#RaceRecap: Rumspringa Half Marathon

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This is a few days later than I planned, but work has been very busy. Better late than never though!

I’m back with my second race recap of 2016 for the Rumspringa Half Marathon in Adamstown, Pa. This race came just a week after the Garden Spot Village Half, which worked perfectly with my training schedule for Shipyard in May.
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Heading into this race my plan was to push myself to hopefully PR. With Garden Spot my plan had been to take it easy since I had another long run the following day. While I didn’t quite take it easy at that race I still wasn’t aiming to PR. This weekend that was my goal.

I signed up for this race after two friends ran it last year and had only good things to say. I also managed to convince two friends to join me. It was a fun little overnight trip. Friday night we stopped for dinner at a Panera. This seems to be becoming a tradition, especially with races with my friend Ivy. I figure it’s a great option since there are lots of healthy items to choose from.

One of the local hotels partnered with the race and offered a block of rooms at a really affordable rate. The hotel was just 2 miles from the start and finish line at Stoudtburg Village and its checkout was noon. This was great as it gave us plenty of time after the race to come back and shower before hitting the road. That’s not always a possibility with hotels with earlier checkout times.

In the morning we headed to the race, which started at 8, around 7:15 since we were so close. We even managed to stop on the way at Dunkin Donuts for coffee for Maureen and bananas for all three of us. Note to self, buy a bunch of bananas at the grocery store because bananas at a Dunkin Donuts are $1/piece.

Parking for the race was super easy and convenient right at the village. We went and checked in, dropped our stuff back at the car and then headed over to warm up. The race is on the smaller side with just a few hundred people, but it made for a bustling start in the central courtyard and along the pathway in the village since it was a bit narrow.

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This gives you an idea of what the village is like. People actually live in these neat homes and there are also some quaint shops on the lower levels.

Once we exited the village onto the road we were able to spread out widthwise and speed up.

The weather was perfect. It was in the 40s to start and in the 50s by the time we finished. The sun was out and shining and there was a light breeze at times, but mostly the air was still.

The course was basically lollipop shaped and boasted gently rolling hills. The first 3 miles, which are also the last 3 miles, were mostly downhill. The rolling hills started once you began the loop.

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The biggest challenge was the long hill between mile 7 and 9. It wasn’t steep, just long and gradual. This was where things really started to spread out.

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 10.52.10 AMThe scenery, especially once we got out of the housing development in the beginning and into the rural area was stunning. It was beautiful farmland, many of which belonged to Amish and Mennonite families. They were out in their buggies, doing field and house work, and often waved to us runners along the way.

Maureen captured this awesome photo as this little girl peeked from her buggy.

Maureen captured this awesome photo of this little girl as she peeked from her buggy.

Somewhere around mile 8 as I was climbing that long hill, a couple came up next to me and said, “You must train on hills.” I laughed and said that’s all I have where I live. They turned out to be from Pittsburgh and were lucky enough to also train hills. We chatted about how the runners had really spread out at this point thanks to the challenging section of the course we were currently running.

We hung together for a bit before they moved on ahead. I ended up catching up to them when I reached mile 10 where you head back to the village the way you started. The last 3 miles were challenging since it was almost entirely uphill back through the development. After leaving the development, you continued uphill to the village. As I rounded the corner onto the path around the village to the finish line, I could hear the husband pushing his wife to catch me. It made me push myself to run faster and I stayed ahead. I turned around after crossing the finish line and went and high-fived both of them and thanked them for pushing me.

Since I had a few minutes, I headed over to the laptops to check my chip time. I knew I had PR’d, but I wanted my exact time. I finished in 1:46:28, an almost 3-minute PR, which exceeded my goal of 1:47. I was thrilled. I also then noticed something else…I had placed 2nd in my age group, 30-39! I was super surprised and happy.

I went over along the village path to stretch in the grass and cheer Maureen and Ivy in to the finish. They both did great and enjoyed the course as much as I did.

After finishing, the race offers you one free beer from the nearby Stoudt’s Brewery, as well as German fare like sauerkraut, potato salad, sausage, and desserts. I had a little of everything just to try it, but am never that hungry after a race initially. I took the beer to take home and just enjoyed some water. While waiting for the awards ceremony, we were treated to music by a man in lederhosen playing the accordion. He was quite good!

It turned out that the girl from Pittsburgh was a year younger than me and placed 3rd in the 20-29 age group. I was glad we both did so well. It’s always nice when you meet great people out on a course in a race. Each person who placed in their age group received a German Weather House in addition to the finisher medal everyone received. It’s quite adorable and it looks great in my office at work with all my race medals.

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The grumpy lady unintentionally photobombing cracks me up!

The three of us after the race with our medals.

The three of us after the race with our medals.

After hanging out a bit longer we headed back to the hotel with an hour to spare. We hit the road and stopped a short time later at the Saturday Market, which is this crazy flea market in the area. It was slightly overwhelming, but very interesting. Ivy and I came away with some delicious Amish baked goods. We stopped in Hershey at Red Robin for lunch and then finally tackled the last bit home.

