Amish Paradise

I have hundreds of road races and triathlons under my belt and in the books. Over the past 22 years I have done 18- marathons, 2- 50Ks, 4 Iron-distance Triathlons and countless other races of every type and distance.

I love to run in Cleveland – it’s my “home course” and brings me the joy and freedom derived from running, without having to venture much further than my own “backyard.”

Having said that, there’s still something very  special, intriguing, exciting and fun about finding races and run courses in “undiscovered territory.”  Places that are new to me, and can only be discovered in my running gear.

My friend Larry is a pro at finding the most obscure racing destinations. He continuously calls me on the phone to tell me about a crazy adventure race, ridiculous triathlon, or remotely located 5K.

And invariably I give the same response to every new suggestion. All he has to do is tell me about the newest nuttiness on his radar, and I’m instantly sucked in.

It usually goes something like this.  Larry tells me about a race and says, “Wanna do it?” And without a thought my answer is pretty much always…”Yeah!!”

The two of us are like Shrek and Donkey- out on another quest to discover a new race course, have an adventure and meet a lot of characters on the way! Since Larry farts more than I do- and I can be an ass at times- I guess that makes him Shrek, and me Donkey.

One might think that after racing for 22 years, there aren’t too many “firsts” to be had, and nothing new to experience.  Not so, my friend!

We’re talking about running; a place where experiencing something new and amazing awaits on every trail and road in the world! The adventure never ends…especially if you’re friends with Larry!

On November 24, 2012 a whole slew of “firsts” occurred.  In typical fashion, it all started with a phone call from Larry.  I answer the phone with, “Hello, Lawrence.” (Pronouncing his name the way Sylvester the Cat says Suffering Succotash, because that’s how Larry and I like to speak to each other.  Yeah…we’re children trapped in adult bodies…what of it?)

Larry skips the pleasantries of small talk and leads in with,

“Hey- there’s a Half Marathon in Amish Country. We should do it.”

Per usual, I answer with, “Cool, I’m in!”

I’m not one to look at a course map or ask any questions: I just want to run!  That’s the beauty of running, and to me, what makes it an adventure. Whatever the course presents me with is what I’m gonna have to do anyway…so why look at it ahead of time and take all the fun  out of it?  I don’t like my surprises spoiled with research. (For all the anal retentive runners out there…this is where you insert your gasp of shock and indignation.)

Each race literally becomes an adventure from start to finish.  Some work out better than others, but each one is a true experience that reminds me that life is beautiful, exciting, and worth living.  Running does that for me, and it’s even more fun when it’s someplace I have never ran in before.

So, when you combine the Inaugural Berlin Amish Country Half Marathon and 5K with my admitted curiosity of the Amish in general, you have quite a few “firsts” to be had!

Here’s my top 10 list of “Firsts” that were experienced as a direct result of another phone call from Larry.  (One day I’ll learn to stop taking calls from him.)

1.    November 24, 2012 was the very first Berlin Amish Country Half Marathon and 5K.  I hope we didn’t do anything to make them regret it, and as a result, they don’t have a 2nd Annual race.

2.    First time I ever ran in Amish Country, and was instantly reminded that it’s hilly as a mother there! We did some dirt roads, and some paved, but all of them were steep rollers.

3.    First time I have ever worried that a horse and buggy might run over my foot.

4.    First race that had such well-dressed spectators.

5.    First time I have seen so many children and families come out to watch a race! The whole town came out to support the runners- or perhaps it was just to see the spectacle.  Either way- it was really cool.

6.    I have never had the opportunity to pet so many asses on a race course……or other farm animals for that matter.  I stopped along the way, and pet every animal that allowed me to.  I had the chance to pet a donkey, and a pony.  The cows wanted no part of my shenanigans. I even got to pet a really cool Jack Russell Terrier who bounded happily from a barn to see what all the commotion was about.  She playfully rolled around in the grass while I rubbed her belly, and then joined us for a few lightening quick seconds, as we continued on our run, before bolting back to her home.

7.    I believe it may have been a first for me to swear on a race course, or say something perverse…(wait..let me finish!) only to be made aware that we were running next to a Reverend. His name was Reverend Randy and ended up being an awesome sport about it.

8.    First time I have run with other race participants who were sporting dresses (not running skirts) but full-length dresses…..which leads me to the next first…….

9.    First time EVER that Larry and I met a woman on the course who was wearing a skirt….and actually took it off while we were running up a huge hill, only to put it on Larry!  She took a picture of Larry wearing the skirt, but since I don’t know her, I don’t know that I’ll ever see it.  Who knows..maybe she’ll find me and send it along!

10. Very first (and probably the only) race that presented each runner with a block of cheese when they crossed the finish line!

So many more firsts to be had……I can’t wait to see what the next run or race will bring.  Life is good when you Lace Up for a Lifetime of Achievement!