Events, scenery make Amish Half Marathon unique

By CHRISTINE L. PRATT Staff Writer Published:

It's not the easiest or fastest run, but it tops the charts when it comes to being scenic.

The upcoming inaugural Amish Country Half Marathon and 5k is expected to draw a bevy of visitors to the area for the weekend following Thanksgiving.

The Nov. 24 5k and certified 1/2-marathon are run on township and county roads of Ohio's Amish Country, according to the website, www.runinamishcountry.com, which notes the races "are being developed by runners for runners."

"Runners are a huge and growing network," said race director Mark Fowler, who adds that experts in the field say participants are not only looking for a good race, but accompanying local events. In the case of the Amish Country Half-Marathon, visitors can not only take in Christmas in Berlin, to be held the evening of Nov. 23, they can enjoy the everyday offerings of Amish country.

Still two weeks prior to the event, nearly 400 runners had registered for the race. They come from 22 states and also Canada.

The typical question, Fowler said, is "What's the course like?"

"Most like to hear flat and fast, and ours is just the opposite. But, what they're losing in that, they will gain in the fact it's beautiful and scenic. It's going to be a pleasure to run. Our scenery … so many races are run in big cities or small towns. To be able to take off and drop right in the heart of Amish country is special," said Fowler.

Unique to the race is a route that passes by four Amish schools, two of which have original outdoor restroom facilities which can be used by runners who stop to relieve themselves or stop for water, said Fowler.

The race also is expected to contribute to the local economy, bringing in a "whole new class of people," said Fowler, who said the average age of women runners is 20-35, a demographic not common among tourists.

Additionally, he said, the three sponsoring hotels -- Zinck's Inn, Berlin Grande and Berlin Village Inn -- already are booked up for the night prior to the race.

Both races, which start near Hiland High School, begin at 9 a.m. Awards will be given to the top three males and females in each category -- 24 and younger, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54, 55-64 and 65 and up.

Unlike awarding medals that hang in a closet gathering dust, participating runners will take home with them a taste of Holmes County. Heini's Cheese is donating an 8-ounce block of cheese to all finishers. The cheese will be packaged with a special label, designed just for the race.

All profits generated from the race will benefit the East Holmes Fire Department and Berlin Main Street Merchants.

For more information on the race, to register, or to volunteer to help with the race, contact Fowler through the race website, www.runinamishcountry.com.

Reporter Christine L. Pratt can be reached at 330-674-5676 or by email at cpratt@the-daily-record.com.

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