There are a lot of reasons why I’m so late in writing this race report, and only one of them is (slightly) valid – namely, my camera experienced some type of catastrophe in which the memory card (but not the entire camera) somehow got wet and therefore corrupted, resulting in me losing all of the pictures from the 5k the night before the half marathon. I’ve had way too many other things going on, so I delayed writing the report in hopes that my memory card would magically fix itself and I would be able to get the pictures back and write this report with the glorious photos it deserves. Spoiler alert: cameras do not usually magically fix themselves. I’ve been putting this off for too long, so now, without further adieu and with a mix of pictures I have stolen from my dear friends JC and Jenn, I give you the Bird-in-Hand 5k and Half Marathon race reports! Brace yourself – Amish people and my relentless enthusiasm ahead.
The weekend didn’t start off on the best note. My flight was delayed by two hours and I had underestimated the time it would take to get from the Philadelphia airport to the start of the 5k. JC picked me up (ready with food and even gluten-free beer because he is the best) and we battled rush hour traffic to make it to our hotel at 6:18 pm. The 5k start was set for 6:30! Fortunately, Jenn was able to pick up our bibs and the hotel was right across the street from the race start, so we quickly changed and sprinted across the street! Whew!
The 5k was the first time I had run in two weeks since getting sick with bronchitis, so I really wasn’t sure how it would go. Obviously, that’s not a great sign since I had a half marathon the next day! Fortunately, I was so enamored with all the adorable Amish children everywhere while simultaneously being so disturbed/impressed by all the Amish people running in the race in long dresses and pants that I really didn’t notice what I was doing. JC ran all over the place taking pictures of me from a million angles, but alas, this was with my currently defunct camera, so I have none of them.
It was extremely hot and humid, and JC and I remarked at how much we were sweating during a 5k that we weren’t running terribly quickly! It did not bode well for the next day, but we were having so much fun that it didn’t matter. The 5k even took us on a short trail through a corn field, which was basically the greatest thing of my life. I’m not saying that I’m only running races in which Amish people are highly involved from now on, but I’m not not saying that. I was determined to finish under 30 minutes (because that obviously matters?), so I did.
I had forgotten a sports bra (ran the 5k in a yoga bra), so JC and I headed out after the race to head to the outlet mall so I could grab one. Interesting fact: the only thing I ever forget for races is my sports bra. We got all set up and headed to bed early for the race the next morning, although we unfortunately missed out on the bonfire and s’mores party after the 5k. We also discovered that my camera was broken and prayed it would be fixed by the next morning. Not so much.
I was pretty nervous about the half marathon, as you know. It was obvious that it wasn’t going to be a PR effort, and after getting sick, I was also pretty sure I wasn’t going to be able to run the entire thing. I decided to just do the best I could at each given moment, whatever that was. Race morning dawned like a sauna. We were all sweating through our clothes before the race even started. After a great 5k the night before and knowing that I had the hospitality of the Amish to look forward to, I really tried to focus on just being excited and doing the best I could. With the scenery, that was pretty easy to do.
The first few miles of the race were beautiful and scenic, but boy were they hot. I’m always hot when I run, so I tried not to say anything about it, but I knew things were bad when JC said at precisely mile 0.5 “Oh my God, I’ve already sweat through my shirt.” We were running through farmlands, so there was no shade, and we were also running directly into the sun. I focused on keeping my efforts even and not psyching myself out about the heat, but people all around us were walking very early on. Fortunately, there were lots of sites to behold and JC and I hadn’t run together in awhile, so we caught up on all the Marathon Maniacs and 50 States Marathon Club gossip.
JC appointed himself my personal photographer and ran all over the course taking photos, which was fun for me (and useful since I regularly get asked for pictures of me running and I have surprisingly few without tons of people in them) but probably pretty annoying for everyone around us. I’m not sure the compression shorts and running clothes soaked in sweat and clinging to my body is my best look, but it was certainly the look of the day for pretty much everyone out there. I call it “humidity chic.”
As much fun as we were having and as much as we were enjoying the scenery and thinking about ways to steal Amish children, it was hard not to think about how much running we still had left to do. The only bad thing I have to say about this race is that the water stops are pretty far apart (every 2-3 miles), especially for the heat and the difficulty of the course (it’s constant rolling hills). I tried to replace as many fluids as possible at each stop, but it was hard to do without making myself sick. Fortunately, the race had the foresight to put out coolers full of ice every so often, so I grabbed some each time and stuffed it down my hat, sports bra, whatever! It was all about survival.
