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It’s dangerous to read the ads in the back of magazines, especially if that magazine is Runners World, Bicycling, or Triathlete. (BTW, guess which one of those three includes ads for Adam & Eve adult video catalog?)

In my case, it leads to saying things like “oh that event sounds awesome, I should sign up for that!”

 

Many moons ago, I saw an ad for RunAmishCountry.com. It was in the same issue as a feature story on Amish runners in Lancaster and surrounding counties. I had already signed up for the Garden Spot Village Half Marathon on March 31, which was part of this new combined venture. The second half was the Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon. Here’s the kicker: “run both and earn the coveted ‘Road Apple Award.'”

I know what covet means, and I think they may have gone a bit over the top with that. Don Draper would have told them to tone it down. Nonetheless, I was in. I signed up and put September 8 on my calendar.

I didn’t mention much about this planned race, because it also provided an opportunity for another cross-over experience. The Bird-in-Hand half is run as part of the Run Ride and Soar weekend, all to benefit the local fire company. No, I didn’t plan to ride too. But the Soar! part meant hot air balloons. My Mom loves hot air balloons, and has only been up in one once before.

I immediately began to conspire with my sister. We would each get a ticket for a hot air balloon ride, for Mom and Dad as their Christmas/birthday/Mothers&Fathers Day presents for 2012. We wouldn’t tell them about it until that day. The tickets were purchased, the flight booked.

The ride was to begin at 7:15 AM, 15 minutes before the start of the race. They were going to get to see the race from the air. This was going to be the best blog picture ever. We successfully kept the secret, and they picked me up at 4:45 AM to drive to the site, still without knowing exactly what was going on. Dad actually had a pretty good guess.

Unfortunately, when we arrived, the balloon festival had been called off for weather concerns. This happens a lot with balloon flights. But I had not yet mentioned the concurrent run. So yeah, um… we can’t just drive home now. I need you to wait around while I go jog 13 miles.

My folks are still getting used to the size of these running events. They had come out to see the chili challenge last October, and had no idea this many hundreds of people would come from all over the place, to the Montour Preserve just out the road from their tiny town of Turbotville. Endurance events are almost like a parallel culture that only exist when you’re looking for it, like platform 9 and 1/2 in Harry Potter. Here we were, parked in a field with over 1000 runners, early on a Saturday. It was like tailgating with no booze, no one smoking, and no barbecuing of meat. Bagels, bananas and energy drinks, maybe. Inside the race tent, the locals were making soft pretzels and apple cider donuts.

We were plenty early for the race, so I tried to take it easy until the start. Mom and Jodi got video of the start (and finish) and I was on my way.

The race itself was just as described. Beautiful rolling farmland, a lot like what I run in every week. Many Amish families came to the end of the lane to watch the slow parade pass by.  Every aid station but one, was staffed by Amish families. The boys would be at one table, the girls at another. I wish I had video of a group of sweet little Amish girls all chanting GATORADE! practically in unison.

I got a kick out of seeing tour buses on the back country roads, and tourists paying for buggy rides. I live among this culture every day. Lancaster County really is a whole different approach to it.

As for the race itself, I went in with a cold, and though I wasn’t nearly as wrecked as I was in Disney, I wasn’t as healthy or even as light as I was for Garden Spot Village. I ran a 3:33:25. It’ll do today. Dead last in my AG, 1049/1069 overall.

If I hadn’t made my family wait for me that whole time on a day they were expecting an awesome surprise for them, I would have waited around much longer after finishing. I wanted to greet the older man with the half leg prosthetic. I wanted to cheer on the guy who weighed probably 325-350 who was also behind me somewhere.

The sky wasn’t this perfect when they made the balloon call.

I collected my Road Apple plaque. This was the source of my only annoyance for the day, and it was not at all for the organizers, it was for SOME of my fellow racers. There had been a survey sent to those of us who would qualify, whether we wanted the real thing or not, on our plaques. I said resoundingly YES. I saw the award at GSV, and it was literally just some manure on a board. I thought it was a hoot. Half said yes, half said no. So they produced them to suit. Well, on race day, everyone took the real deal 3D versions immediately, and those of us who came in last, had no choice left when we got there. The organizers were going to make more 3D versions and mail them out, but I decided to take what was there. If I really want to add my own authentic piece, I need only visit the road behind my house. It’s actually a very nicely made plaque as is, more than I was expecting really. What a fun idea, and smart too. I doubt I would have signed up for this second race without a special tie-in. It’s inspiring me to produce something for 2013 for two races I want people to support, that fall on the same day, one AM one PM.

 

What’s funny about the whole “don’t step in it!” motif is this: I don’t think I have ever accidentally stepped in horse manure while running. But I did in the parking lot on race morning before even getting to the start line. No worries, if it doesn’t come off in 13.1 miles, it’s not coming off in Mom’s car. It’s there for good.

Just a mile or so down the Old Philadelphia Pike from the race site is Weavertown. So we had to get some Weaver family pictures. Mom and Dad didn’t get up in the balloon that day, but they might have a Christmas card picture. (I would love to show it, but I can’t copy my sister’s photos from facebook, and all the other photos are on my Dad’s camera card, so they’ll be in my possession some time before Olivia’s high school graduation. Maybe.)

I wasn’t thrilled with my time or effort, but it wasn’t terrible either. I AM, however, thrilled to have arrived at a point where a so-so half-marathon is even a concept I can relate to.

With that in mind, I would still like to see better progress. So, even with Beach to Battleship as my main priority, in 40 days, I am setting my sights on one last milestone for 2012 before I wrap up this “season.”

My first half marathon was a brutal experience, with a time of 3:58:27. Ouch.

I improved on that massively in three months, taking off weight and time. 3:13:51 for GSV.

This was a step back, but not all the way. 3:33:25.

I want to break three hours. I know that I’m close, with more consistent running, some more weight loss, and a not-sick day. (Or with Paul Ryan’s marathon time calculator.)

It just so happens there is a Saturday half marathon in December, within a reasonable distance of me, in a place I happen to LOVE.

So, you read it here first folks…. the Doughboy to Ironman Season Two will officially end on December 8, 2012 at the Rehoboth Beach Marathon and Half-Marathon.

Ambitious you say? Would you expect anything less?

So who’s meeting us for Grotto Pizza and Dogfish Head beer?

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4 thoughts on “Seriously though, where’s my horse manure?

  1. Andrew, I just love your blog. I visited to complain as you hadn’t written in awhile. No complaints now but I’m bummed that your folks didn’t get the balloon ride.

  2. Andrew, we’re so glad we found your blog. We’re sorry you didn’t get the “real” award on race day, but we’re sending you a new one with genuine horse manure right away. We’re so glad you enjoyed the race, and we hope you can join us again this year!

    Alicia Allamena
    Associate Director of Marketing & Sales
    Bird-in-Hand Corporation

  3. oh wow, that is nice of you! I would have returned to run this year, but the 5k I help produce was moved and conflicted with GSV.And BIH is the same time as Nations Tri which I am doing – BUT the 5k is moving again in 2014, so if at all possible, I hope to return to GSV and BIH and get my 2nd road apple in 2014.

    • Amy (part of the race committee) happened to come across your blog, and we tracked you down by your bib number. We’re so glad we could help, and we’re looking forward to having you join us again in 2014.

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