:07:34), and numerous road distances. She won the bronze medal in the women’s marathon at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece and just recently shattered the Masters (over 40) half-marathon record at the Chicago Marathon with a time of 1:09:36. She is now 41 years old and is my hero more then ever.

Total fierceness leading the pack in Philly!

Total fierceness leading the pack in Philly! Source: deenakastor.com

What we did not know 

Deena is a real life human. You know how when you meet a celebrity or someone who is famous to you and, because you have these huge expectations or fantasies you have built up in your mind, you’re actually surprised to hear them talk about things you can relate to? Well, that’s how it was meeting Deena.

She took an individual picture with every single person in this photo and did it happily.

She took an individual picture with every single person in this photo and did it happily.

– She’s thinner in real life then she even looks in her photos. The woman is like a whippet and looks as fast as she actually is. She also eats a lot just like every healthy runner. I know this because I sat next to her at lunch!

– Of course when she sat down I congratulated her on her most recent awesomeness of killing the masters half-marathon record and asked “Did you know from the beginning that you were going to do it?” She looked at me like I just asked her if she wore a monkey suit to race in and said “OMG no! I was filled with doubt at so many moments and it was such a difficult race!” She continued to talk about the race and how she felt but my mind was looping something like “Holy what the hell is happening…you’re talking to Deena Kastor!” so I’m not really sure what else she said.

We're the same height and she's only a year older then me. #AlmostTwins

We’re the same height and she’s only a year older then me. #AlmostTwins

– When asked what he pre-race meal is she said it’s the most boring this ever – toast and a banana – and also added “I eat bananas because runners are supposed to eat bananas!” Wait…what? We’re all eating bananas because YOU eat them! Obviously she does not understand she is the alpha runner and is leading our pack, right down to what we have for breakfast.

**We also thought just toast and a banana was so little for a pre-marathon meal until we remembered she races a marathon in our half marathon time or possibly 10k time. Touché.

Some of the most delicious food we had for lunch. All meals were cooked from the "Meals On The Run" cookbook. Can you guess who publishes that?

Some of the most delicious food we had for lunch. All meals were cooked from the “Meals On The Run” cookbook. Can you guess who publishes that?

– She talks herself though races just like we do. She was telling us about a very close race she had and, when coming down the final miles, she looked back a lot (a big no no in racing!) and said there were a lot of “oh shits!” going on in her head.

Why are we all eating bananas?

Why are we all eating bananas?

– The most moving and human moment came when she talked about trying to balance being a mom and being an athlete. She was struggling with having a new baby, and training to be an Olympic athlete once again, and then had a very disappointing race. She started crying saying how when she crossed the finish line she felt she had failed as a mom and as an athlete and was totally overwhelmed. Well, pretty much every mother runner in the room was crying with her because we have all been there! It was so moving and just so real.

The Pictures

We had a barbecue and s’mores roast at the Runner’s World HQ in Emmaus, PA the first night we were there. This is me (with the gray sweatshirt and my wonder woman Altra’s on) and Deena and her family roasting marshmallows. Surreal moment number 1:

Doesn't everyone eat marshmallows with Olympians? Pfff

Doesn’t everyone eat marshmallows with Olympians? Pfff

Back inside, I spied this legend who runs the infamous Manchester Road Race near my hometown, each and every year on Thanksgiving Day. Back in his prime he used to win it. Oh and he also won the freakin’ Boston Marathon in 1968.

Amby Burfoot. The man, the myth, the legend.

Amby Burfoot and Deena Kastor in one picture. Pinch me.

Amby Burfoot and Deena Kastor in one picture. Pinch me.

BART YASSO

The ambassador of running himself, the charming, witty and highly energetic man came outside to greet us as soon as we stepped off the bus. Little did we know, we were in for a wild ride on the Bart train! He was equal parts tour guide, motivator, inspirer and running legend.

Starting our tour inside RW HQ.

Starting our tour inside RW HQ.

It’s hard to put into words the energy this man gives off. He’s high on life and has a passion for running I have only seen in myself. He makes you want to give him a huge hug and then run 157 miles. I’m so happy I had the chance to meet him, see his home, ride in his car and run with him.

What we know

Mr. Yasso is the inventor of Yasso 800s and is also one of the few people to have completed races on all seven continents from the Antarctica marathon to the Mt. Kilimanjaro marathon. In 1987, Yasso won the U.S. National Biathlon Long Course Championship and won the Smoky Mountain Marathon in 1998, a picture of which he has in his living room! He has also completed the Ironman five times and the Badwater 146 through Death Valley. He has also cycled, unsupported and by himself, across the country twice.

Not a bad resume for Runner’s World’s Chief Running Officer. Is that a great title for a business card or what?

Shoot for the moon my young running friends! Bart showing us the center of the building and it's energy force. #IBelieve

Shoot for the moon my young running friends! Bart showing us the center of the building and it’s energy force. #UseTheForce

What we did not know

Um, let’s see…I had never been in Bart’s car or his home until last week.

Friday morning we were leaving the trail, after getting a sneak peek of the course for that afternoon, and I was a little behind since I was tossing out my coffee cup in a proper receptacle, lest the forest be ravaged by my Dunkin Donuts Styrofoam cup. As I  headed back to my van, Bart rolled down his car window and said “Do you need a ride?” Is that a joke? Hell yes I do!

Just driving around with the actual Bart and flat Bart was in the trunk in between myself and David who took this great shot!

Just driving around with the actual Bart while flat Bart was in the trunk in between myself and David who took this great shot!

After a quick trip to Starbucks to get more coffee, Bart decided we needed to see his home, and not just drive by but get out and go inside. It was a little odd to have a pack of runners entering his house, but we were the only ones who seemed uncomfortable about it. I think he just truly embraces the running community and, knew how in awe of him we all were, and he wanted to share as much as he could with us.

The Pictures

Outside casa de Bart. It's a lovely home and I believe it was built in the 1700s!

Outside casa de Bart. It’s a lovely home and I believe it was built in the 1700s!

Many of you have probably already seen this but how cool can this guy get?

Many of you have probably already seen this but how cool can this guy get?

OTHER RANDOMNESS CAPTURED AT THE RW HEADQUARTERS

Every office should have a space where you can store your bike! I wasn’t surprised that RW had a room like this but I was kind of surprised at how full it was! I absolutely love this and we were told there were more then a few very expensive ones in there…

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This is how they lay out the magazine! It was so interesting to me because I wish I could have something like this at home just for all my day to day responsibilities. I’m such a visual person so this would help tremendously!

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This is the door to Bart’s office. How can you not love it? Do you know where I keep all my bibs? In my garage. Also, the “coolest” ones I have are from Spain, the Boston Marathon and the first time I qualified for Boston. Bart has ones from around the world and it’s just amazing that he keeps coming back to this space to hang them up. And, if you don’t know what the Comrades Marathon is you should google it and be prepared for your head to explode.

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There were only a few larger then life covers that I saw around the office and this was one of them. You know I have to give a shout out to 10 foot tall Kara and Team Oiselle! #HeadUpWingsOut #FlyteShortsRule

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Finally, I  saw this sign at the race expo. Um, isn’t it a little late for this?

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Have you ever met a hero or someone you really admire in real life? How was the expeirence?

What is one of the most random photos you have?

Where is your favorite or coolest race bib from?

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