The Bird-in-Hand 5k and Half Marathon.
This is an event that I have wanted to do ever since I first heard about it a few years ago. It takes place in a little town in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania also known as Amish Country.
My family used to have our family reunions nearby in Lancaster and I had run there a couple of times and really enjoyed it, so once I heard about this race I knew that I wanted to do it.
I signed up for it in 2020 but, as with most things during the year, it became a virtual event. So I was still able to complete the distance at home and get the medal, but this wasn’t the same as actually racing in the event in person.
Once registration opened for this year, I jumped at the chance.
Since the packet pick-up was Friday, I decided to register for both the 5k and half marathon, which would be held on Friday evening and Saturday morning, respectively.
As it had been almost two full years since my last longer race, in the past few months I had started doing some speed work and tempo runs to try to get used to going at faster pace for different periods of time.
Even though I wanted to get personal best times in these races, I knew that ultimately they would help me prepare for the Philadelphia Marathon in November.
How I Felt Going Into the Weekend
As race weekend approached, I began to think if it was a realistic goal for me to get a personal best time in both races given that the 5k started at 6:30pm on Friday evening and the half marathon started the next morning at 7:30am.
In the days before I left, I had been feeling a little more antsy than normal.
A few nerves and A LOT of overthinking.
Given how the last month or so of training had gone, I knew that almost everything would have to go perfectly in order for me to achieve my original goals of getting personal bests in each race.
On Friday, as I was getting ready to make the two hour drive for the races, I was actually feeling like I might get sick to my stomach. I knew that I just needed to get there and start the 5k and I would feel better. Even as I was driving I was still thinking about what my race strategy would be in both races.
Race #1 – 5k
After checking in and relaxing for a little while at my hotel, as a warm-up, I jogged about a mile to the start area. While waiting for the race to start, I decided that I was going to go for it in Friday evening’s 5k and then see how I felt in the morning for the half marathon.
So the 5k began and, as with most shorter races, it was FAST!
But just like with every race, you have to do your best to race your own race.
With a first mile split of about 6:00, I knew that it would be difficult to maintain that for the other two miles, especially with a couple of small inclines and a grassy section to run through in the last mile.
All things considered though, I was really happy with my finishing time of 19:31, even if it was well below my personal best time.
Even better though, the time was good enough for me to place 2nd in my age group and 12th overall!
Once the awards were handed out, it was now after 7:30pm and I needed to get some food in me and get back to my hotel, since the half marathon was set to start at 7:30am Saturday morning – now just 12 hours away!
I quickly ate some salad and pasta and drank a lot of water followed by a walk back to the hotel. After a quick shower, it was time for bed with my alarm set for 5:00am!
Just as a side note, this was my first time having a 5k race in the evening followed by a half marathon race the next morning, so I wasn’t sure how my body would respond to such a short turnaround.
Race #2 – Half Marathon
When my alarm went off, the first thing I noticed was my sore legs and that was while I was still in bed!
However, when I stood up, they weren’t actually as sore as initially thought. Because I wasn’t feeling too hungry, I had a really light breakfast of peanut butter crackers just to settle my stomach.
Getting to the start area as the sun came up, I was ready to get the race underway as the conditions couldn’t have been more perfect.
Even though my legs were feeling okay, my strategy for the half marathon was still to start off really easy and then reassess how I felt after a few miles.
After six miles of 7:20-7:30 per mile, and having just taken my first gel, I was well and truly warmed up and started feeling really good so I decided to pick up the pace.
With the exception of one of the remaining seven miles, I negative split the rest of the race! In these last miles, I don’t remember any runners passing me.
And to really top off the race, in the last half mile or so, I really went for it and sprinted down the finishing chute to the finish line, passing a couple of runners on the way!
Finishing with a time of 1:34:30 – good for 12th place in my age group (out of 86) and 66th overall (out of about 1,200), I was more than happy with my race. Not necessarily the time – although not bad, it was about six minutes off my personal best – but more so my approach to the race itself and how I finished the second half of it!
Unique Course and Medal
In general the course followed quiet country roads and passed by many farms. Several of the Amish families in the community provided the drinks along the course. And the pace vehicle was a horse and buggy!
My favorite part of the course was running through “The Valley of No Wires”, which is an area that is completely disconnected from the “outside” world.
The course was challenging at times with several uphill sections followed by downhills, but they were mainly gradual inclines and declines. Some of the hills were hard work to get up though and following that with a downhill can definitely take its toll on the legs, especially after the faster effort in the 5k the night before.
On top of that, there was a mile section (mile 11) on gravel road and then another long section of close to a mile on grass. The finishing chute, which turns off the main road on to grass again for the final section, was great because it was lined on both sides by a lot of cheering spectators.
The 5k course was just a section of the half marathon course with the same start and finish but run in the opposite direction.
And to go along with how unique these races were, the medal is one of the best I’ve ever seen. An actual horseshoe from the community that you just ran through!
If all of these things weren’t good enough, immediately following the half marathon on Saturday is a community BBQ held at the finish area for all of the runners, their families and the people of the community! A great way to finish off the event by reliving it with a fellow runner that I met after the 5k!
Feelings After the Races
Afterwards, it was really important for me to remember that these races were all part of an overall process and that the overall goal is to continue to improve. So, even though I didn’t reach my original times goals, there was still a lot of positives to be taken from this weekend of races.
There were two things that I didn’t do during the half marathon that I was really pleased about.
First, I didn’t worry at all about my pace. In the first six miles, I kept everything very comfortable and tried to stay consistent with my effort. At the half way point, I started to pick up the pace but still in a way that was somewhat comfortable – just letting my legs and body take over.
Second, I didn’t get affected by what others around me were doing. Sometimes it can be difficult to stick to the script and run your own race, but I was able to for all of this race. It was only in the last few miles of the race that I started to pick out people ahead of me to catch and pass on the way to the finish.
Given that the start times were just 13 hours apart and it had been almost 2 years since my last race, I was very happy on the two hour drive home.
Yes, part of my happiness was the high you get after a big run or race, but I was also happy just to be racing again.
Adding to that happiness was how the event really felt like a part of the community. All of the volunteers, fellow runners and spectators – both visitors and people from the community – were great!
And even though I didn’t get a personal best time in either race, these races gave me the feeling that I am in a good position with about two months to go until my full marathon in Philadelphia!
I’m already looking forward to going back to Bird-in-Hand next September to run in this great community event!
Does this sound like a race that you would like to do? Or have you done any races that gave you similar feelings?
More From RunPatRun:
- Coming Up Next Week: There are a lot of sayings that get tossed around when it comes to running. I will go through a few of them and either debunk them myself or with actual research!
- Part 3 of The RunPatRun Race Series will be out in two weeks. In that part, I will take you through my experiences of another of my favorite races – the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Francisco Half Marathon – that I completed in 2018.
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