Overall I would definitely recommend the race if you’re looking for a smaller race with beautiful scenery in the Lancaster area. The course has its challenges, but is friendly to all levels of runners. The volunteers were great and the post-race food was a fun change of pace. I would definitely do this race again.

Do you have any upcoming races you’re looking forward to?

The Joy of Running in Community: #RaceRecap

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Months ago Runner’s World magazine shared a feature story written by Bart Yasso about a group of Amish runners in Lancaster County. It was a great read, and if you have time I encourage you to read it as well. It was the first time I had heard about the Bird-In-Hand Half Marathon. At just four years old, it’s a relatively new race but one that is quickly taking hold as both a destination race, as well as a popular community event. It’s run by the Bird-In-Hand Volunteer Fire Department, of which more than 60% of the volunteers are Amish.

Soon after the article first appeared, Runner’s World shared a list of some of the coolest race medals. After seeing the used horseshoe turned medal made by the Amish, I know it was a must-do race. I admit, I’m slightly motivated by bling. However, I’d like to think it was more than that. The Amish, Mennonites, and other Anabaptists have fascinated me for a long time. I even took a class in college that explored the different groups in-depth. I still feel as though I know so little about them, but maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be.

Nevertheless, I added the Bird-In-Hand Half to my list of races that I knew I wanted to do. The 2014 race had sold out so I decided I would do it in 2015. Apparently luck was on my side as I soon found out a friend who had registered could no longer attend the race and was willing to transfer her bib. The transfer through the race went seamlessly and I was added to the list of runners. Soon after I booked a hotel and anxiously awaited race weekend.

Last week leading up to the race I found myself nervous after seeing early weather reports. A high of 89 was predicted for race day with humidity almost as high. After such a mild summer and very few runs in that type of weather, I was worried about how I would manage. I knew there’d be little to no shade on the farm country roads, but hoped the early start time would help. The expected high did not change as the week came to a close and so I decided to throw any time goal I had to the wind and focus on just having fun and taking the entire race experience in stride (no pun intended).

On Friday, Gabe and I hit the road around 3 p.m. and, despite a nasty rainstorm just outside Lancaster, arrived at the expo with plenty of time to spare. The expo, parking, and finish line were all on empty farm fields and parking was handled by Amish volunteers.

Bird-In-Hand Half Marathon Expo tent

Bird-In-Hand Half Marathon Expo tent

It was a smaller expo with not as many things related to running as you might see at other race expos. However, there were tons of Amish vendors selling some of the most delicious smelling treats. There was also space for their Friday night Pre-Race Amish Pasta Party. Packet pick-up was very organized and done by bib number, which I received via e-mail a few days prior. The tech shirt was great (I’ll have to post a picture later) and the whoopie pie made by Amish women was delicious.

The finish line was really neat. I snapped a photo of it Friday evening with the 5k banner up. The white fence ran from the road all the way through the finish line. It was truly awesome to run down it Saturday with it lined several rows deep with spectators.

Sorry it's a bit dark. The sun had set.

Sorry it’s a bit dark. The sun had set.

Gabe and I decided to head to Iron Hill Brewery for dinner. It was across the street from Franklin and Marshall University and not too far away. Gabe decided to do a sampler and none of the beers disappointed.

I don't think we could find a negative about any of these. All so different, all so unique, and all very yummy.

I don’t think we could find a negative about any of these. All so different, all so unique, and all very yummy.

The service and the food were also quite good. I think we might be back!

After locating our hotel, a mere 5 minute drive from the start line, we stopped in Target for some breakfast items. I settled on mini bagels and some peanut butter. I had to laugh though while coming and going from Target. It was built right next to the home office for the Amish Farm and House Countryside Tours, which looks just like an old farm house. The juxtaposition was comical to say the least.

We left for the start line at 6:15 am. Despite being only a short distance away, Bird-in-Hand is a very small town and I wanted to be prepared for parking traffic. Traffic wasn’t bad and we were parked quickly and heading over to watch the hot air balloon launch before the race. I had never been to one so I found it to be quite neat.

A beautiful sunrise we captured while in line to park.

A beautiful sunrise we captured while in line to park.

It was so neat to see these things come to life.

It was so neat to see these things come to life.

I turned around and lucked into this shot. It fits the day and the event so very well.

I turned around and lucked into this shot. It fits the day and the event so very well.

After parting ways with Gabe, I headed to the start line. After throwing my time goals out the window due to the weather (it was about 70 degrees at the start) I decided to start near the Amish pacer with the 2:10 sign. I figured the 9:55/mile pace would be safe to start and I could always work my way ahead or slow down if need be. This was the first year they had pacers, but from what I gathered it went very well.

I have to admit I was surprised by the number of Amish I saw at the start. Men, women, and even young teens in their plain clothes ready to run. Even after reading the Bart Yasso story, it was still somewhat surprising. Like the rest of us, they were excited and probably already a bit warm.

