Garden Spot Village Marathon Race Recap + Review


I meant to post this sooner (for the sake of doing this race justice), but I’ve been floating on cloud nine since the weekend.  I’m finally coming back to reality enough to at least attempt to put together some coherent sentences that adequately describe what a wonderful weekend I had in Lancaster (Pennsylvania Dutch) county with Danny.  It was serendipity that I came across, and decided to register for the Garden Spot Village Marathon (Organized by Garden Spot Village and Race Director, Scott Miller).  I choose this race by searching for marathons in April, within reasonable travel distance, cross referenced race dates with my calendar, came across this small (relative to more local Baltimore and DC races) marathon that promised chocolate shakes at the finish line, and I was sold.  (Yep, I that is about how much thought I put into most things in life! Haha)  As the race got closer, I read race reviews (All great reviews) and looked at pictures of the local area, I got more and more excited.  I also began to get nervous; that a small marathon field would mean many miles alone, without other runners to chat with and cheering crowds to distract me if things began to get rough.  Well this race ended up surprising me; it far exceeded my expectations and ended up being my favorite race to date! (No exaggeration!)

Pre-race/Packet Pickup: 

After registering for Garden Spot, I began to receive occasional e-mails from the race director (For Clarification: Not to me specifically, but to all registered runners!) with training tips, updates on local road conditions, and cheerful chronicles of his training runs.  To be honest, at first this struck me as rather odd (Remember, I typically run B-More and DC races…) but it kept me excited/motivated through a harsh winter of training and it made me feel like I personally knew Scott!  I couldn’t wait to meet him and all the other runners on race day!

Danny and I drove up to Lancaster Friday evening.  We went straight to Garden Spot Village Community Center for packet pickup.  We arrived just as the “Kid’s Marathon” (1.2 mile race, too cute! I’ll have to keep it in mind for Ilana next year!) The volunteers were extremely friendly and helpful, and we had no problems finding the registration tent.  For those runners motivated by swag, all runners got a cool tech t-shirt and running hat.  I opted to do the pasta dinner, a great deal for $15.00 a person, and I am always worried about eating at restaurants before a race (too much butter and sodium!)….Aaaannnnd it was all you can eat!!!! (You know this greedy gal was happy! Lol)  There was pasta, bread, salad, sweet potatoes (yes please!), coffee, and desserts.  I’ll admit, I was eyeballing some cheesecake that looked to die for….and almost worth risking mid-race trots….almost….I opted for the chocolate cake (It was am-az-ing!!).  I enjoyed chatting with some of the other runners, many local, and all incredibly friendly.  Several of them mentioned how difficult the course was, and how this definitely was “not a PR course”….I thought, “Uh Oh, maybe I need to look at that map again…”  (Ummmm…yeah, I’ll get back to that!).

Morning of Race Day: I didn’t sleep well because I kept having that “I slept through my alarm and missed my race” nightmare and woke up every hour throughout the night. (I swear, does EVERY runner have that nightmare?!) I finally got “permission” to get out of bed at 0430 (I was driving Danny crazy hopping in and out of bed all night, and he vetoed me trying to put on my running clothes at 0300!) and went through my pre-race rituals.  I won’t get into all of the boring specifics, but I will mention one odd racing quirk/superstition/lucky totem I have adopted.  I have to wear my nose ring, not my normal stud, when I race.  I swear it makes me run faster because it makes me feel “more bad a$$”! And since running is 99% mental, it has to work, right?  Like the circular logic on that one? As silly as this quirk sounds, it is 100% true, and I’m not one to ever make apologies for being a weirdo! Lol (What is one of your odd racing quirks?)  After a good breakfast Danny and I (and another runner we picked up at the Bed and Breakfast) drove to the race.  Parking was easy, there was zero stress, and the weather was perfect…it was all adding up to a great race day!  I decided I wanted another coffee and was surprised when the woman at the concession stand told me no charge for runners (for anything).  All though I had read that online before hand, it was one of those things that seemed too good to be true, and I totally forgot.  I finished my coffee, took care of business (Yessss!), and made my way to the starting line.  Everyone was in great spirits, and I even saw “Marathon Man” entertaining the crowd.  It was Go Time!!!

At the starting line!

At the starting line!

The Race:

This race experience was surreal…it was like traveling back in time.  I was being passed by horse and buggies along the course, and there were many Amish families along the sides of the roads.  Some doing their own thing, and others actively cheering on all of the runners. (There were also some competing in the race in traditional clothing + running shoes) Not to mention, the scenery was absolutely gorgeous!  Miles and miles (literally) of rolling hills and farms.  Of course, having perfect weather and bright blue skies didn’t hurt either!  To think I was worried about not having enough “distractions” along the course!  I had so many things to look at that time just flew by!  There were enough runners that I occasionally passed or was passed by somebody, but it was actually nice having the space and freedom to just run, not having to zig-zag in and out of crowds.  I had a fanny pack full of my pre-made concoction of honey stinger chews, mini marshmallows, pretzels, craisins, and gummy bears.  I ate a hand full every two miles starting at mile 8, and in addition to drinking water (no Gatorade) at every water station.  I found my sweet spot for fueling/maintaining energy/and not getting tummy cramps during this race! (Big success for me, since fueling during a run has always been one of my biggest challenges).  The water stations were well organized and all the volunteers along the course did a great job at not letting me get lost!  😉

Views on the course.

Views on the course.

Since every race is a learning experience, here are a few things I learned during this race:

  • Planning is so not my thing….the whole “race strategy thing” I did was a great meditation exercise during my taper, to mellow out some of my pre-race jitters, but I did not remember a dang thing!  I’m definitely more of a winging it kind of girl!!
  • Even if I were able to remember ANY of my race strategy, it wouldn’t do me any good, because attention to detail (and reading elevation maps) is also so not my thing.  Remember how I was talking about this nice flat course, with a couple of hills at mile something and something else….well, please see exhibit A……
Yeah, this is NOT flat!!

