After scarfing down some free hotel breakfast (I do not turn down free food) my roommates for the weekend Holly (RunningandBaking), Mindy (RoadRunnerGirl), Sarah (MomRunningOnEmpty), and I headed the few blocks to the convention center. I swear it was almost a mile walk from the front door of the convention center to the specific hall the Rock ’n’ Roll New Orleans Expo was in – that place was HUGE!When we got there we bumped into my co-host for the event, Dani (WeightOffMyShoulders), and chatted a bit before the event began. Sarah was my Marine Corp Marathon roommate, so we knew each other, but other than that the other girls and I had only talked through social media and perhaps the longest most ridiculous Facebook message EVER! (When I got off the plane I was greeted by 81 new messages for our thread alone. Wow.)
Before I became a part of the online running community I would never have believed how wonderful it is to become friends with someone online and then to meet them in person and realize that they are just as awesome as you hoped. We joked that it was like meeting an on-line date in person for the first time, except a million times better! (Though I did have to buy my own dinner every night…hmmm…)We were first up on the expo stage and were not really sure what to expect, but everything flowed really smoothly and I was so excited with how it all turned out. Our fabulous interviewers launched right into introductions. Mine was:
Abby: former couch potato discovering health & fitness one day at a time, marathoner, treadmill hater, outdoor run lover, Midwesterner who moved South to avoid snow, blogger, social media addict, fueling up gluten free, has been known to stick her hand in community candy dishes after mile 20 – she claims she is not responsible for her actions after that point.Then, Sarah and Mindy gave a quick bio on Dani and I before beginning the questions. Bio:
· Abby and Dani started talking through social media almost two years ago; however, this is the first time they have met in person.
· They both got into running initially as a way to get in shape and lose weight, but were pleasantly surprised when they discovered they love to run.
· They also initially started documenting the journey on their blogs and social media as a way to hold themselves accountable, but found that they truly enjoyed participating in the online community.After that, it was question time and we answered questions like:
· The internet is so big! How did you find each other?
· So this is actually the first time you are meeting each other, do you find that you have several people in your running community you have never met in person?
· Even though many of your friendships are online, how do they still provide support for you? In what ways does this benefit your running and training?
· Do you find yourself running certain races based off your digital community?
· Was there a certain point at which you realized what a huge impact social media has on you as a runner?
· How could runners who are relatively new to the online community become more involved?It was really fun to hear all of Dani’s responses to the questions and also to come up with my own. One of the reasons I love blogging so much is because of the awesome online community, so I had a lot to say. (This is not a surprise if you know me, I never shut up!)
We talked about joining different groups, reaching out to people on Twitter/Instagram/etc., and using common hashtags to grow your online community and mentioned how these online friends can become big parts of your running life.
Overall we felt like the most important aspect of the online community is that it provides motivation both in the form of support and encouragement and also as a type of accountability. After Sarah and Mindy were done asking their questions we took a few questions from audience members. We were blessed to have an awesome audience who were smiling and nodding along the entire time, they made me feel really comfortable on stage.
Then we dove off the stage, okay not dove because I was sure I would break and ankle before the race, more like crawled off super slowly and hung out with the audience members. We took pictures with some of the participants. It was great to meet people in real life who I have been following through blogs and social media for a while. We all talked to new running buddies (and I restrained from ripping her gorgeous chevron headband off her head). We put a ton of pictures up on Instagram, including the ever popular selfie. You can see them all on my Instagram page @BackatSquare0.And of course, when it was all over, we checked our own social media to see what we had missed out on and were honored that many of the participants had left us very kind Tweets.
Have you ever attended a social media or blogger meet up?
Would you ever be interested in attending one?