Race Report: Runner’s World Half & Festival

Race Report: Runner's World Half & Festival

Larisa & Karla cheer, Mark & Kristin run (RunKarlaRun.com)

When Runner’s World puts on an event in their hometown, they do it right.  Runner’s World Half & Festival in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania is basically fantasy camp for runners. All participants—not just bloggers—at the weekend’s events had the opportunity to meet Deena Kastor, Bart Yasso, and the entire Runner’s World team. Seminars, running clinics, kids races, a dog run, pasta party, and other events filled our days and nights with all things running.

Runner’s World brought me out to the race as their guest, along with a cadre of other bloggers. My quest? Run four races in three days for a total of 26.2 miles.

I was only half successful, thanks to plantar fasciitis. Despite that, I had a ton of fun.

I’ve already recapped the Altra Trail 3.8-mile Trail Race and Runner’s World 5K & 10K. Now on the menu is the Runner’s World Half & Festival!

Race Report: Runner's World Half & Festival

Post-race band! (RunKarlaRun.com)

Runner’s World Half Marathon

Thanks to shooting pain in my heel—which turned out to be plantar fasciitis and the beginning of a heel spur—I opted not to run the Runner’s World Half Marathon. Instead, I headed out to cheer near Mile 11 of the course with two other injured bloggers—my roomie for the weekend, Jess at RacePaceJess.com (who’d sprained her ankle at the Altra Trail Run), and Larisa at LarisaDixon.com, who’d hurt her calf and pulled out of the race.

Race Report: Runner's World Half & Festival

Along the course (RunKarlaRun.com)

We had a blast. We clapped, we yelled, we cheered, we laughed, and had a great time. We spotted most of the other bloggers Runner’s World had brought out for the event.

Then Jess hobbled back to the hotel on her swollen ankle, and Larisa and I walked to the finish so we could cheer in Kristin at BamaGirlRuns.com, who was walking the whole race after recovering from a broken ankle.

Working as a race announcer, I love to cheer runners on. But I’m usually at the start or finish (or both) of a race or running myself. I’m rarely on the sidelines along the course.

So I surprised by how many runners thanked us for cheering as they went by, or gave us a thumbs up, or nod, or smile, or came in for a high five, something other form of acknowledgement.

It’s funny. Because I’m the kind of runner who will often nod or smile or fist pump or some such as a way of thanking spectators as I go by. So I don’t know why I was so surprised when other runners thanked me! I guess it was just fun to be on the other side of the fence. Loved paying it forward!

Race Report: Runner's World Half & Festival

Cheering with Larisa (RunKarlaRun.com)

Runner’s World Festival

The days leading up to the half-marathon constituted the “festival,” which was jam-packed with activities. Here are my highlights from the weekend:

Deena Kastor

What would Deena do? It’s become my new running mantra after hearing Deena Kastor speak at the Runner’s World Half & Festival.

Race Report: Runner's World Half & Festival

Deena Kastor! (RunKarlaRun.com)

Deena shared lunch with the bloggers and gave an open seminar at the expo. At each, she shared some of the ways she uses positive thinking to pull through in races. Running is as much a mental sport as a physical one. I believe it and research bears it out. (I wrote about it for Shape.com) And the best runners use every (legal) trick in the books—physical and mental—to be tough on race day.

What stuck with me? Before a race Deena said she thinks of three reasons why she will succeed and commits them to memory. When she needs to did deep or is struggling in an event, she recalls those things to keep her going. I love that. Going to try it myself this weekend at the GORE-TEX Philadelphia Half Marathon. And in a moment of doubt, I’ll ask myself: What would Deena do?

Deena is one of the few American pro runners I have never met or interviewed in the course of the last few years freelancing as a sports/fitness writer and working as a broadcaster/announcer for New York Road Runners. Yet she was easily the most recognizable American pro when I started running back in 2005. So I was excited to meet her. My smile says it all!

Race Report: Runner's World Half & Festival

Flat #Bartie (RunKarlaRun.com)

Bart Yasso Reality Tour

My weekend kicked off with a tour of the Runner’s World headquarters at Rodale, Inc. in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, one perk of being an invited blogger.

The Mayor of Running, Bart Yasso himself, lead a tour through work staff spaces that includes a shared treadmill desk, Hopi-inspired Kiva as a meditative space, and bike room to encourage fit-friendly commuting.

Race Report: Runner's World Half & Festival

Rodale bike room (RunKarlaRun.com)

It was like Willy Wonka leading a tour of his chocolate factory—magical. Most fascinating? Bart’s office. I loved it. Filled with memories and mementos from races all over the world. Much to my husband’s chagrin (he likes things neat and tidy), I hope my office looks like this in another decade or so. I’ve already got the stack of event credentials (pictured), I just need to hang them beside my medals.

Race Report: Runner's World Half & Festival

Bart Yasso’s office wall (RunKarlaRun.com)

But that’s not all, Bart also treated us to a pop-in at his house. Yes, he opened up his front door to a cadre of bloggers and told us to snap away.

