Race recap: hotter than hades at the Bird-in-Hand half marathon

Rough.

With one word to describe the Bird-in-Hand half marathon, this lone thought keeps topping my list.

It was a warm and muggy morning, with pre-dawn temps well into the 70s. Humidity was 96%. Oof.

IMG_0719An Amish family of runners at the race site

After an insane work week earlier this month, I headed to my hometown to run the rural road race for the second straight year. Lancaster, Pennsylvania is Amish country. Home to many in the Pennsylvania Dutch Amish and Mennonite community. Many in the county’s Amish community love to run and have a growing reputation as strong competitors in running circles. And this annual race is organized by that growing running community.

I drove to PA with my running pal Ray and connected with the lovely Kyle and Christina for our big Saturday morning run – the Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon.

We headed to the race site in rural Lancaster County early Saturday morning amidst the fog and were treated to a stellar sunrise.

IMG_0704Ah, Lancaster

We arrived early so we could all mentally prepare. When Kyle suggested we run intervals together – I immediately agreed. Repeated cycles of five minutes of running and one minute of walking sounded like a brilliant way to tackle this muggy 13.1.

IMG_0722From left: me, Kyle, Christina and Ray

As we prepped to run and lined up at the start, we spotted a few ladies pinning each other’s race bibs on their dresses. That’s right – many of the Amish run in their everyday clothes, including hair coverings. And sneakers.

IMG_0743Let’s race, ladies

Soon enough, it was go time. Kyle and I ran together, and we were thankful to stick to our interval plan. Dozens of people passed us each time we walked those first few miles.

Among them, we repeatedly encountered an Amish man running with his young daughter. We cheered each time we saw them, noting how fantastic their joint venture was.

IMG_0748Seriously, I love this duo.

By mile three, I was drenched. I’m talking soaked to the bone. Kyle and I stopped to walk at least twice each mile.

Around the turnaround at mile five, Kyle waved me on. Her legs were heavy, as she’d run a 20-miler just 6 days prior.

I pushed ahead, passing folks as I ran, then watching them pass me by when it was my time to walk.

The next hour was such a challenge. I was overheated. I wanted to stop, but I didn’t. I stuck to Kyle’s plan, even though I was now running solo. I listened to her voice on my head. I didn’t want to let her down by walking too long, or running too slowly .

IMG_0750Running through the corn(fields)

The race itself was a stunning, but hilly course through the cornfields and farmland in Lancaster. Every mile or so, Amish kids manned water and Gatorade stations, and alerted runners to the beverages in four-part harmony.

Amish and Mennonite families cheered us along, many while also doused us with water from garden hoses and sprinklers.

With the heat and humidity, race organizers added about a dozen huge coolers filled with ice along the route. Each time I spotted one, I grabbed a handful, ate a few cubes and shoved ice down my bra.

I sounded like a maraca as I ran on.

As I ran on I saw lots of horses, cows and goats. There were loads of farms, fields and even a half-dozen one-room schoolhouses and horse-drawn buggies galore.

Around mile 8, I hoofed it up a hill and spotted something out of the ordinary.

IMG_0752um, what?

Am I hallucinating, or is that a pair of camels?

Turns out, I said that out loud as another runner answered, informing me that yes indeedy, camels were hanging out along the side of the road.

I spent the next few miles wondering why. I learned more the following week when I found an article about a camel dairy farm  in the Lancaster paper’s news archives. Did you know you can milk them? Yup. But apparently they are not incredibly willing participants.

By this point of the race, I was passing people left and right. Please don’t get me wrong. I certainly wasn’t speeding. My running time was just a 9-minute-mile pace. I’d just started walking far earlier than most, so I had more in my reserves as we all pressed on. (Thank you Kyle!!)

We cut through a farm on a gravel toad, where I tripped over a cornstalk and nearly landed flat on my face. Somehow I caught myself and moved on. It was along this stretch that cups of Rita’s Water Ice were distributed. So happy! The sugar rush added some pep to my step.

The last miles were tough. I’d been seeing occupied ambulances whiz by and volunteers and medics helping collapsed runners along the course. I was concerned about hydrating properly and making it to the end.

As it turned out, more than 50 of the 1,700 registered runners suffered heat exhaustion. Some even went to the hospital. The high for the day was 91.

I didn’t walk that last mile. I just wanted to finish. When I rounded the final turn onto a grass field and sprinted (eh, as much as I could muster) to the finish, I heard an announcer share finishers ‘ names and hometowns.

I never heard my name, but I couldn’t have cared less. I was done.

I guzzled water and chocolate milk and ate a banana before I tripped over Ray in the field and encountered my mom. A few minutes later, we heard Kyle ‘s name announced as she finished the run.

IMG_0721The hot air balloon launch at the start. This never gets old.

My time was 5 minutes slower than last year, when conditions were far more ideal. But I placed in the top third, compared to last year when I was solidly in the middle.

It wasn’t my best race by far. But I’m so proud of how all three of us fared – each about 15 minutes off our PR paces. But given the conditions, we ran smart and made it through without injuring ourselves. So to us, the race was a success!

IMG_0775We’re done! As Christina said, the race was so brutal we lost a whole human. Not to worry, she finished uninjured!

Despite the sizzling conditions, I love this small-town race and would do it again in a heartbeat. Plus, you get a handcrafted medal made from a horseshoe. I nearly tipped over – again – when an Amish girl placed it around my neck.

These miles marked my first double digit run this month for me toward Scootadoot’s Million Mile Run. And NEWS!  This month, starting today (9/15) at midnight, Volvo is matching funds of donations to Alex’s Lemonade Stand for up to $30,000!

The number 30 is significant because every hour, 30 news cases of cancer affect children under the age of 20 worldwide.

That means any donation given during this period will go TWICE AS FAR!

If you wish to donate, check out our team page – We’ve raised $800 for pediatric cancer halfway through September!

Have you run a race in less-than-ideal conditions? How did you cope? Did you ever not finish due to overheating? Have you heard of this race?

15 thoughts on “Race recap: hotter than hades at the Bird-in-Hand half marathon

  1. Yay Lancaster! Love that place. It’s so beautiful. This race looks fun except for all the humidity! Sounds like you did great : ) Those camels cracked me up! Once I saw a zebra in a field of horses on my way home from Virginia and I never saw it again….

  2. That’s awesome. I saw someone else posts about this race coming up and it is absolutely on my to run list. Humidity may be a little rough but looks cool to do. The medals are definitely unique.

  3. I didn’t know Lancaster was your hometown! I was back in my hometown of Bethlehem PA that weekend for the Via half marathon and all I kept thinking about on Saturday was how hot and dangerous it was for Bird in Hand. Thank goodness you made it through safely. My race was Sunday and it had cooled down considerably by then. You are a trooper!

    • Aw, thanks! I love Bethlehem and have loads of family there. How was your half on Sunday?

      And you are so right, the temp at 7 am Sunday was like 30 degrees cooler than the temp the same time Saturday. I lamented over not racing Sunday instead. Ah well. It’s a good tale now.

  4. This race is definitely on my bucket list. Hopefully when I finally get to do it, it won’t be hotter than Hades! 😉

    • YAY! You will love it- and the hot air balloon launch that comes along with it. And there’s a 5K on Friday evening too. I never do it as I’m typically still headed toward town at race time.

  5. Oh my.. I was there. Definitely struggled though it as well. Did you get into the makeshift pool? Despite the heat, I am already planning to go back next year!

    • I didn’t even SEE the makeshift pool until I saw pics of it online. I did, however, get doused by dudes manning a huge circular bin of cold water. I should’ve crawled in. How was your run? I’m glad you survived too!

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