Another great race weekend in the books! On Saturday I ran the Garden Spot Village Half Marathon with my friend Ivy. It was in New Holland, Pa.
We headed down Friday after work and pulled into the parking lot right at 8 p.m. Packet pickup was set to close at 8 p.m. but we decided to try anyway. They must not get a lot of late arrivers because they had already packed up. One of the women was very kind and gathered our numbers, shirts and bags for us anyway.
Afterwards we headed to the hotel to check in before going to find food. When Ivy asked the front desk attendant if she could recommend a place to eat her response was, “Well it’s after the 8 o’clock hour.” Ivy was like, “Yeah, so?” I guess that’s late in some of these small family farming communities. Thankfully there were a couple places and off we went to dinner. After we headed to bed since it would be an early morning. Thankfully, the hotel was just 5 minutes from Garden Spot Village, a retirement community that plays host to the race, so it wasn’t as early as some other race mornings tend to be.
The race benefits Garden Spot Village’s benevolent fund, which helps individuals who, for some reason or another, are no longer able to pay for their care and allows them to continue to be able to call Garden Spot Village their home. A lot of the residents of the community serve as race volunteers as parking attendants, food servers, cheerleaders and finish area attendants who hand you your medal, hat, water and foil blanket.
On Saturday morning after arriving, we sat in the car for awhile. It wasn’t that cold out but the wind was rather strong making it feel quite chilly. This race is the sister race to the Bird-in-Hand Half in the fall. Many Amish, Mennonites and Brethren run in it as well. I think it’s so cool that there’s a thriving Amish running community. While waiting we saw one of the marathon pacers arrive who was Amish. He had a 3:25 marathon pace sign. So impressive to be that fast while holding a pace sign too!
After heading over to the start line, Ivy and I decided to stick near the 2 hour pacer for the half to start. Since it’s a smaller race, they don’t start in waves but it was chip timing so your time was as accurate as possible. I didn’t stick with the pacer long and just ran on how I felt.
The course, which is USATF certified and can be used as a Boston Qualifier, ran along country roads outside Lancaster. It was hilly, but nothing impossibly hard. The scenery was stunning and it was such a clear day you could see for miles. The roads were closed initially, but even the sections that were reopened really didn’t have any traffic except course officials.
What I thought was the toughest hill of the course began shortly after the turnaround at mile 7. At that point the marathoners continue on, while we headed back the way we came until about mile 10.5 where we turned off. As you can see on the elevation profile, there’s a nice quick and steep incline beginning at mile 8. It was nice that there were tons of people at the top of the steepest portion cheering you on. I might not have been moving too fast up the steep section, but I definitely didn’t want to walk with everyone cheering.
After that it continued to climb but at what felt like a more gradual rate. It was then followed by a nice long downhill almost the entire way to the finish line. The last couple miles were flat and wide open between farm fields. The wind was very tough along that stretch, but when you’re that close to the finish line you just keep going.
After turning into the Garden Spot Village community, I caught up to a running couple that was arguing. The guy was mad that his wife or girlfriend was ahead of him and so she stopped and then he yelled at her for stopping. She was yelling at him to get moving since they were so close to the finish line and to stop arguing with her. It was really immature and they were dropping the F-word repeatedly. I was definitely glad to pass them.
I finished with a personal best time of 1:52:34, a little more than a minute faster than my previous best. The volunteers at the finish line were very sweet. After Ivy finished we got some pictures and headed into the food tent. They had chocolate milk, trail mix, bananas and oranges, cheese omelets, pretzels, soup and sandwiches. It was quite the spread. It was also nice because the tent was heated!
An added bonus we didn’t take advantage of was use of the community’s wellness center. They had changing rooms, showers, and more. We just ended up changing in the car and hitting the road, but next time I’d probably take advantage of the changing area as opposed to using my backseat.
Overall it was a great race! I’d definitely do it again. It was so well organized and everyone was so nice. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a spring half or full.
I now have less than two weeks until Gettysburg. I’m nervous but excited. I just have short runs to get in between now and then. Looking forward to the recap!
Did you run over the weekend?