Amish Country half marathoners run for the kids

Amish Country half marathoners run for the kids

Image Credit: Landon Troyer

After taking a year off thanks to the pandemic, the Amish Country Half Marathon, 10k and 5k came roaring back to life with record numbers of 1,070 runners from 26 states and three countries.

The race was initially built around Thanksgiving weekend. While coordinators have since moved the race to take place over Berlin Harvest Fest in early September, all participants continue to support the race for the challenge and beauty of the 13.1-mile track and for the causes the race benefits.

While the runners pounded the pavement, the real winners were the parents and children seeking to connect through the adoption process. That was where Pure Gift of God factored into the event.

According to event coordinator Brent Miller, supporting a cause like Pure Gift of God felt like a no-brainer when the idea was brought up several years ago. The tradition carried on this year, with Pure Gift of God setting up a table and greeting race-day participants, who purchased items and showed support.

“We all felt a real passion to work with orphaned children as one of our causes, and Pure Gift of God does amazing work,” Miller said.

Amanda Yoder, who serves as co-director at Pure Gift of God with her husband Larry, said while the pandemic may have slowed the progress of adoptions, the community here has continued its support of the organization.

“With travel opening up, we are seeing adoptions opening up again,” Yoder said. “International adoptions have been especially difficult, but we are growing and expanding, and we see this as an exciting time for families hoping to adopt.”

While Pure Gift of God has focused mainly on helping adoptive parents with the adoption process, they are now getting more heavily involved with the post-adoption process with programs like support groups for adoption and foster families and counseling programs for post-adoption parents.

Yoder said, “People see adoption as the finish line when really it the very first step of a lifelong process, and we want to be there to support families throughout that time and not just in the beginning. We are very excited about taking these next steps.”

Training sessions for parents, resources for both children and parents and more are on the horizon, and Yoder was excited to be able to share their vision with people at the race.

In addition, part of the proceeds from the race went to the East Holmes Fire and EMS, which had many of its volunteer members operating crossroads and other dangerous intersections throughout the race. East Holmes members also helped raise the giant American flag high above the runners right before the start of the half marathon and 10k. The flag was attached to the ladder truck and hoisted high into the air before Jeff Polen sang the national anthem.

As usual, this year’s race featured a 13.1-mile track that meanders through the hills and dales of Amish Country, giving runners a scenic view to enjoy. The view coupled with the warm bowl of noodles runners receive and the friendly attitudes that greet them at every turn are big draws for the race.

“Our beautiful back roads provide such a unique and beautiful place for people to compete, and we are excited to bring it back,” Miller said.

He said the work the East Holmes crew does in manning the roads makes it easy to support the volunteer fire and EMS crews that do such a great job in keeping the community safe.

Not only do they do a great job year round, but also this year was special because it was on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and there is that connection that makes their work with the local fire fighters so special.

In missing last year’s race, Miller said competitors were disappointed but understanding and very eager to return to Amish Country to run. The year off didn’t seem to put a dent in the team’s effort to put on a first-class operation.

“We all missed it a lot, and it feels great to have everyone back,” Miller said. “It doesn’t feel like we missed a beat. We have so many people who play a role in making this a success, and everyone came back together and had fun putting it together.”

Considering staging the race is an 11-month process, there is little time to rest between races.

As for the race, none of the three contests featured any breath-taking finishes, only steady winners. In the half marathon, Derek Miller of Fort Wayne, Indiana cruised to victory in 1:12.08, almost three minutes ahead of runner-up Arlen Glick (1:14.06). Andrew Chirico was third (1:15.04), and Nick Gliha’s fourth-place finish (1:19.23) marked the only four runners to break the 1:20 barrier.

In the 2019 race, Glick won on the same track in 1:15.32 while Gliha was again fourth in 1:23.12.

Former women’s champion Emma McCarron won the women’s race, rolling home in 1:23.17, good for seventh overall. Runner-up in the women’s division was Stacey Crosby in 1:32.46.

Claiming the title in the 10k was Dover’s Kevin Stack in 41:12, with Bub Froelich placing second in 43:01. Millersburg native George Malicki was third in 44:54. Monica Holmes of Byesville won the women’s race in 46:22.

The 5k title belonged to Winesburg native JD Hershberger, who ran a 21:01, easily moving by runner-up Jacob Troyer of Dalton, who ran second in 22:32. Shawn Miller of Sugarcreek was third in 23:13 while the top female finisher was Bekah Zinkon of Dover, who ran a 24:11.