Race Report: Runner's World Half & Festival

Bart’s kitchen (RunKarlaRun.com)

It felt like being invited into Pee-wee’s Playhouse. I love Pee-Wee’s Playhouse so much I shelled out top dollar for full-price tickets to see The Pee-wee Herman Show on Broadway a few years back, which I never do. Discount tickets only for this New Yorker.

What would one expect from the home of Bart Yasso? Whimsy, charm, and lots of running memorabilia, plus a sizeable collection of African art. After all, he once told me his favorite race is the Comrades Marathon in South Africa.

Most of all, I love Bart’s kitchen with a large collection of vintage enamelware. My mother has a few pieces of enamelware that were her grandmother’s, and I love how warm they make a kitchen feel.

Thank you for the tour, Bart! It was really fun to feel like part of the Runner’s World family for the weekend.

Race Report: Runner's World Half & Festival

#Bartie with Baby Bart in Bart Yasso’s house (RunKarlaRun.com)

Pat Benatar

The Runner’s World Half & Festival spurred my new personal favorite hashtag: #WeAreStrong! And it’s all thanks to Pat Benatar.

After the Pasta Dinner at race headquarters, a few of the bloggers decided to check out the Sands Casino next door.

Race Report: Runner's World Half & Festival

Pasta Party!

Not quite ready for bed, I joined them. But the second I stepped into the casino I was accosted by billows of smoke wafting through the air. If I don’t have to stick around a smoky room, I don’t. So a few of us left straightaway.

We stopped at the bathroom before we ventured back to the hotel. And that bathroom just happened to be next to the Sands’ concert venue. I didn’t have to go, so I waited outside. But I overheard someone say that Pat Benatar was playing. What the what?! I only spent 7 years singing Pat Benatar songs in an ’80s cover band:

I still moonlight as a wedding singer, doing occasional gigs with the Red Hook Orchestra and Dexter Lake Club Band. And what do I sing every time? Pat Benatar.

So I went up to the bouncer:

marathon, '80s cover band, The Fades

Rockin’ out with my old band (Photo: Phil Hospod)

Me: “Is it true Pat Benatar is playing tonight?”
Him: “Yeah. Are you here for the show?”
Me: “No, but I wanna be!”
Him: “Want to see the show?”
Me: “Um, yeah! Is there a cover?”
Him: “No. You need tickets.”
Me: “Oh.” (imagine actual frowny face)
Him: “I can give you tickets.”
Me: “Seriously? Yes, please!”
Him: “How many are you? Three?”
Me: “No, six. The other three are in the bathroom.”
Him: (pauses, shuffles through tickets) “Ok. Here are six tickets. They’re crappy seats in the back, but at least they’re free. She just went on 10 minutes ago.”
Woman who overheard the exchange: “Can I get tickets too?”
Him: “No.”

Race Report: Runner's World Half & Festival

Pat Benatar tix! (Larisa Dixon)

And so, Kristin, Larisa, Mark, David, Nancy, and I were treated to nearly 2 hours of Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo: The 35th Anniversary Tour. Neil is Pat’s husband and long-time collaborator. She was amazing. Her voice is still raw and rock-n-roll, soaring and beautiful. Just listen to this video I snapped:

During “Love is a Battlefield,” Kristin, Larisa and I decided to rush the stage to get a better photo. Kristin looked over at me and said something like, “Are we really doing this?” And in perfect unison with the song, I sang “We are strong!” And we were. It became our hashtag for the rest of the weekend. The photo didn’t happen. The bouncer stopped us. I snapped this instead from my seat.

Race Report: Runner's World Half & Festival

Pat & Neil are far, far away (RunKarlaRun.com)

Thank you, Pat Benatar, and thank you to that bouncer who took pity on me! #WeAreStrong!

Race Report: Runner's World Half & Festival

We are strong! The Pat Benatar crew (Kristin Long)

Stride Right

Altra Running, the lead sponsor of the weekend, fit each blogger with a pair of Altra Running shoes, which I’ve never tried before.

Then company founder Golden Harper led a running technique clinic. He gave clinics throughout the weekend for all of the race’s attendees. The basics?

Race Report: Runner's World Half & Festival

Golden Harper gives us some pointers (RunKarlaRun.com)

1) Run tall and proud. Upright posture, chest and eyes forward with a slight forward lean. We practiced starting our stride by leaning forward Michael Jackson-style and taking that first step just before momentum would have us fall.

2) Keep arm movement to a minimum. Elbows should be behind your torso and move as little as possible. Wide and wild arm movements merely use energy inefficiently. This is something I’ve been working on in my own running for a while. I have a tendency to do a large cross-body swing, like I’m a marching soldier. So this was a great reminder.

3) Keep your stride short and steps fast. This is another thing I’ve been working on the last few months. I check my cadence mid run by counting how many steps I take with my right foot for 30 seconds. Then I double that twice (or multiply by four). Most pro runners hit 180 strides per minute or higher. Most recreational runners are below 170. My cadence used to be much lower. Now, I’m usually between 172-176, and sometimes hit 180 on the nose. Why the smaller, quicker steps? To prevent overstriding and keep your landing more stable.

