Saturday, September 8, 2012

Bird-In-Hand 5k & Half Marathon

So Bren read the article about the Amish runners in Runners World a few months ago and suggested that I try it. Bren doesn't generally suggest runs, she more, kind of, puts up with them, but I had a feeling that this would be one she would be interested in. You see Bren, is fascinated by the Amish people and their way of life & this run, taking place in the heart of the Amish in south eastern Pennsylvania, would suit us both. It was going be quite a short, rushed weekend, but it was going to be worth it. There was also an option of going for the Fire Company challenge, ie run in both the 5k & the half, so I like a fool went for it.

We left home on the Friday morning, pretty much as soon as the kids got on their school buses. I suspected that I had bitten off more than I could chew and that we weren't going to manage to make the start of the 5k, bur we made good time and headed straight to the packet pickup area. I had already gotten changed in the car on the way over, so no messing around there. We parked right across the road from the area, but it was very busy. I was picking up for both races, but that was no hassle and everythting went very smoothly, if a little slowly.

Packet pickup line, not as bad as it looked
They were also having hot air balloon take offs in the field next to the expo area which gave us something to look at while in line.

As idyllic as it looked

The expo was quite small but had some cool stuff to browse, fresh Amish made food, a couple of stalls selling running shirts, shoes, etc, the new latest magic runners snake oil. As 6:15pm rolled around it was time to see the kids one mile race. We decided that it would be cool to watch as we had seen lots of little Amish kids with their numbers on, getting ready to run the race, boys in their long pants, with suspenders (braces) and little girls in their long plain dresses and aprons, many with either trendy running shoes or just barefoot. See below for a video of them towards the end of the race. Sometimes the embedded video doesn't show, can also be seen at

In with the new and out with the old

So I almost broke one of the cardinal rules of racing - 'nothing new on race day', ie race day is not the day to try anything out of your usual routine. My old New Balance MT10's were really starting to show their age and the many miles I have put on them, so it was time to go with something new, after much deliberation, I opted for the Skechers GoRun Ride, as worn by elite marathon runner Meb Keflezighi, but I'm sure he could wear anything and still kick my @rse. I ran two miles in them the day before the 5k, so no rules broken.

The 5k

The 5k was scheduled to start at 6:30pm,but I guess they were just totally overwhelmed by the number of people running the race and parking/ packet pickup was an issue for them. It was a beautiful location to stand a wait, so wait we did as there really wasn't much else that we could do, right. The sun was starting to go down, but with the continuing balloon launches, it did provide with a couple of nice photo opportunities.

Sometimes the smartphone can take a good snap
The race started about 10 minutes late, which wasn't too bad considering. While it was getting a little cooler, ~80F, it wasn't getting any less humid, I looked around at the many Amish people in the same race, boys, girls, men and women, none of them dressed down in any way, their only concession being the latest pair of running shoes, I wondered how hot they must be feeling.

And then we were off... I, rather inexplicably, managed to set a new 1 mile PR (7:29) and a Cooper (2.5km) on this one, with the hills and the mass of people, I was very surprised. Around mile two, the humidity and the hills, really started taking its toll and I hit the wall. I was ready to walk by the time I got to mile three but managed to drag myself over the line. I was in a pack of about four of five at the end and didn't have to energy to try and beat them to the finish line. I was just plain glad to be done and with a slight twinge in my Achilles tendon, not really looking forward to what the morning was going to bring.

Official results - 105/ 510 overall, 5/ 16 in my age group

Half Marathon

Up bright and early after sleeping like crap on an air mattress in a small tent, no snacks or drinks to speak of and it was time to head over for the start of the half marathon. Not my best ever pre race preparations, let me tell you. Once there we did manage to get some fresh sugar coated donuts before the race, but I don't recall Runners World ever saying how awesome these things are for your stomach either. But anyway, the time had come to get to the starting line and get this thing going. It wasn't as humid as yesterday, but it was early, confidence was not particularly high.

There was a field of just over 1,000 people in the race, which I guess is what happens when you get a story in Runners World. So, not unsurprisingly, the first couple miles were extremely congested, but thinned out eventually. The race meandered through the local Amish farming communities, growing mostly corn, beans and some tobacco. The hills were never ending, there were lots of spectators who would cheerfully shout that around the next corner was a nice downhill, not knowing that an bitter Scotsman merely thinks, that another downhill means that there is another uphill somewhere else.

There were a couple of times on the course where you could see quite far ahead, which can be a little demoralising, but it does change to being able to see quite far behind, which does make you feel a whole lot better. At one point an idiot in a 18-wheeler flew down the right hand lane of the two lane road we were running on. He was obviously pissed about the runners and proceeded to reverse into a farm driveway, ignoring the protests of the runners.

In the last 1/2 mile I got fed up having been passed a few times in the previous mile I decided that I would try and finish strong. There was one guy a few yards ahead, so I increased my stride and went for it. I passed him, made the turn into the field heading towards the finish line, looked back and I was clear. Crossed the line ~2:06, got my medal, plenty of snacks and focused on not dying.

It really was beautiful scenery to run through, I came to the realisation during this race that what I really don't like is running uphill, or downhill.

My official results, emailed to me, no less, kind of a nice touch;
Bib #:  300
Gun Time:  2:07:38.9 ( 9:41/mile)
Chip Time:  2:06:46.2
Overall Place:   430/1069
Age Group Place:  30/52 (Male 45 to 49)

The 5k & half marathon finish line
with obligatory Amish family

The much coveted award
Post race reflections/ how I learned to love the road apples

One of the many benefits of running in an area where many people travel in a horse and buggy is the opportunity to step in/on road apples. Between the guys that put on this race and another race in the same area, the Garden Spot Village Marathon, they decided that if you do both races, in the same calendar year, you will qualify for the Road Apple Award, in either 2D or 3D. The 3D version comes with real road apples stuck on the front, a must for any office or basement wall. I suspect I'm going to go for this...

Good Points
  • Fantastic aid stations and plenty of them, one even had mango sorbet to eat while running.
  • Random coolers containing ziploc bags of ice
  • Well sign posted and marshalled
  • Location, location, location, absolutely stunning
  • Lots of porta potties at the start, not waiting, ever
  • Lots of porta potties on the course

Bad points
  • No GU stations
  • The medal I received looked like I should be able to remove the outside and eat the chocolate inside, I saw other antique silver looking ones that looked way better. I suspect that they were overwhelmed and ran out of their original choice, I'll cut them some slack there.
  • The idiot in the eighteen wheeler that really didn't like runners, obviously nothing the organizers could do about that.

The original Runners World article, well worth a read -,7120,s6-243-297--14236-0,00.html

Cool news report about the Amish runners -

Official results -

As the Garmin saw it;

Race shirts; for the 5k, half marathon &
the firefighters challenge (on the back it says
'I ran the Amish Country 5k & Half Marathon)
Medal, like I said, the antique silver one was much nicer

Vella Shpringa - Gotta Run


  1. Great write-up! Sounds like it was worth the drive! Congrats!

    1. Cheers, it was a lot of fun, planning on it for next year...