2015 Bird in Hand Half Marathon Race Recap

March 27, 2016

Another recap! I ran the Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon this past September.  I first heard of this race after reading “Running with the Amish“, a 2012 Runner’s World article by Bart Yasso and Steve Friedman.  The half is held in Amish Country which is in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  The last time I visited the area was in second grade – I remember touring a pretzel factory, riding a train, and eating shoofly pie.  I asked my mom if she was interested in this half and she was in!  Fun fact- she even chaperoned my second grade trip. 

Image: Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon Facebook

The Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon is often found on the “coolest race medals” list.  A horseshoe medal – yes please!

Image: Runner’s World

We registered for the half in December 2014 and it was sold out by April 2015. 


The race was held the Saturday after Labor Day weekend.  I took a half day on Friday and my mom picked me up from work.  The drive from Washington, DC to Bird-in Hand, PA is a little under three hours.  Knowing the route would take us near Jarrettsville Pike, I asked my mom if she could make a small detour to visit a sunflower patch.  These sunflowers are in full bloom every September and planted by Clear Meadow Farm (not at their farm).

My mom entered an address in her GPS and when we got to the final destination there were no sunflowers to be found!  She went inside and the attendant said they rotate the sunflower patches each year.  I didn’t have any service so I could not find the address of the patch.  I was a bit bummed (actually a whole lot since I’ve made a couple unsuccessful attempts to see them), but then my mom spotted a yellow patch when we were leaving town.  It was beautiful!! Many photos and selfies were taken here.

The sunflower stop broke up the trip a bit and we made it to our hotel close to 3:30PM.  We stayed at the Bird-in Hand Family Inn, which was right across from the expo/start/finish area.  The rooms were pretty nice and the bathrooms were renovated.

Packet Pickup/Expo

After we settled in we walked over to the expo around 4:30PM.  We had to cross Old Philadelphia Pike, which was a bit busy, but luckily the cars were moving slowly because they were all turning into the field for pre-race activities.  I made sure to watch my footing, I did not want to step on any horse poo or road apples as they like to call it.  Packet pickup was held the Friday before the race from 11:00AM-7:00PM – it took place on a huge field.  This was one of my favorite photos from the weekend.  

We walked towards the white tent to pickup our bibs.

Race organizers mailed our bib numbers ahead of time.  That Friday there was also a Kids Run and 5K.  If you signed up for the 5K and Half Marathon you received a Fireman Company Challenge shirt.  I thought about signing up for the challenge, but decided against it since I had additional miles to run before/after the half the next day. 

The shirts were red technical tees – one I would actually wear! They also sold old race shirts from years past and my mom purchased a yellow one for $5.00. That particular shirt did not have a year on it – lucky her!

There was also this funny “Exercise Block” in our swag bags πŸ™‚ I giggled and ended up giving this to Cliff.

There were a few running vendors, but of course….this caught my eye.  Apple cider donuts…they were good. 

Baked goods galore!

We didn’t let our sweet tooth take over because we signed up for the pasta and pizza party – which was an all-you-can-eat buffet of spaghetti, pizza, salad, garlic bread, shoofly pie, apple pie, ice cream and beverages.  It cost $14 for adults and $4 for kids. It was held in the same tent as packet pickup. We queued up in another line and they had our names on a list (I think you could also pay at the door).  It was fun to see the Amish women preparing the pizza – they ovens were right behind them.


All the pasta and bread..mmmmm carb heaven.  The pasta was a little overcooked, probably because I had the last helping of the container.  I only made one trip back to get a couple more meatballs.

And for dessert – apple and shoofly pie.  My mom liked the apple, you could guess which one I liked. 

After dinner we went out to the field to watch the Balloon-fest.  We had a nice view and watched them fill the balloons with hot air before taking off. I know my mom would love to take a ride one day out west, but my dad and I are afraid of heights.  Luckily for her I have three other siblings who would be happy to join her.

My favorite balloon!

The balloon launch was followed by the Kids Run, then the 5K, and s’mores featuring guest speaker Chris McDougall, author of Born to Run.  My mom and I were a bit tired so we opted out of the s’mores and went back to the hotel to unpack and relax a bit. 

Race Goals (β€œA” least probable and β€œC” most probable)

I used this half as part of my 17 mile training run.  Since this race was also known to be hot and hilly, I was not thinking PR at all.  Based on last week’s Charles Street 12 Miler, I would be happy to finish around 12:30 min/mile (I averaged 12:28 min/mile for that race). 

