When I launched the Ali on the Run Show in February 2017, I knew right away I wanted to eventually host live events. I love sharing conversations on the show every week, but human, in-real-life connection is so powerful. I wanted to have those conversations with a live audience. It was a dream in 2017, and this weekend — alongside Meb Keflezighi, Andrea Barber, Chris Heuisler, and Des Linden — it became a reality.
And it was perfect.
How about I just recap the whole weekend? Cool.
Brian and I flew to San Diego bright and early Thursday. (Ellie had a vacation of her own — for everyone who thought the “special guest” at the show was going to be Ellie, I’m sorry if I disappointed you! But I don’t think I did.) The flight was a breeze, and we touched down in California before noon.
We stayed at the Westin San Diego Gaslamp Quarter, which I would of course recommend. Westins really are the best for runners. They are so good at taking care of runners, and I love the maps they provide at every location telling you where to run. (They’re not paying me to say this. It’s true. I love a good Westin and those heavenly beds and heavenly showers.) We unpacked, caught up on emails (LOL JK, I will never “catch up” on all my emails. I’m a terrible pen-pal.), and then did a little sightseeing. We walked all around Balboa Park, went to the San Diego Air & Space Museum, and saw lots of cute baby ducks. I love baby ducks.
Then we walked along the Embarcadero (the waterfront), asked a tourist to take a photo of us kissing, and made our way back to the hotel.
I picked a nice restaurant for us to go to for dinner, but instead I fell asleep and woke up to Brian with a giant bag of takeout. I ate linguini with clams and chocolate lava cake in bed, and promptly fell back asleep.
I was up early Friday, thanks to being on east coast time, and decided to check out the local Orangetheory scene! I took a class at the Bankers Hill location, and everyone was very nice. I walked the mile and a half there and back, then got lunch with my friend Feeney, whose flight had just landed.
Then it was time to do the live show walk-through with Chris and the Westin team! We held the event on the outdoor terrace, and it was the most amazing space. I honestly hadn’t done a ton of actual show prep up to this point. But once we walked through the space and got a feel for how things would go, I started to feel really good.
I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening prepping, paused for a seafood dinner with Brian, my other friend Jackie, and Feeney, and then spent an hour or so walking through show stuff for my mini live audience (Brian). I went to sleep feeling excited. Too excited.
SATURDAY — LIVE SHOW DAY!
I woke up right around 5 AM because I was too excited to sleep. I decided to go for a quick run along the water to shake out some energy, and it was the first time in weeks I’ve run without needing a bathroom stop! That felt like a good omen for the day ahead!
I was surprisingly calm all morning. I thought I would feel nervous or anxious, but I knew things were going to be great. I had a few fleeting moments of, “What if no one shows up???” — something I think is always a concern when you plan an event, right? even though we sold out, twice — but I figured if necessary, I would just do the show for Brian, Feeney, Jackie, and the catering staff.
I showered, relaxed with a face mask for a bit, got ready, and made my way down to the event space around 8:30. Doors were set to open at 9, and the show was starting at 10. And man, that Westin team was awesome! They made everything look incredible, and it was so fun watching everything happen, and knowing it was for my event.
People started arriving at 9, and Andrea and Meb got there at 9:45. It was the first time Andrea and I met in person, and I’m pretty sure we ran across the hotel lobby to give each other a giant hug, like we’d been best friends for years. We all had a pre-show chat — and Chris and I had a little surprise up our sleeves! (Also, during that pre-show chat, Brian walked into the room where we were all hanging out, and Andrea screamed, “BOLDCEO!” I’m worried she was more excited to meet him than me, but I’m not mad about it.)
Brian was our hype guy, and at 10 AM, he took the stage to introduce me. Then we were off and rolling! The crowd was amazing. The conversation seemed to flow great. Meb, Andrea, and Chris absolutely killed it. They always do. (I could listen to Chris Heuisler’s voice for days. Anyone else?) Meb talked about his identity as a runner now that he’s retired. Andrea talked about why it’s so important to speak up about mental health, and how running has helped her. Chris talked about how, yes, he has a total dream job, but that it gets lonely on the road. I laughed a lot. But mostly, I listened and learned.
All the while, I was super excited for our special guest.
We had just started the Sprint to the Finish when she came in: Des Linden!
