Yes, it has been a over a week since the Arizona Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, but I promised I would write about my experience at the Expo (Phoenix Convention Center, above) and more importantly about getting to meet Ryan Hall, so here we go.
This was my first Rock 'n' Roll event outside of the San Jose Half Marathon that I have done the past 3 years (and have already registered to do again this year). But this was a much larger venue with many more participants. The numbers were 5,711 for the full and 21,462 for the half (finishers). Plus the participants doing the Dean Karnazes 50k and wheelchair full & half, so as you can tell... a much larger venue was in play compared to the 10,000 (give or take) that is at the RNR San Jose Half.
I absolutely love the official Rock 'n' Roll marathon attire. I have an RNR San Jose Half shirt and always find something I like at the expo (although rarely purchase). I know. I have a strong will and must resist ANOTHER tech shirt. After walking through the official race gear portion, we were sent into the general expo area where you can find the usual suspects in their booths. If you've been to an event, you know what I mean. Nissan had a huge display, complete with several cars and photo area where you could take a picture with a Runner's World Magazine backdrop. I organized our group and took a photo, but sadly on the website, they haven't been able to locate our photo. (insert sad face because it would have been a great one with our whole group). If I do receive it from Nissan's customer support team, I will be sure to share.
Later at that same booth, I saw a line forming and being a "Curious George" went to go see what it was. Sure enough, there was Ryan Hall doing a meet and greet at the Nissan booth. If you subscribe to Runner's World, you may be familiar with their ads (see above). I made line and stood in it for a few minutes, but decided it would take too long for me to get there and moved on. Although I did grab a photo (see below). Little did I know, this would by my first of three encounters with Mr. Hall.
I was not alone in that line either. A follower of the blog and facebook friend happened to be at the expo at the same time, so I took the opportunity to talk with her (and meet her). She was kind enough to give me some insight in what to expect the following day on the course and we shared in great conversation. It was nice to get to talk to someone outside of their facebook profile and status updates. Throughout the weekend I also had several text conversations with others also participating in the race and although meet-ups with them didn't work out with each other's schedules, it was nice to see the running community come together.
After the expo and the "gathering of free samples," I headed back to a friend's hotel/resort to relax before dinner and sure enough, there was Ryan Hall walking through the property. He was being followed by what appeared to be someone official looking with a hand-held camera, perhaps doing an interview. Deciding not to bother them, I took note of my "wow, that was cool" thought and continued on my way. And little did I know that this would not be my last encounter with Mr. Hall.
The following day, after the race, we went back to our friend's hotel/resort and as were about to enter the lobby there was Ryan Hall sitting outside alone enjoying some P.F. Chang's food (which is convenient considering it is the P.F. Chang's Arizona Rock 'n' Roll Marathon). See, it IS okay to enjoy food we like. My friend, Manny, said hello and asked him how he did in the race. Ryan replied: "Not so well." (Note, he took second, but I'm assuming that when you are an elite athlete and record holder, you strive for excellence, EVERY TIME.) I would have loved to have gotten a photo with him, or had him sign my bib (since I was still wearing it), but seeing that he was disappointed with his day and that he was eating, I decided just to shake his hand, tell him it was a pleasure to meet him and leave him be. I'm sure he would have been cordial and agreed, but sometimes you just go with your gut and think it may not be the most appropriate time, even if it is the only time. But the third time was a charm. I figured I couldn't see the man three times in 2 days and not at least shake his hand.
That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.