Running with the Amish, again.

Last weekend, I headed back to my hometown in Pennsylvania to visit family and friends and run a half marathon through rural Amish Country.

Does this sound familiar? It might, because last spring I ran a half marathon through Amish Country with a childhood friend Wendy, and we had a blast. Shortly after running that race, the Garden Spot half marathon, I decided to register for its fall counterpart, the Bird-in-Hand half marathon.

What a great call!

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 are quite fast.

Saturday’s race was FILLED with Amish men and women, most of whom run in Amish clothing. That means men run in black pants and suspenders and women wear long dresses and aprons. (and of course, sneakers)

20130910-155448.jpgAn Amish man and woman fly by. Yep, they are running.

My friend Kyle came in for the race. As we headed to the race site Saturday morning we were treated to a pretty spectacular sunrise. And thank you mom, for driving us in and cheering us on!

20130910-155734.jpgLancaster County sunrise

We arrived early. We wanted plenty of time to park and use one of the slew of portajohns waiting for runners. (There were more than 60 and lines were short. Thank you, race organizers! You understand!)

20130910-160125.jpgHot air balloons inflating at the start

I also had the chance to meet my Oiselle teammate, Michelle, who was making her race debut as a member of the brand’s running team. (I made mine last week at an 18-miler in Watertown, NY, where I PRed!)

Oiselle, pronounced “wa-zell” and means “bird” in French, is a women’s running apparel company that encourages women athletes to push their limits, take chances and just be your amazing self. Michelle and I last month were both named to Oiselle’s Volèe team (That’s “flier” in French) and represent the brand. Side note: I love everything about this company. The gear, the women behind it and the women representing it.

bihbirdsBirds in Bird-in-Hand!

We were both excited to meet, and to race in our singlets for the first time! Can’t wait to run with you again, Birdie!

The race itself was a stunning, but hilly course. Kyle and I used the event as a training run for our fall marathons. Since I really pushed myself last weekend in Watertown, I knew I have to take it easy this weekend.

Kyle and I chatted as we ran, and ran. We spotted quite a few Amish men and women passing us by. Here’s my fave pic, snapped mid-stride.


Here are a few highlights from the race:

– About a dozen hot air balloon launched just before the race began. This was incredibly beautiful and the balloons entertained us for the first few miles of the hilly, rural course.

20130910-155414.jpgHands down, my fave pic of the race

– Running with Kyle, because hello, she’s awesome! And we can comfortably chat while enjoying the scenery.

– All the water stations were manned by Amish children. Boys and girls cheered as they handed out water and Gatorade to thirsty runners.

– A mid-race cheer and high-five from my teammate Michelle! We spotted each other near the mile 5 turnaround. In our matching singlets, we each cheered for each other. “Fly birdie!” As Kyle said, it was “absolutely stinkin’ adorable.”

There were many fans along the route, both human and animals. We thanked many children and volunteers as we ran. Those lovely Amish girls cheering at mile 11 on the one-lane bridge will also forever hold a place in my heart. Kyle and I cheered back. How often do you have the chance to interact with such simplicity and joy?

As we rounded the bend to the finish, I spotted my mother, then high-tailed it across the finish line where family friend Carole was cheering!

20130910-155555.jpgPost-race with Kyle, who PRed by 12 minutes! Rock on lady!

Yes, those medals are real horseshoes. Yes, they are insanely heavy. Yes, I nearly toppled over when it was placed around my neck by little Amish girl. Yes, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

I can’t wait to run this course again next fall… and I’ll plan ahead this time so I can really fly! (are you in, Kyle? Michelle?)

Have you run a rural race? Have you ever run with the Amish? Is this event now on your bucket list? (and they have a 5K too!)

34 thoughts on “Running with the Amish, again.

    • I’m not far from an Amish community in upstate NY either and I can honestly say Lancaster is the only place I’ve ever seen them race. And they are FAST! the second and third place overall winners are both Amish. (my mom watched them come in!) Awesome race, I highly recommend it!

  1. Awesome! I have to be there for the hot air balloons alone. 😉 Pooks would love that. I love that mom was there to cheer – I bet that was great for both of you.

    How many participants were there? I think I might have to add this to my race bucket list!

    • The hot air balloons were stunning, They do a launch the night before the race at a race bonfire and again the evening after the race, after a picnic. LOTS of chances to see the balloons!

      About 1200 people ran the half. There’s a 5K the night before too.

  2. I ran the 18.12 Challenge, as well! I finished ahead of only seven people but it was an auto-PR since I’d never run that distance before. Congrats on both races! I’m looking forward to trying the BIH Half next year; Lancaster is like a second home to me.

    • That challenge course was a bit tougher than I expected. (who said it was downhill? It wasn’t!!) I loved it though. Thanks so much for the support Kate. And yes, if you like rural running routes, I think you would love the BIH course!

      • I grew up in Watertown, so I was pretty clear on what to expect as far as the course goes. And I currently run in the Baltimore area where it is impossible to escape hills, so I was well-trained for that. What did me in was the heat. I ran out of water by mile 11, there was no shade, I forgot sunscreen, etc. etc. etc. I might try the half marathon next year because it’s fun to do a race in my hometown.

        • Ah, I gotcha! And yes, it was rather warm. Those last few miles were rough, esp when we saw all the half-marathoners turn off toward the finish! A few of my friends ran the half and did really well. 🙂

          And you are so right! There’s nothing like running a race in your hometown!

  3. This race sounds awesome! I grew up in Reading, PA and we were always going to Lancaster for the awesome food! We always saw Amish boys riding their bikes around on those big hills, I bet they would be great at Duathlons!

    • I bet they would! I always love spotting Amish boys and girls on their kick bikes. And hooray for Reading! We used to go there often as a child, to shop at the outlets! 🙂

  4. I loved reading your recap of this race. It was my first half marathon and it was such an incredible experience. I remember those amish girls from mile 11. It was so cool seeing everyone around me line up single file to high 5 them.

    • Thank you! Congratulations on becoming a half-marathoner! You picked a great event to start with as this is one of my fave courses I’ve run to date!

      Those girls were the cutest! I loved how excited they were to cheer us all along.

      Congratulations again!

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