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)
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!
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!)
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.
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.
– 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!
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.
— Victoria Freile (@vfreile) September 7, 2013
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!)