On Nov. 24, runners from across the country will embark on a marathon unlike any other. The Amish Country Half Marathon and 5k Race will take runners on winding country roads through the beautiful Amish countryside. Eli Hochstettler, owner of Gospel Book Store and President of the Berlin Merchants, expressed his excitement in finding the listing for the marathon in Runner's World Magazine, the world's leading running magazine.
As a part of the Subway challenge series, Mark Fowler, marketing manager for Zinck's Inn in Berlin, said this race will most surely be a challenge. Amish country is known for its winding roads and rather steep hillsides. Runners will face their steepest climb from mile marker nine through mile marker 13 as they climb a 482-foot slope.
Fowler has been pleasantly surprised with how smoothly preparations for the race have been coming together. "So far 232 people have signed up from 14 different states," said Fowler, at the Oct. 16 meeting of the Main Street Merchants. Not only do these states include Ohio and Pennsylvania, but also Florida, California, New York, Maine, Rhode Island and New York to name a few. Fowler expects to have well over 500 runners registered by the day of the race.
As the race draws nearer, the entry fee for the race has slowly been increasing. Fowler has noticed that with each price hike he receives a significant number of sign-ups and most of them have fallen on a Sunday. The entry fees began at $20 and will increase up to $75 for runners who wish to sign up on race day. All sign-ups are done online at www.runinamishcountry.com.
Proceeds from the race will benefit the Berlin Main Street Merchants with 50 percent of earnings being donated to the East Holmes Fire Department.
Recently, Fowler received news that the Amish Country marathon will be the only marathon taking place in the Mid-west at this time. "It is a big event because it is the only half marathon in the Mid-west in November," said Fowler. Running clubs have been in contact with Fowler looking for a fall marathon and have been directed his way.
Runners will meet at Zinck's Inn on Friday, Nov. 23 to pick up their racing packets and meet with sponsors during the expo from noon to 4 p.m. At 9 a.m. Saturday morning, runners will take their marks at the starting line on Township Highway 367 and it's all up hill and down from there.
"I think the one thing Holmes County has been able to prove is that when we do an event we do it right," said Fowler during an earlier interview with Amish Heartland. "Our area will benefit from this. I also think this will help us reach a new demographic. We have been looking for a way to bring the younger generations to Holmes County; this will give them a chance to see what mom and dad have been talking about … that we are a destination."
Fowler reported at a recent meeting with the Berlin Merchants that of all the 200 plus runners, 55 males and 19 women fall into that targeted demographic of under 40 years of age. While this is slightly disappointing for Fowler, he still has hopes this will change as the majority of runners are said to sign up on the day of the race.
"Those people looking for the Amish will be running right through them," said Fowler. He explained as he was setting out mile markers for the race, he was approached by an Amish man who was excited for the race to take place. "They will most likely be lining the streets." Runners will get the full Amish experience as they pass farms and schools along the path. Some of the schools will serve as water stations or break stations throughout the race.
"Nobody ran a race where they have outhouses or stopped at a one-room school house for water stops," said Hochstettler. "We have a lot going for us."