Running with the Amish

Bird-in-Hand, Pa. is a bit of a paradox. Cars and horse-drawn buggies share the road. Farms and factories intermingle. Amish people talk on cell phones. Even the annual half marathon is a cross between modern and old-fashion.

There are bib numbers with timing chips embedded in the back, but there are also water cups filled from hoses, and fiddle players and guitarists (all unplugged, of course) entertaining participant at various mile markers. Runners with ipods and fancy hydration belts run along side others donning straw hats and bonnets.

The locals run the race in their everyday Amish garb — women in long skirts and dresses and men in their black pants and suspenders. Some substitute their button-down shirt for the race’s tech tee and swap their black shoes for running shoes. But some don’t…even if the humidity is 95%.

The course is a very hilly tour through Pennsylvania Dutch Country with equal parts human and animal spectators. Some cheer, some moo, and some sit on the side of the road quietly observing. It takes a few miles to get accustomed to the smell of the course, and there are definitely a lot of “road apples” to dodge. But the sounds, smells, and amazing scenery are all part of the experience. And the Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon is definitely an experience…one that I highly recommend to every runner.

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