Two weekends ago, I ran one of, if not THE coolest race I’ve ever run.
This race also happened to be the 2nd Annual MJ Reunion Race – the first one happened in Memphis last November with my friend Mel, whom you’ve already met. We went to grad school together, but she lives in Houston now, so this is a great way for us to spend some time together and stay connected. We were really excited for this race – after reading the article in April’s Runner’s World, we knew we had to do this one.
We arrived in Bird-in-Hand Friday evening just in time to watch some hot air balloons take off, pick up our packets, and gorge during the Amish Pasta & Pizza party!
Oh yeah, did I mention that there were s’mores, too?! Best. Race. Ever. After toasting a few marshmallows with a really sweet Amish boy, we sat down to listen to the guest speaker…. Bart Yasso himself!
He talked a lot about running the Comrades (ultra) Marathon in South Africa, which ironically enough, Mel and I have on our list of reunion races. After hearing Bart’s stories, we’re going to make Comrades our 10 year celebration!
After his speech, Mel and I were able to meet Bart briefly, grab a picture, and have him sign our copies of his book, My Life on the Run.
It got to be a little late and we were tired from a long drive, so we headed to our bed & breakfast in the town over called… wait for it… Intercourse, PA. That’s right. Let’s just let that one settle in for a bit….
If you ever find yourself in Intercourse (mwuahaha!), there’s a place called the Inn at Kitchen Kettle. Go there. End of story. Best customer service EVER, adorable and affordable rooms. Just all around awesome. We didn’t check in until around 9:30, and the manager had left a note wishing us luck in the race and letting us know that there were a dozen homemade cookies waiting for us in our room, since we would be missing the included country breakfast. Rock On, Kitchen Kettle. Rock on.
Once we settled into our comfy digs, we did what any other ladies would do on a girls weekend… we pored over the Trail issue of Runner’s World and chose our 2013 race before chatting for way longer than we should have about training, racing, and more. There’s nothing like spending uninterrupted time with someone who just gets you!
As usual, race morning came early, but we were excited to tackle the course through the hills of Pennsylvania. The advantage of smaller races and staying less than 3 miles away is that you can leave less than 30 minutes before the race starts and still get there with plenty of time to spare.
Mel is coming off an IT Band injury and running .8 / walking .2, so our plan was to stay together until her first walking interval before splitting off. The first .8 came and went, and I wished Mel luck and took off through the hills. And let me tell you… there were hills.
I’d say this was by far the hilliest race I’ve ever done. It wound through Lancaster county, criss crossing the most picturesque Amish farms. Most water stops were manned by Amish children who shouted “Water! Water! Water!” or “Gatorade! Gatorade! Gatorade!”
There were also quite a few Amish families out watching and cheering for runners. I’ve really been hankering for a sub-2 half marathon, but with this race being so relentlessly hilly, I told myself I’d be happy with a PR – I’m proud to say that I ran those hills into ground!
I scored a 2 minute PR for an official time of 2:05:18!
I grabbed my medal and some post-race fuel and headed back out onto the course to keep an eye out for Mel.
After running Mel in a bit later, we made a beeline for what was without a doubt THE BEST post-race treat we’ve ever experienced…
Homemade Amish lemonade and whoopie pies… for $1 each. Seriously. Amazing. I’ve had dreams about these whoopie pies, they were that good.
Overall, the Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon is definitely in my top 3 favorite races. It reminded me a lot of the Liberty Half Marathon that I ran at the beginning of the year. ALthough BIH was definitely bigger, it kept that small-race feel that I love. Sometimes with bigger races, although they are certainly fun, there’s a sense of commercialism and a focus on the status and materialism that sometimes comes with running.
Bird-in-Hand was a celebration of the running community and all that it means to be a runner, and it was such an honor to spend it with hundreds of my fellow runners. I can’t say I’ve spent a ton of time with the Amish, but overall, they were the nicest, happiest, most sincere people I’ve met… did I mention that some of them are FAST?!
When it comes down to it, this was more than a race – it was an experience. If you ever get the chance, RUN IT!!