  • A – Average 11:30 min/mile
  • B – Average 12:00 min/mile
  • C – Average 12:30 min/mile

Bonus Goal: Run up all the hills!

Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon

The race started at 7:30AM…my type of start (especially in the warmer months)!  My mom and I woke up around 6:00AM and walked out our door around 6:45AM.  I made a quick trip to the porta potties and headed out for a mile warm up.  The views were spectacular. 

Hello horse and buggy!

They also had another balloon launch 15 minutes before the race – at this point I was heading back towards the starting line.  There were some climbs and rollings hills and roads were not always paved (most part they were). 

The counter clockwise course took us around the countryside of Bird-in-Hand. 

Liked how simple the start was, no balloons or huge banners, just two signs.

  • Mile 1: 11:56 Feeling good, just a little sweaty 
  • Mile 2: 12:20 Well that changed quickly, a whole lotta sweaty
  • Mile 3: 12:27 Okay getting into a rhythm
  • Mile 4: 12:35 Oyyy the first major hill

It was very warm out – I’m glad I brought my handheld.  The scenery was spectacular.  I wish I took more photos! These pumpkins were huge, I felt like I was in Cinderella’s pumpkin patch.  The local Amish manned the aid stations and the kids were adorable yelling out “water, water”.  I know several people stopped and took pictures of the kids, but I thought out of respect I would not take pictures of them and post them on this blog.  There were even Amish men and women running the half in their skirts and trousers.  

We passed my several farms along the course and several owners turned on their sprinklers and hoses for the runners – much welcomed relief.  There were also cooler chests of ice left along the course.  My favorite part of the course was shortly after Mile 4, we had a little mini out and back for Miles 5-6. We were running along huge rows of corn (no ears). 

  • Mile 5: 12:20 I like this….consistent splits
  • Mile 6: 12:30 Another one!
  • Mile 7: 12:31 And another…
  • Mile 8: 12:31 Bingo!

Hello Wilbur! We ran next to all kinds of animals – including camels.

I took some pictures of the homes we passed by, but unfortunately they were blurry due to my sweaty self.  They were so cute and there was even laundry hanging out to dry.  Around Mile 9-10 there was a Rita’s Ice stop – SO good!

  • Mile 9: 12:47 oh darn, what happened
  • Mile 10: 12:46 getting tired
  • Mile 11: 13:00 it is hot, is it almost over yet
  • Mile 12: 13:07 oh my word my splits
  • Mile 13: 12:42 get it together Jennifer!

I was hot and literally toast for the last third of the half – it was a struggle-fest to finish.  My time was 2:45:03 or 12:36 min/mile.  My plan was to run 3 more miles after the race as I waited for my mom. I only managed .9 more, it was tough running with the medal (no bag check) and holding on to my waterbottle.  Cheesing with my medal.  See what I wore? I thought the Oiselle Flyte tank was tres appropriate for the Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon.  Bird love!

Here is a picure of the finish line, “Vella Shpringa” loosely translate to “Let’s Run”. 

There was only a Runners Only – Rehab Station, a first for me.  There were containers of water and towels for runners to wipe themselves.

This race definitely has a cool medal πŸ™‚

Mom waving- I loved the finish chute!

Afterwards we were treated to a community picnic of hamburgers and hot dogs (including more pie and cake).  It was free for everyone in town.  The line was long, but it moved pretty quickly.  Following lunch we went back to the hotel, showered and checked out.  Then we drove next door to the Bird in Hand Farmers Market.  Posing in front of the buggy.

Happy to be done! This time wearing my Birds of a Feather shirt … haha I am a nerd like that πŸ˜›

The indoor market had several food stalls and a little store that sold a hodge podge of items.  I bought a gold horseshoe to use as a paperweight. It started to rain as we made our way back to DC.  I got home, dropped off my bags and went out for 2 more miles, a total of 17 for the day. 