The race soon started and we began our trek on the beautiful country roads of Lancaster County. I had my earbuds on, but had the volume low enough to hear anything important, including buggy and car traffic, although there wasn’t much of either. Right from the start the Amish families whose farms we ran past were out in full force watching and sometimes waving, but always smiling. At one turn, there were at least 20-25 Amish sitting out on folding chairs waving as we all passed by.

Early on the corn, which was unbelievably tall, provided a bit of shade. But as the sun began to rise that wasn’t an option for long. Aid stations on a day like Saturday were crucial. I made it a point to stop at each, which were all manned by Amish families, and take water to drink and later, water to pour on my head and neck. The Amish families did an outstanding job of supplying water and gatorade and keeping all of us runners going. It doesn’t get much cuter than a bunch of Amish children standing there with arms out saying “Water, water, water!” in unison.

Another pleasant surprise were the large coolers of ice sitting along the course. We grabbed handfuls as we ran by, some to put on our necks and our heads, to rub down our arms, and even some to eat (and no I did not care how many other hands had been in the cooler before me. When you’re hot, you’re hot!). There were also port-a-potties along the course and outhouses at the one-room school houses for runners to use. Many Amish farmers set up sprinklers alongside the road, which many a runner took advantage of, myself included. Another pleasant surprise came somewhere near mile 10. We had turned onto a dirt and gravel farm road and were climbing probably the toughest hill of the day when I saw a sign for “Rita’s.” Despite how nice that sounded I didn’t think it could be part of the race. But low and behold, an Amish family had bought tubs of Rita’s ice, dumped them into large coolers and were handing runners small cups with just enough in them to satisfy you and make you smile.

Overall the course was great. It was challenging like most race courses, but wasn’t nearly as hilly as I was expecting. Most of the hills were long and gradual and at times unnoticeable, that is until you’d reach the crest and be staring down one incredibly long downhill. There were at least two such downhills. At the start of the first downhill I remember just taking in the view. You could see for miles in the sunny weather and it was just Amish farms, one after another. It was spectacular and I’m not overstating. The farm animals were also quite entertaining. A great many of the Amish families had dogs, including the biggest pug I’ve ever seen and two very obedient Boston Terriers. The cows were also quite comical, often gathering near the fences and mooing at us runners. They either thought we were crazy or were cheering us on. I’d like to think it was the latter.

The last mile was tough. It was around that time I started to see more than a couple runners walking, being helped by other runners, or attended to by EMTs. I also felt the need to walk for a short bit because it was just downright hot by then. The temperature had crept into the 80s. At some point I had caught up to the pacer for 2 hours and realized that despite the weather I might be able to break 2 hours for the first time. While walking I glanced behind me and saw him approaching and so I started running again heading straight for the final sprinkler of the course. After making the final turn it was so wonderful to see so many spectators lining North Ronks Road where we had started. They were loudly cheering us on to the finish. We turned onto the grass field between the white fences and headed to the finish.

Upon crossing the finish line, a group of Amish girls were there to hand you your medal. I took mine from a very short and cute little girl. In the tent were the local Dairy Princesses handing out chocolate milk, which was so incredibly cold and delicious (I may have gone back for seconds), tons of bananas, apples, bagels, cookies, and so much more. I honestly wasn’t that hungry, but grabbed an apple and a cookie for Gabe. I came out of the tent and found Gabe. He took one look at me and was like “Oh my…” I was soaked clean through, but I fit in well among the runners.

I don't look so hot, but I felt great and was a very happy finisher. Sadly I was oblivious to the fact my medal was backwards.

I don’t look so hot, but I felt great and was a very happy finisher. Sadly I was oblivious to the fact my medal was backwards.

Honestly, I have nothing but good things to say about this race. I can’t wait to do it again. It is by far my favorite race to date.

After a quick shower and a little time to relax, we headed into downtown Lancaster for lunch at Aussie and the Fox. The food was once again delicious. It was at lunch that I started thinking about the Amish runners.

Why do they run? They work very hard throughout their lives, and minus their predisposition to some genetic disorders, they don’t have as many of the same health issues as the general population. This is possibly due in part to the fact that they do physical work, don’t smoke or drink, and eat food from the land instead of processed junk more often than not. So clearly, the motivation isn’t simply to be in peak physical condition, to lose weight, set records, win races, etc. If those were the motivating factors, it would probably go against some of their beliefs.

So what is it?

As I thought about it more I first thought about what motivates me and other friends who like to be active and fit. I also thought about how many people, both those active and fit and those who are not, look at fitness and running as too hard, not enjoyable, and just all around have a negative attitude. For me, it’s because I enjoy it and all the positives it provides for me both personally and socially.

I kept thinking. What is it?

Then it dawned on me. I remembered a saying on the back of our race shirts, “The joy of running in community.”  That was it! It’s about community, which is what their lives revolve around. Yes they’re fast, and yes they’re dedicated, and yes I’m sure they have goals. But if there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that they enjoy being out there together, and sharing this activity with their families, friends, neighbors, and you guessed it, their community. Amish and English alike.

“I love the serenity…every step, every breath, every PR is a gift from God.” ~Amish runner as quoted in Runner’s World.