I went a little crazy last year.
It happened so gradually I didn’t see the madness seeping in.
When it was all over, I’d managed to travel across the country multiple times on a running spree that took me to nine Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathons on top of my first marathon and a small, local 13.1 race where I hit the sub-2 mark.
I wouldn’t trade the experience for all of the world. And, yes, that includes running in the downpour that was Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio.
Friend and Rock ‘n’ Blogger Briana turned to me last fall and asked: “How long have you known Steff?” Well, we met briefly at Rock ‘n’ Roll DC but didn’t hang out and click as buddies until I literally ran into her and her crew at Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago. Briana was surprised. She thought I’d known Steff for years.
That pretty much sums up how my 2016 Rock ‘n’ Roll year went.
I made more than a dozen new friends who share the same passion as I do — running and racing. Steff in particular stands out as a friend I know I’ll have for life, and I can’t wait to share more running adventures with her! (I just wish she lived closer than Pittsburgh!)
Every race I traveled to, I had a crew: Whether I ran with them, found them at meetups, walked to the race start, indulged in carb loading or post-race food fests, or high-fived them when we passed along the race course, they were always there.
And in the course of the year, we shared some crazy experiences. Running in the aftermath of a tropical storm in Virginia Beach, a downpour in San Antonio and a post-race thunderstorm in Chicago. We’d get together at the next race and retell the tales of our insane but wonderful adventures.
“How many marathons have you run?” I asked the man keeping me company in the opening mile of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles Half Marathon, which fell three weeks after my first marathon.
“500,” he said.
“500?!” (Surely I’d misheard him over the pounding of feet hitting the pavement.)
The journalist in me kicked in.
Me: What is your favorite? Paris.
Him: Why? Because it’s Paris. (Fair point!)
Me: Have you done London?
Me: When did you run your first marathon?
I start doing math in my head….
Him: I ran 20-25 marathons a year for 20 years, he said, doing the math for me.
Me: How many half marathons?
Him: More than 125.
Me: New York Marathon?
Him: Yes, three times.
We ran together for nearly two miles before parting ways at the first water stop.
You might think finding this runner would be unique — a one-in-a-million shot. It’s not. I met dozens of runners on my journeys, and this man wasn’t the only one with a storied racing career.
There was Joe Harris, best known as Rock ‘n’ Roll Joe. In the most massive “it’s-a-small-world” event ever, Joe sat in my row on the plane to Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego, a seat in between us. I had no idea who he was.
As he took his seat, I spotted his Rock ‘n’ Roll jacket and struck up a conversation — he must be going to the same race I was, after all. And he was.
We didn’t talk long. Our middle-seat cohort sat down and that was that. We got off the flight hours later and went our separate ways.
Later that day, I hit the packet pickup and headed to the Rock ‘n’ Roll booth. I saw Joe again, and it clicked: My seat-mate on the plane ride from D.C. was the man who’d run more Rock ‘n’ Roll halfs than any other person.
We spent more time chatting, and I met more amazing runners, including Kevin Gonzalez, who ran his 100th Rock ‘n’ Roll race that Sunday. I ran into Kevin at several other races throughout the year, including the Chicago Marathon (my first!), where we finished around the same time.
As for Joe, I ran into him at nearly every other Rock ‘n’ Roll race from then on. He was easy to spot with his wear blue: run to remember shirt. When we became friends on Facebook, I learned out he only lived a mile from my apartment at the time. You can’t get much more small world than that!
I technically ran a half marathon in a tropical storm last year. Technically is a key word.
By the time the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half at Virginia Beach rolled around Sunday, Hurricane Hermine, downgraded from a category 1 hurricane to a tropical storm before it passed by, had dissipated to the point that the course wasn’t even windy.
But it was a crazy 24 hours leading up to the race.
I woke up Saturday to winds howling and rain pounding my beachfront hotel balcony. The wind whistled through the window-mounted AC so loudly it woke me up.
I looked outside.
Who is that crazy person on the beach? I wondered, looking at a man dressed in blue gesturing at the incoming waves. I started Snapchatting.
After a minute, I became suspicious. The man was still out there, still gesturing. Something was up.
“Wait, is this a Weather Channel guy?!”
But where was his camera? On a balcony so it was out of the elements?
I turned on my TV and found the Weather Channel. OMG! It is a Weather Channel meteorologist — Mike Seidel!
I spent the next half hour amused before hitting up the treadmill for a walk since there was certainly no going outside. Then, Mike Seidel walked into my hotel.
And I needed to stalk him and get an interview. I’m a journalist, after all.
Basically it was the most epic Snapchat and, ultimately, weekend ever.
To top it off, Seidel emailed me a month or so later after I included him in a story I wrote about the storm. He’d read my blog!
Each stop along my Rock ‘n’ Roll journey offered new experiences and wonders. OK, well maybe not D.C. since I live there — but everywhere else!
It’s hard to pick a favorite. A smile plastered on my face the entire time I walked through Los Angeles’ Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It’s really like you’re in Hogwarts!
San Diego is such a beautiful city, and I wish I’d had more time to explore. I hit up the zoo — a must for any visitor — and spent enough time in La Jolla and Coronado to get a taste of that SoCal life.
In San Francisco, I stayed with a friend and got a real feel for that incredible city, full of hills and wonderful vistas.
And then there was Las Vegas.
I’d never been to Sin City before. I’m not a gambler, I’m not into the party scene. I knew to expect the ridiculous, but it’s ridiculous how ridiculous Las Vegas is. I couldn’t help but laugh at the ostentatious Las Vegas Strip — it exceeds any imagination.
And it was one of the most fun race experiences imaginable.
Lights all around, flames at the start line. We took off. I ran with Steff and her husband, who renewed their vows at the run-thru wedding. I snuck in to be the official photographer. A half hour later, we were off to finish running the remaining 10 miles of the strip.
When I finished, a man handed me a beer that I could open and drink while walking back to my hotel. Because, Vegas.
Shortly after my final half marathon of the year at San Antonio, I figured it was time for a break to rest my body — and mind — from all the races, all the miles, all the travel.
Then I made the mistake of adding up the miles I’d run for the year. (Yes, I have a Google spreadsheet.)
The total: 960 miles.
Houston (errr, San Antonio?), we have a problem.
Far too close to 1,000 miles, there was no way I was missing out.
I pushed ahead, finishing my running year at exactly 1,000 miles just a few days before Christmas.
It felt like the perfect end for my crazy running year.