Final Thoughts

  • Proceeds from the race benefited the Bird In Hand Volunteer Fire Company.
  • So lucky to live in area in which there are hundreds of races within a 3 hour radius.  
  • If you heading from the DC/MD area, stop by the sunflower patch on your way there (or just go for some pictures).
  • Enjoyed staying at the hotel across the street – super convenient.  I would say it is like a Hampton or Residence Inn. It was nice to have the expo/start/finish all in the same spot. 
  • Two…did you read it….two balloon launches!!
  • I love when race weekends have different distances – Kids Run, 5K and a Half Marathon.  In hindsight, I wish I ran the 5K the night before to shake out the legs / add mileage for the week (since I was having trouble balancing weekday runs / work). 
  • Packet pickup was easy.  Race organizers said the busiest time was between 5:00-6:30PM. 
  • ALL THE FOOD! The pasta/pizza dinner was perfect and the baked goods – yum. 
  • Because of its early September date, it will likely be hot and humid during the race.
  • Community support/volunteers – packet pickup, aid stations, cheer stations, buckets of ice, and hoses. Thank you!
  • There were pace groups in 10 minute intervals starting with 1:40 to 2:40.  That was nice, I wish there were at least 2 more for the 2:50 and 3:00 back of the packers. 
  • Weaves around the beautiful Amish farmlands of Lancaster County.  One of the more scenic courses I have run (this was my 23rd half marathon). 
  • There were water stops at Miles 1.25, 3.5, 5.5, 7, 8.5 and 11.  It felt like more.
  • Rita’s Ice stop – genius!
  • A smallish race with approximately 1,500 runners. 
  • If you ran the Garden Spot Village Marathon or Half Marathon, runners also received a “Road Apple” award – which is kind of gross, but very unique.  It is a plaque with a piece of sanitized, purified, petrified horse dung.  I saw several people walking around with their plaques. 
  • Hills, hills, hills.  I did not run all of them.
  • The rehab station was a nice touch – would be nice if more races had that, especially in the warmer months.  
  • The community picnic was nice way to say thank you to the town. 
  • Thumbs up to the medal – of course. 

Have you ever been to Amish country?

Have you ever run the Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon? Is it on your bucket list?

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      1. Run Jenny Run

        I think you would love it – seemed to be very family friendly as well (or ladies weekend route) πŸ™‚

      1. Run Jenny Run

        Definitely go for the experience – if you race well, a bonus!

      1. Run Jenny Run

        Thanks Janelle. I forget how large VA is! So many races out there.

      1. Run Jenny Run

        I like the unique ones πŸ™‚ I find run/walk up steep hills work for me 15 on and 15 off. You could def handle that.

      1. Run Jenny Run

        Thanks, Jennifer! Hope if you ever do run this half, it happens to be a cooler day πŸ˜‰

    1. What a beautiful race and that medal is awesome! Congrats on a tough race-the heat and hills always get me! Oh…and being a huge doughnut fan I have to comment on the cider doughnuts, they look amazing and I may or may not be drooling right now πŸ˜‰
      Stacey recently posted…Race Recap: Shamrock 8KMy Profile

      1. Run Jenny Run

        I definitely need to start incorporating more hills into my running routes. The doughnuts were really moist!

    1. Another great medal! This sounds like a fun race – I would not have been able to resist all the baked goods and I love races that offer a pre-race pasta dinner. I’m sure the pizza made by the Amish ladies was so delish. I probably would have to waddle during the race the next day after stuffing myself the night before πŸ˜‰
      Sun recently posted…Dreaming of Summer + This Week’s Training PlanMy Profile

      1. Run Jenny Run

        The spread is definitely Sun approved! The pizza was pretty good, I’m surprised I did not go for seconds.

      1. Run Jenny Run

        Thanks, Sharon! I think you would have loved it, the kiddos too. Maybe if you find your way back east, you will get to run it one day.

    1. That sounds like such a fun race. And the foooooood! Looks like a good time had by all. I’m so happy to have stumbled on your blog. πŸ™‚

      1. Run Jenny Run

        You will find alot of running and food on this blog! Glad you found my blog, looking forward to reading yours as well. Is your blog on Bloglovin? I tried adding it to my reader.

    1. I really enjoyed your recap — I would have worn all my bird-themed/named Oiselle tops, too. πŸ˜‰ I remember reading about the medal on Runner’s World. It sounds like a perfect race (minus hot weather) — I love nice scenery and small town hospitality.
      Elizabeth recently posted…DIY Inspiration: 8 Paper Punch ProjectsMy Profile

      1. Run Jenny Run

        Great minds πŸ˜‰ How could I not resist hehe. They definitely took care of their runners.

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