Shamrock Marathon Part 1: The VIP Experience

From left to right are Bart Yasso’s friend Ed; my friend Veronica James; Amy Frostick, co-owner and race director at J&A Racing; Runner’s World Chief Running Officer Bart Yasso; me; and Bart’s friend Mike.

A couple of green wristbands got my friend Veronica and I some amazing experiences as VIPs during Shamrock Marathon Weekend in Virginia Beach.

Actually, my weekend was so awesome and I have so much to write about and so many pictures to share that I’m breaking my Shamrock Marathon post into two. Part 1 will be on the VIP Experience, and Part 2 will be on the actual running of the marathon.

Veronica and I were not planning to be VIPs. She entered a contest that I didn’t even remember seeing in which people who donated to LIVESTRONG would be entered into a contest to win this VIP prize for each $5 donated. She did not expect to win, but was happy to donate.

Wouldn’t you love to have this view every morning? It was the view from our 16th floor hotel room at the Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

I already had a hotel booked, and it was a complete surprise to both of us that she ended up winning a free four-night stay at the Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront (we used three nights) and access to the marathon weekend VIP Experience (that alone would have been $300 for each of us otherwise). So, not only did we not have to pay for the VIP Experience, but I canceled the hotel reservation I’d made and ended up saving about $300.

We arrived at the Hilton on Friday night after picking up our race packets and were instantly greeted by some things I usually don’t experience — valet parking and a bellhop. I normally stay at nice, but less luxurious hotels or more recently, AirBnbs when I travel.

I had also previously never had any kind of VIP race experience.

We had pretty awesome seats at dinner! (Vanessa Junkin photo)

Veronica and I ate dinner that night at Catch 31, which is in the Hilton, and were able to snag seats by an outdoor fire. Since I’d saved all the money I was planning to spend on the hotel, I didn’t mind splurging on dinner.

The next morning, a breakfast in the VIP tent was included as part of the VIP Experience, so we headed right across the Boardwalk from our hotel to the tent and grabbed breakfast as the Towne Bank 8K finishers came in.

This was when we first met Bart Yasso, who is Runner’s World’s chief running officer. Veronica and I both wanted to meet him, but she was the one who actually approached him first, and I’m so thankful she did. Bart was super friendly, talkative and down-to-earth, and he talked to us for a while. I even mentioned I was hoping to finish around 4:30, something Bart even remembered and mentioned as we ran in the marathon (I’ll get to that in the next post, and also, that time did not happen for me).

Bart Yasso takes one of his famous selfies, or #barties, with Veronica and me.

Bart and I follow each other on Twitter and I think I sounded familiar to him once I told him my username. It was great to meet him, and then we saw him throughout the weekend. We even ran into him while waiting for the elevator on our floor at the hotel!

He also introduced us to other VIPs, and we met LIVESTRONG President Greg Lee; Jennifer Yuengling of the famous Yuengling family-owned brewery; and the race announcer — I only caught his first name, Bob. Both race directors, Jerry and Amy Frostick, were also pointed out.

I was really impressed with how friendly and awesome everyone was.

Here Veronica (left) and me (right) are with Bob, the race announcer.

In addition to the food, drinks, and tables and chairs offered at the VIP tent, there were also fancy portable toilets — if that’s a thing — that flushed. If you aren’t a runner, you won’t understand the importance of these, but they were as nice as portable toilets can be.

Not only was the hotel luxurious with the type of amenities that I don’t normally have access to, it was in a perfect location. For the marathon start, I just had to walk out the front door of the hotel and I saw the start line. On the other side of the hotel, on the Boardwalk, was the finish line. And the view out the window was great.

In addition to some meals I got out, including a fun gathering of Salisbury-area people at Ynot Italian in Virginia Beach on Saturday,  because I saved that extra money, I also splurged on an awesome finisher’s jacket.

The unique experiences and interesting people Veronica and I got to meet truly made this an unforgettable weekend. Although I’m very glad I finished (spoiler alert), the marathon did not go as smoothly for me as expected. Be on the lookout for the next post to find out why and read about my race from start to finish.

Update 3/24: Here’s the link to “Shamrock Marathon Part 2: Running the Marathon.”

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From left to right are my friend Melissa Wilson, Runner’s World Chief Running Officer Bart Yasso, my friend Veronica James and me.

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