A half marathon to remember!
The Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon was held September 11th 2021 at 7:30am. This was the very 1st HALF MARATHON I ever ran back in 2019, (it was not held last year) and I was very excited to run this race again. This was the longest race I ran since injuring my hamstring back in July. There are no refunds or transfers allowed, and nothing was going to stop me from running it. I was not expecting to beat my prior course time of 3 hr 46 min 22 sec. I was just going to cross that finish line and be happy to do it.
Each year approximately 2000 runners from across the USA and around the world converge on the small town of Bird-in-Hand PA deep in the heart of Lancaster County.
This farming community is populated by two religious sects, the Amish, and the Mennonites. The two communities were originally part of a Swiss Anabaptist group led by Jacob Ammann before splitting into two separate groups in 1693. The Amish chose to be much more strict, shunning all modern technology and living in an exclusive and closed community. Their first language is a dialect of German known as PA Dutch with English as a second language. Education only lasts until about the grade in one- room school houses. They ride horse drawn carriages, do not have electricity in their homes, and live in a very 1800s way.
Mostly they farm, breed animals, do carpentry, leather work, blacksmithing, and make their own clothing. They are not EVEN allowed to ride bicycles, instead opting for a large metal push scooter, lacking a seat or pedals. In case you’re wondering the Groffdale Machine Shop in Leola manufactures over a thousand of these scooters a year “from scratch”. The owner is Amish and doesn’t want his name mentioned.
Now that you know about the community, let me tell you about the course. You will be running through 13.1 miles of mostly flat paved country roads. I think there was at least one hill up and down. At the one mile mark, there usually is a country band singing as you run by. Little Amish children at various mile marks will eagerly hand you cups of water. Some will even offer Gatorade. The fields off of the road stretch off as far as the eyes can see in beautiful unspoiled farmland. Occasionally you may see some of these farmers plowing their fields. This scenic vista is nick-named the “Valley of No Wires.
There is a two mile stretch near the end where you run though an Amish field and then though an actual farm. All I can say is that this is one of the most beautiful areas you will ever run in. You will quickly fall in love with this race.
This race has been featured in various sites on running, including ACTIVE.com which listed it as a must-do race. There is no race-day sign up, and you must pick up your participant packet not later than 7pm the night before the race. Online registration usually opens in January. This always sells out, so sign up early or risk missing out on a truly memorable race. It has been traditionally held on the Saturday after Labor Day in September, so in 2022 that date will be September 10th, 2022. If you are the type of person who likes a warm-up race the day before the big race, there is also a BIH 5K race the night before the half-marathon. This is a separate event, but you can register online as well. www.bihhalfmarathon.com
The Finisher Medal!
This is one of the most unique finishes medals in all of racing and a must have for the medal collector. Each medal is hand made from a actual horseshoe worn by a horse who trod through Bird-in-Hand. They are collected after use, cleaned, polished and a metal plate is welded to the back. lastly a strip of leather is tied to the medal. No two medals are ‘identical’ as each horse’s hoof is a different size shoe. Since I live 8 miles from this race, I intend to run every year as long as I am physically able.
So how did I do?
As I previously stated, I have had a rough year. My training has been a mess, I’m working six days a week, and up to 12 hours a day. My entire body hurts, and I’m tired all the time. 2021 has not been good to me. Now I had my two friends Bruce and Suzan to keep me on track.
I was ok until mile number 5. At that point I could no longer keep pace with my two friends.
I got passed by a woman from Arizona and I cheered her on as she blew past me. I cheered her a 2nd time as she passed me again heading back from the turn-around at mile 6, which I hadn’t even reached.
I knew she was from Arizona because she was wearing a top with the state flag. I told her “You got this! Save me a whoopie pie!” I can’t tell you the number of positive times I’ve been encouraged as I raced, and I always encourage others. If you’re not enjoying life, you’re living all wrong.
By mile number 9, I was one of the last two people still running. The race van pulled up, and the woman from Colorado threw in the towel. Her last words were something like “I’ve run over a hundred halfs. I’m tired, I’m 62, I just got done hiking in the Rockies and I have NOTHING TO PROVE!” The driver said “you ok?” I said, “Sure, only 4 miles more.”
At mile 10, they checked me again, I said ‘Still ok, 3 to go.” As I came to mile 11, I texted Suzan and said if that van comes again, I’m getting in. She texted back “YOU GOT THIS!”
Just at that point, an Amish man riding one of those push scooters came along side me and said “you’re almost there, 2 miles, you have a good pace.”. I thanked him, told him I was struggling, and he rode along side me for the last 2 miles as we talked about various topics including God and Amish push scooters. I never caught his name, but without him encouraging me and keeping company those last 2 miles, I probably would have quit. As we approached the final 50 yards, two race officials asked if they could ‘run with me to the end’ I said sure, and with one on each side of me we sprinted the final 50 yards.
As soon as I crossed the finish line I collapsed to my knees in exhaustion. My final time was 4 hours 30 minutes, 13 seconds. Dead last, but I FINISHED!
Suzan was waiting at the finish line, as was the lady from Arizona, #1158 Julie Brownsberger. I was shocked and humbled that she waited to see me finish.
Bruce was nearby waiting in the tent. (his knee was bothering him, and he needed to sit.) This is the beauty of the running community. The reason we race isn’t so much to beat each other, but to be with each other! In some ways we are a tighter community than the Amish, united by our love of running and our fellow runners.
You can find me at these upcoming races:
Third Thirsty Thursday 5K Race Series – Race 7/7 October 21st @7:00 pm Reading PA (The last TTT of the year is a night race in the dark followed by Halloween Dress Up party!)
Be sure to check back on October 10th for another article.
As always, I wish you success and happiness!