I’ll add one tip I’ve read a few places that has really helped me: “Instead of trying to lunge your leg out as far as you can, you should be trying to kick your leg back as far as you can, increasing the hip extension,” says physical therapist Heather Moore in an article on Philly.com. Jonathan Beverly wrote a great article about why this hip action is so key: It’s All In The Hips.

I try to check in with my form a few times during each run to drill these points home. And I’ll share my thoughts on my new Altra shoes in a running shoe round-up coming in the next month.

Race Report: Runner's World Half & Festival

My new Altra running shoes.

Breathe Right

Budd Coates, the senior director of health and fitness at Rodale, Inc., also gave us a quick breathing clinic.

I’ll admit, I’m prone to side-stitches and don’t think about my breath much while I run. That’s mainly because deep breathing from my diaphragm comes naturally to me, being trained as both a swimmer and singer. I naturally fall into a steady breathing pattern and easily work out any stitches with some concentrated belly breathing. But one thing I know I can be better about is breathing through my nose and mouth while I run, to maximize my oxygen intake. I tend to do just one or the other. Here were Budd’s big breathing pointers.

Race Report: Runner's World Half & Festival

Budd Coates breathing clinic (RunKarlaRun.com)

1) At slower paces, use a 3-2 breathing pattern. Breathe in for 3 steps and out for 2. Why? Your posture is more upright on the intake and naturally collapses when you expel air. You also want to take in more oxygen than your release. Budd also believes that always breathing on the same side (inhale left stride, exhale right stride) can cause mechanical imbalances.

2) At faster paces, switch to a 2-1 breathing pattern. Breathe in for 2 steps and out for 1.

3) Relax and don’t overthink it.

I’ve been practising these breathing patterns with moderate success. I find I prefer an even slower pattern on easy runs (like 4-4), but the 3-2 pattern works well for me at tempo pace, especially because that’s the pace where I find I really need to focus on my breathing. 2-1 doesn’t come into play for me until I’ve crossed the threshold from “comfortably hard” to “hard.” But it’s been helpful to refocus on my breath.

Race Report: Runner's World Half & Festival

The Runner’s World Half Expo


Guess who I saw at the Runner’s World Half & Festival? Me! On a poster for the Bermuda Marathon Weekend!

Race Report: Runner's World Half & Festival

It’s me!

My husband, Phil, and I attended the 2015 race and it seems we have found our way into their marketing collateral, their website, and who knows what else. Why? Because we dressed like pirates for the 10K and half-marathon. A good running costume goes a long way.

If you’re looking for a January race getaway, I highly recommend the Bermuda Marathon Weekend. I loved everything about the island and the races!

And that’s a wrap on the Runner’s World Half & Festival. Registration is already open for the 2016 race!

As mentioned above, I attended the race as a guest of Runner’s World. But as always, all opinions are purely my own. Seriously. For more information, read my disclosure policy.

Karla Bruning


Karla Bruning is a race announcer at the TCS New York City Marathon + other major events, TV host for the New York City Triathlon + contributor to Shape, Redbook, Runner's World + other publications. She used to report for Newsweek but spent her free time squeezing in workouts. Now it's her job. She's run 8 marathons, 30 halves, 10 triathlons + open water swims. When she's not running, talking about running or writing about running, she's snuggling her baby, spoiling her dog + compulsively traveling.


11 2015

8 Comments Add Yours ↓

The upper is the most recent comment

  1. 1

    Love this post! Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I can’t believe it’s been a month already.
    David H. recently posted..3 years laterMy Profile

    • Karla Bruning

      Time flies! I really had a great weekend. It was awesome to meet you!

  2. 3

    The 3-2 breath pattern has been HUGE for me — I read about it in connection with foot issues, though. The idea was that if you land on the same foot each time you exhale, that foot takes more of a pounding. I definitely think it’s eased the burden on my right foot (which has a worse bunion than the left), and also it’s handy in pacing myself at races where I don’t want to go out too fast.
    Sadye recently posted..Can I do the Dirty Du?My Profile

    • Karla Bruning

      Very interesting, Sadye! I wonder if breathing has played any role in the fact that I’ve had 2 injuries in the same foot in the last year. Either way, it’s something I’m playing with and working on. Every little bit counts, right? Glad to hear it has worked for you!

  3. 5

    Sounds like a wonderful weekend! I love how you got free concert tickets. And how cool that you’re on the poster for the Bermuda Marathon. You do such a great job with your running costumes and now lots more people get to see it.
    Elle recently posted..Post Marathon ThoughtsMy Profile

    • Karla Bruning

      Thanks, Elle! We really do love making costumes!

  4. 7

    Wow!! What a weekend!! Being a spectator is so fun. And the clinics sound amazing! And PAT BENETAR!! So glad you got tickets!!
    Emily recently posted..2015 Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas PartyMy Profile

    • Karla Bruning

      It was a whirlwind! Couldn’t have asked for a better way to be injured as a runner :)


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