Race Recap: Bird-In-Hand Half Marathon

The Bird-In-Hand Half Marathon Weekend is an incredible display of community and the love of running. It’s held in Lancaster County, PA, which is an area heavily populated with Amish and Mennonite families, and serves as a major fundraiser for the local volunteer fire department. The whole community turns out to volunteer. It was an incredible experience (which is probably why it sells out so quickly), and one I highly recommend to all runners.

Festivities begin Friday with with a hot air balloon launch, right outside the large tent where  packet pickup, the expo and all other events take place.

Balloon Launch before the Bird-In-Hand 5k
Balloon Launch before the Bird-In-Hand 5k
DO NOT miss the baked goods! #CarbLoading
DO NOT miss the baked goods! #CarbLoading

Packet pickup was a breeze, even though I was picking up for five other runners who wouldn’t arrive until much later. The race organizers are very trusting – no IDs or special waivers required. After I brought all six race packets and swag bags back to the car (and avoided the temptation to eat all of the homemade Whoopie Pies), I spectated the end of the 5k. It was incredible to see families running together and cheering each other near the finish line.

Father and daughter near the Bird-In-Hand 5k finish line.
Father and daughter near the Bird-In-Hand 5k finish line.

After the 5k, lots of runners headed to the Pasta and Pizza Party in the event tent (only $13 for all-you-can-eat, including desserts). Meanwhile, volunteers were preparing for the free S’mores party. They really have the operation down to a science!

S'more assembly line
S’more assembly line
There's plenty of room for everyone at the S'more fire pit.
There’s plenty of room for everyone at the S’more fire pit.

On Saturday morning, we drove two miles from our hotel to the race start. There are only about 1,700 runners in the Half Marathon, but traffic still takes a while in a one-light town. As we were getting out of the car, there were more hot air balloons launching overhead.

Hot air balloons launching before the Bird-In-Hand Half Marathon.
Hot air balloons launching before the Bird-In-Hand Half Marathon.

We found a bunch of friends and fellow Mickey Milers at the starting line.

Lots of friends at the Bird-In-Hand Half Marathon
Lots of friends at the Bird-In-Hand Half Marathon

The weather was humid, but much cooler than last year, with temps in the upper 60s. Overcast skies offered protection from the sun, which makes a big difference on a course with almost zero shade the entire way. The course loops through rolling farmland, and this elevation map doesn’t do justice to the hills. It seemed the entire race was running up or down hills – but mostly up!

Bird-In-Hand Half Marathon Course
Bird-In-Hand Half Marathon Course
This elevation map lies!
This elevation map lies!

Our good friend Sam couldn’t run the race due to a scheduling conflict, but he graciously brought us donuts just before the first mile marker.

Mile 1 Donut Stop - Thanks, Sam!
Mile 1 Donut Stop – Thanks, Sam!

We were greeted at the first water stop by local families, with the kids handing out water and Gatorade and parents setting up the cups. It was great to see the families working together to support the runners.

Local families volunteered at the water stops
Local families volunteered at the water stops.
Caution runners: speed bumps ahead!
Caution runners: speed bumps ahead!
Children (?) of the corn
Children (?) of the corn
Beautiful farmland, and much appreciated cloud cover!
Beautiful farmland, and much appreciated cloud cover!

One of the benefits of the rolling terrain is the ability to see the field of runners ahead. Seeing the extended downhill ahead is kind of nice, too…

Hills, hills and more hills!
Hills, hills and more hills!

I didn’t think I’d like the little out-and-back portion of the race course, but it was actually kind of nice because it offered the opportunity to see some of our friends.

Hi Helen!
Hi Helen!
Hi Matt!
Hi Matt!

Me: “C’mon, Mark, let’s get a cow selfie!”
Mark: “What?”
Me: “A cow selfie! Where else can we get a cow selfie?”
Mark: “OK!”

#CowSelfie
#CowSelfie

Me: “C’mon, Mark, now let’s get a pig selfie!”
Mark: “What?”
Me: “A pig selfie! Where else can we get a pig selfie?”
Mark: “OK, OK!”

#PigSelfie
#PigSelfie

Look at this teeny tiny kitten in the corn field on the side of the road. He would have fit in the palm of my hand! I was so temped to put him in my pocket and take him home.

Teeniest tiniest kitty!
Teeniest tiniest kitty!

Look at this slightly larger, slightly flatter kitten near the corn field in the middle of the road. He would have fit in my backpack! I was not tempted to take him home.

Do not pet the stripy kitty.
Do not pet the stripy kitty.

Do not attempt this at home, or anywhere else, even if you believe that it’s impossible that an Amish farm would have electrified fences, because apparently, they sometimes do.

Bzzzzzt
Bzzzzzt

As the race got near the end, we were ready to be done and started getting hungry…

Stay focused! We're not done yet!
Stay focused! We’re not done yet!

…and the shenanigans just escalated from there.

I don't even want to know...
I don’t even want to know…
Safety first: always run facing traffic.
Safety first: always run facing traffic.

The crowd support was incredible! In front of many of the houses along the course, families of five, ten, or twenty or more lined up in lawn chairs to cheer for runners. A few provided some much-appreciated cool water from sprinklers, and some performed music.

A folk band singing hymns
A folk band singing hymns

Instead of a traditional medal, Bird-In-Hand Half Marathon finishers receive genuine, used horseshoes welded to a plaque with a leather strap. Theoretically you can wear it around your neck but it is HEAVY!

Impressive bling at the Bird-In-Hand Half Marathon
Impressive bling at the Bird-In-Hand Half Marathon

After the race we went into the event tent to buy some more Amish baked goods, and we ran into Chris McDougall, author of Born to Run and the newly released Natural-Born Heroes. He was kind enough to pose for a picture and talked with us for five minutes about Team Shenanigans and our love of running for fun.

Christopher McDougall towers over Team Shenanigans
Christopher McDougall towers over Team Shenanigans

The slogan for the Bird-In-Hand Half Marathon Weekend is “Vella Shpringa,” which is Pennsylvania Dutch for “Let’s Run.” It captures the feeling of the weekend: experiencing the joy of running in community.

I highly recommend running this race, with the caveat that if the weather is hot, it will be a real challenge. It’s no surprise to me why it sells out so quickly. My only regret is not having had enough time to participate in more of the weekend’s events.

 

 

Chris Smith

About Author:

Chris Smith, a.k.a. @DopeyRunr, started running in 2013. He has since completed the 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018 Dopey Challenges, and dozens of other marathons and half marathons around the country.

3 thoughts on “Race Recap: Bird-In-Hand Half Marathon

  1. Definitely putting this on my running “to-do” list. Looks like it was alot of fun. And I’m really interested in the whoopie pie and smore’s offerings

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