Monday, October 3, 2016

Adam's County Half Marathon -- Run with the Amish

UPDATE (4 November 2016): It would seem that this event has been cancelled indefinitely.

After running the Bird in Hand Half Marathon in September of 2015, my wife spotted the Adam's County Run with the Amish website.  Although it was going to be a long out and back trip we decided to sign up for 2016.

It was a long 6.5 hour drive from our house in MD to packet pickup in West Union, OH, but I have to say the drive was absolutely beautiful.  The weather was great and the scenery through the Appalachian mountains was stunning.  We left early Friday morning and didn't experience any traffic issues along the route.

Packet pickup was a breeze as the race overall isn't that large (less than 1500 for all three events) and there is plenty to do around the pickup area.  The Miller's bakery had some really great treats including fresh baked bread that we purchased after the race to take home.  They also have a bulk food store and a really nice amish furniture store.  And of course they have a photo opportunity in front of an Amish buggy.

Amish Buggy

After getting our packets we drove the 30 minutes to our hotel in Piketon, OH.  The overall area is actually fairly far from major cities, so finding a place to stay that had some reasonable dinner options wasn't easy.  We ended up at the Comfort Inn which was nice enough, but didn't offer the friendliest of staff.  When we heard the first train go by I couldn't help but think of "My Cousin Vinny".  Surely trains wouldn't be that frequent?  We settled in and then went off to dinner.

We found the Lake White Club online and decided that it seemed to have the best options for a pre-race dinner.  The location started in the late 1930s and has had many owners, the most recent one only 3 months earlier.  The "lake" that this establishment sits on has been drained for about 3 years as they make repairs to the dam.  The owner indicated that this work should be done by the end of the year and then the long process of filling the lake can start again.  There are some beautiful million dollar homes along the lake near the restaurant.  It was odd to see all of the boat piers rising out of the water like a post apocalyptic nightmare.

While the food was pretty good, the service and staff were great.  The food was a little salty, but everything was freshly prepared.  They had a nice selection of wines and cocktails as well if you care to indulge.

Back to the hotel...yes the train does come that often.  But thankfully I had the air conditioning and my white noise machine cranking so I actually wasn't that bothered by the noise.  However, if you are a light sleeper keep this in mind, they do run all night and the tracks are less than a 10th of a mile from the hotel.

The next morning the weather was a little humid but was suppose to be cloudy and not too hot; should be great for a half marathon.  We arrive just over an hour before the start time so we could get settled, use the facilities and walk a little to prepare.  The sunrise over the farms was a great start to the day.

Sunrise over Miller's farm

All three events start at the same time (5k, half marathon and full marathon) and we all started right on time.  The event is chip timed and was extremely well organized.  There were plenty of announcement and helpful volunteers milling around prior to the start.  They also had numerous prizes as well as the medals out to see.

The race started on time at 8AM local time.  The 5k run does an out and back, while the half marathon does a lollipop like shape and the full marathon does the half marathon twice.  Of all the races I have done, this had the best race support I have ever experienced.  There were water and food stops every single mile.  Each station had water, Powerade, Honey Stinger Gu and other options like pretzels, chips, etc.  There were portable restrooms at least every other water stop.

Strava Course Map

The Strava course map show the start as you being the race on a slight downhill trajectory.  The course stays relatively flat until you make the right turn around the lollipop shape at mile 3.3.  At that point you do a few up hill climbs but overall the course is net downhill until mile 6 where you start to make your way up the steepest climb on the course (about 12%).  Right before this climb you will pass a section of trees where signs for each and every half marathon and marathon runner are posted.  This was a very unique and inspirational surprise.  While I looked for my sign, I didn't find it.  I did see one that had fallen off the tree and joked that it was probably mine; I guess it was after all.  We did manage to find my wife's sign.

Signs of inspiration for each and every runner

The photo of the steepest climb on the course does not do it justice at all.  While it was only a half mile climb it was challenging, and of course the marathon runners got to do it twice!

Half mile 12% climb

Overall the entire half marathon course had a climb of 512ft according to Strava.  It was packed full of small up and down rolling hills with some challenging downhill and uphill climbs.

Strava elevation map

The small detour out and back you can see at mile 11.4 is the same detour that the 5k runners took after starting.  Basically we all started in the same direction but they turned left here as we proceeded straight and then they went back to the starting line for their finish.

While the race support was fantastic and the overall course was very beautiful, the only complaint I would have is the traffic.  The roads are not closed during the race and while most motorists were easy going and polite there were a few vehicles that were obviously in a hurry and less concerned with our safety.  Things got particularly sketchy as the marathon runners started their second lap and there were runners on both sides of the road as well as cars trying to go in both directions.  These are small country roads and that didn't always provide a safe feeling.  However, in between all the cars were sights like this horse drawn buggy to put a smile on your face.

Horse drawn buggy traffic

After crossing the finish line there was plenty of water, Powerade, cake and pie for all the runners.  For those that managed to win the race or place in their age group there were a variety of hand made items given out including picnic baskets, bird houses, lanterns and baskets.  Incredibly even the finisher medals were hand made little 2D baskets.  The name of the person that made the medal and their address were written on the back.

Certainly one of the more unique finishers medals I have even received.  The other unique one was for the Biltmore Half Marathon and Marathon as those are made out of wood from the estate.

So, a 13 hour round trip car ride.  A hotel that sat on train tracks.  A restaurant on a drained lake with salty food.  Would I do this again?  Yes, I think I would, and I suggest that you check it out as well.