We were keeping a decent pace, but around halfway through the race, I started having a really hard time with my breathing. I wasn’t running too fast and my heart rate was not extremely high, but my chest didn’t feel like it was able to expand fully and I wasn’t getting enough air. I know from unfortunate experience that this is what it feels like when I try to run with bronchitis, and it made it hard to run for extended periods. I reminded myself just to do my best that I could each moment and keep moving forward, and that’s what we did. It helped to walk up the hills, and everyone around us was slowing down too. We noticed lots of ambulances and people dropping like flies on the side of the road, which was pretty scary. It was a big wake up call to just stay safe and do the best we could to get to the finish line in one piece!
There were a few randomly really exciting things on the course. The first was a rather unexpected pair of camels that showed up around mile 9. At least, I think it was mile 9. I might have been delirious. It was kind of ironic that there were camels because at that point we were so hot that we felt like we were in the Middle East, and then those camels appeared out of nowhere. I took a picture with the camels and JC tried to get them to kiss me, but it looked more like they were going to spit on me instead so we high-tailed it out of there.
We were walking some and running as much as my breathing situation would allow, but regardless of how fast (or slow) we were moving, I couldn’t help marvel at the beautiful scenery around us and be amazed by all of the (very fast!) Amish people who were running the race. I was so hot in my technical gear and I just could not get over how they were running in pants and suspenders or long dresses. Talk about tough! I refused to let JC take pictures them because it seemed a little gauche (and I know the Amish sometimes do not want pictures taken of themselves) but trust me, it was amazing.
At mile 10, the greatest thing that has ever happened to me in a race happened. I literally thought I was hallucinating. We turned onto a gravel road and I saw a sign that said “Rita’s” nailed to a telephone pole. It seemed odd to me because clearly there was not a Rita’s Italian Ice and Frozen Custard store nearby since we were in the middle of farmland. EXCEPT THERE WAS. The race had set up a Rita’s station at mile 10 on this gravel road next to a cornfield! I asked what flavor the italian ice was as if it mattered. When they said mango, it very briefly crossed my mind that I do not like mango, and then I ate it anyway. It was the best thing I have ever eaten.
Interesting fact about the Amish – despite the fact that they were clearly very supportive of the race (they work all of the aid stations, hand make the medals, and are basically the only spectators), they do not cheer at all. I’m not sure if it’s something to do with their faith or not, but it was very interesting and a little odd to run past tons of people who are just staring at you. This didn’t really fit well with my plan to engage them all in conversation and become best friends with them and then meet my future Amish husband (sorry AJ), but I guess you can’t win them all.
With just a 5k left to go, we knew we weren’t setting any records. I knew it would be one of my worst half marathon times ever, but I also was surprisingly at peace with that. I knew I was running as much as I was physically able to at the fastest possible pace I could muster. What more can you ask for, really? Plus, I got to spend a lot of time with one of my favorite people who I have not seen in far too long while looking at beautiful scenery and thinking about how to convert to the Amish faith (Amishness? That’s not right) so I can get some adorable Amish children of my own. That’s a good day right there.
As the race wound to a close, I was simultaneously relieved and sad that it was over. It was such a wonderful experience – truly everything I hoped it would be – if you take away the boiling lava hot weather. That’s hardly the race’s fault, though, and I hear it has been much cooler in previous years.
JC and I finished the race right around 2:40, which would normally embarrass me, but I was honestly proud of myself for focusing on the experience and doing the absolute best I could and being at peace with that. Did the thought cross my mind that it’s a full 50 minutes slower than my half marathon PR? Yes, I would be lying if I said otherwise. But that really doesn’t seem to matter that much because this race was a hell of a lot more fun. It also probably didn’t hurt that even finishing in that time, there were many many people behind us because it seemed like pretty much everyone was having a rough day.
After the race, we heard that 50 people were treated for heat illnesses and many were taken away in ambulances! Pretty crazy and definitely not the norm for weather in Pennsylvania at this time of year. I’m just glad we made it through in one piece with plenty of stories to show for it! Oh, and a pretty sweet medal too.
As one final note to a great day, I also got to meet faithful reader/commenter and fellow blogger Elle from A Fast Paced Life! We had been trying to get together the whole weekend and I am so glad it happened!
In case you skipped the whole entry: In summary, I didn’t have the run that I hoped I would a few months ago, but I’m happy with the one I did have. I may have been (a lot) slower than I planned, but I did the best I could and most importantly, thoroughly enjoyed a race that I have been waiting to do for over a year! I’d highly recommend the Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon to everyone in the world, Amish or otherwise. You won’t regret it, but you might set a new world record for most sweat produced by a human being during a half marathon. I’m still rehydrating!