Let me begin by saying this was one of the most fun half marathons that I have ever participated in. It is a small, but well-managed and beautiful race!
Race Communication: Unlike some races, the director did not inundate the runners with emails every week. I received an update with the pertinent race-day information the week of the race. The instructions for packet pickup and information for the day of the race were succinct and to the point. Informative without being annoying!
Packet Pickup: There were two options for packet pickup: the Saturday evening prior to the race or the morning before the race. I opted to pick up the packet the day of the race because I live about 1.5 hours away (and didn’t want to make the trip twice…). The packet pickup was very low key. Just a handful of volunteers handing out the packets. It was not an expo with vendors, but there was an opportunity to purchase shirts from previous races. The prizes for the age group were also out on display, which was a nice touch.
After packet pickup, runners can take a bus out to the race start. There is parking at the race start, but it is limited and the race organizers encourage runners to take the bus to the start.
As mentioned before, the race was a pretty small race (approximately 500 runners), with mix of half and full marathoners (mostly half-marathoners). There was German music to pump up the crowd and the race started off with a German count down!
The race takes places at Pennypack Park, north of Philadelphia. The course was absolutely gorgeous. There were warnings prior to race day about the heat being an issue, but the weather was actually pretty great at the start of the race. The first 5 miles or so run along a paved bike/run/walk route. As with most races, the start was a little crowded (even for a small race), but the crowd thinned out as the miles progressed.
There is a random “open grass” area of the route, which stretches across an open area marked with cones. It feels like a cross country race, but it was a nice change. Shortly after this portion, the race becomes a true trail race. There is a narrow, rutty path with rolling hills. The trail is VERY narrow, so runners will form a single-file line on the path. Although this is arguably the most challenging portion of the run, I enjoyed it the most. Unfortunately, this is also around the time when the weather started to warm up a bit.
After this portion, the race returns to the wider bike trail. Mentally, this is great because you know the race is over halfway and all you have to do is tackle the hills that you’ve already ran on the way out! I captured the elevation changes via my Garmin:
As you can see, there were definitely some “rolling hills.” Running in the hilly neighborhood over the past few months definitely helped me to conquer the sometimes-steep upgrades. Normally, I would have selected to walk up the steepest portions, but I was determined to maintain a run pace throughout the race. And I did.
The race is a lollipop, out and around the trail portion, and back to the start. At the conclusion of the race, there are treats for the runners, to include pretzels, candy, banana bread, etc. (And water of course!). After grabbing some treats, I got on the bus and headed back to the after party.
Each runner is given two tickets to use for a brat/sauerkraut and a beer. There is an EXCELLENT selection of beer to choose from (not the normal Michelob Light).
If you are still hungry or thirsty, you can also choose to purchase more food or drinks. As you relax and enjoy your post-race goodies, you have the opportunity to listen to performers play German music and there is also a costume/German garb contest.
I am pleasantly surprised at how I did given the hills, the heat, and some of the issues I’ve been having health-wise. I was able to finish in 02:10:30, making this a trail run PR by about 19 minutes (I got a 2:30 on my last trail half, and it was definitely less hilly than this one!)
I also have to mention the swag (don’t you always?). Runners receive a half-zip premium and a medal upon completion:
I will say that this is definitely the most fun that I’ve had at a race in a while. I loved it (even though it was tough) and recommend to everyone!