She walked right in and casually sat in the front row, and Andrea went nuts. (She’s a fan! This was basically one big Mutual Admiration Society gathering. Chris and I knew Des was coming, but it was a surprise for everyone else.) We brought Des onstage to join the Sprint, and added a few questions just for her. Everything out of her mouth was brilliant.
Then, we raffled off some prizes! Each panelist gave away something special: I gave away three pair of AfterShokz Trekz Air headphones, Chris gave away a VIP prize pack for the Rock N Roll San Diego races taking place the next day, Andrea gave away a Fuller House script signed by the entire cast, and Meb gave away a signed copy of his book. Des was still onstage and said she wanted to give something away, too, so she raffled off a hug. It was amazing.
We wrapped up the show, thanked everyone for joining us on the run, and then hung around for photos. Meb was supposed to dash away as soon as we finished (he was being honored at his alma mater, UCLA, with an Award for Professional Achievement), but he stayed to take a picture with every single person who wanted one. This was truly a group of class acts.
Brian, Andrea, her boyfriend (hi Michael!), Jackie, Feeney, and I were the last ones to leave the space. Everyone kept asking if I was happy with how it went, and I don’t know if I answered. I think I just smiled and floated out of there.
After the show, Brian and I were de-briefing, and we talked about what I’d do differently next time. My only answer was that I would have cut those damn hanger straps out of my dress. (I meant to, and then didn’t have scissors, and they kept falling out. Why do dresses with full straps need hanger straps?!)
A little while later, we met up with Chris to de-brief with him, and I got giddy all over again. I was so happy, and I was glad he was happy, too.
Then I was hungry!
We spent the rest of the day exploring La Jolla and then going on a sunset dinner cruise around the bay. I’m pretty sure we stared at the seals and sea lions (do they just coexist?) for four hours straight, talking to them in silly voices just like we do with Ellie. It was great. Sunny day. Happy day. Absolutely no complaints.
Which brings me to…
I slept in! Actually, I think I woke up at 6 AM but stayed in bed for a while. Eventually I went for another run by the water, then I wanted to play! We Ubered our way out to Torrey Pines and spent hours hiking. It was all so gorgeous. Highly recommend! And then, suddenly, we were on a nude beach! A really long nude beach! I’ve never felt so fully clothed in my life. And the hike from the beach back out of the canyon (right? canyon? IDK) was intense. So many stairs. So pregnant. So little oxygen.
We wrapped up our last day in San Diego with a ton of food at Craft & Commerce, then headed to the airport to catch the red-eye home.
Now, I’m reunited with Ellie and I’m not sure I’ve fully processed all the weekend fun. I would say it feels good to cross a big dream off my list, but the truth is, I think I’m just getting started with this dream.
And now, like this is some kind of awards show, there are some people, places, and things I need to thank for making my dreams come true…
CHRIS HEUISLER: The real brains and beauty behind the live show. He made big moves to help bring this all together.
MEB KEFLEZIGHI (and his brother and manager, Hawi): Duh. We got Meb.
ANDREA BARBER: I adore and respect this woman so much. She was so fun when she came on the show last year, but in person, it’s even better.
DES LINDEN (and her awesome agent, Josh Cox): Des showed up to the live show. Does it get cooler than that? I don’t know.
THE ENTIRE WESTIN TEAM: Talk about a dream team. If you ever do a live event, do it there. They are total pros. (And I didn’t snag any of the food or drinks myself, but that spread was incredible.)
JACKIE & FEENEY: My two friends flew all the way from NYC to San Diego to be there for me this weekend. And they hustled during the show. They checked people in, gave everyone their raffle tickets, acted as mic runners during the Q&A portion, and got all the prizes to their recipients before I was even offstage. They Olivia Pope-d the day, and I’m so grateful and felt so supported.
BRIAN: This guy. I wish everyone could have seen Brian during the show. He acted as my producer, my manager, my everything. Forever grateful.
EVERY SINGLE PERSON WHO SHOWED UP: This live show wouldn’t have been a live show without a live audience. So to every single person who came out, THANK YOU. You quite literally made my dreams come true, and I loved getting to hug so many of you afterward.
Yes, there will be more live events! Yes, there will be east coast ones! Stay tuned.
And check out the official live show episode, which will be out this Thursday!
WE DID IT!