Yeah, this is NOT flat!!

Mmmm hmmm! Oh well, I made the best of it, and earned some bragging rights by surviving that last BIG (Not only) hill at mile 21-23!

  • This one is a two part lesson; stay humble and never judge a book by it’s cover!  It doesn’t matter how fast/strong you are (even with your “bad ass runner chick nose ring” in!) there will always be someone faster and stronger.  And that person may be a man in a pink tutu, passing you at mile 10 of a marathon!
There he is! And there he goes.....

There he is! And there he goes…..

  • But it’s all good, because I don’t take myself that seriously and I got a big laugh! (The British accent was a nice touch sir!)  NEVER forget to have fun!
  • The people who love you will support you and love you, no matter how insane your goals and endeavors may be!  Thank you to my mom and my boyfriend Danny, for being there for me and always being proud of me for even my smallest accomplishments.
  • Taking Danny to races with me rocks because I actually end up with cool race pictures afterwards to put on my blog! 😉

I ended up finishing this race in 3:48:15 (8:39 overall pace), while 10 minutes slower than my goal (based on a “flat” course) I was (am) still elated because I beat my previous PR (In Richmond last November) by just over 2 minutes and LOVED the course so much!  PLUS I still had the rest of the weekend with Danny to look forward to! 🙂

Runners love bling! *Fact*

Runners love bling! *Fact*

Post-Race/Finish Line Festivities: A homemade chocolate milk shake after a marathon is EVERY bit as good as it sounds! I enjoyed two (before you judge, they were small! 😉 ) along with a banana and some trail mix.  I was actually overwhelmed by the amount of food in the runner’s recovery tent, which included omelets being made on the spot!  There was also a pool and hot tubs available for swimmers to take a dip/relax in (If ONLY I would have remembered to bring my bikini from the B&B!).  It was over 70 at this point and still sunny/clear skies, so I lounged around on the grass and chatted with some other runners.  I even introduced myself to Megan, a girl that I had been “leap frogging” throughout the entire race, and congratulated her for pulling away on that final stretch.  I also thanked her for keeping me going in a couple of tough spots.  She said I had done the same, we both were enjoying the game! 🙂 It turns out we both won our age division! Her F25-29, and me F30-34.  One of the advantages of running a race with fewer runners and a generous race director! I’m looking forward to receiving my personally engraved coin with my finishing time in the mail!

That's Megan next to me in middle left!

That’s Megan next to me in middle left!

The Rest of the Weekend: Involved a visiting a couple of local markets/shops and settling in on the patio at the B&B with a pizza and nice bottle of red wine.  The bed and breakfast we stayed at was amazing too, The Artist’s Inn & Gallery, so I’d just like to give it a quick plug too!  The inn and location were perfect; The owners, Jan and Bruce were very friendly and especially accommodating of the runners staying at the Inn.  The Gallery portion included Bruce’s colored pencil drawings with quirky/funny captions, I ended up coming home with his “Phona Lisa” (A congratulatory gift from Danny! 🙂 ) I will definitely be booking a room when I’m in town again for another race; maybe “Bird in hand half”?  I reeaaallly want that “Road Apple” award!

Relaxing at the B&B

Relaxing at the B&B

I always do “the run-down” for myself…..At the end of the week, between two 4 mile taper runs and the marathon:

Total Weekly Miles: 34.2 
Total 2014 Miles: 464.9

Next up….The American Odyssey Race with (hopefully) 11 other runners!


What is your favorite race to run?  What makes or breaks a race for you?






34 thoughts on “Garden Spot Village Marathon Race Recap + Review

  1. Congratulations, sounds like an awesome race !

    I ran the London Marathon on Sunday and still have a smile on my face.
    What made it so special was the fact it was London, the crowds are amazing and when you turn a corner and see something like Big Ben you just well up with emotion. And being so close to home my friends and family were there to support which made it so special.
    What nearly broke it? The shear amount of runners, you spend the entire race weaving around people, stopping behind groups and bumping into the walkers.
    But didn’t spoil it, I had an awesome time.

    • That sounds great! Maybe one day I’ll venture out and do an international (for me) marathon. Congratulations on your race too! I’m glad it was a positive experience for you! Having to weave in and out of other runners during a race can be frustrating. I just have to make the decision to go with the flow, have fun, and forget about my finish time to keep from being frustrated when running races like that. I’m really loving hearing about everyone’s spring races!

  2. Ha, I totally have the I-slept-through-my-alarm-and-missed-my-race nightmare. I’ve even run a few races with 0 hours of sleep because I can’t stop checking my phone alarm! Sounds like a beautiful course, and a memorable experience for you. Congratulations!

    • I figured it was a pretty common pre – race runners nightmare! Haha I’ve actually NEVER slept through a race so I’m not sure why I worry so much about it! The course was beautiful and just such a relaxing weekend overall! And thank you! 🙂

  3. Sounds like a lovely race! Nice job! There’s a Thanksgiving Day turkey trot that I’ve run every year since I moved to Utah, it’s probably my favorite, with The Other Half in Moab being a close second.

    • Thank you! And fueling is tough! Finding that right balance between eating enough to keep your energy up and not too much where it causes stomach cramps (or worse – unplanned Porta – potty stops! ) everyone is different but I’ve definitely have found that real food and plain water work best! And cost less! Bonus! 🙂

  4. You are as talented at writing as you are a running. Congrats on a well run race. Thanks for the blogs, I so enjoy reading everything your write. It makes me think just maybe this old chubby grandma can run a few shorter races …. like the kids 1.2 mile marathon 😉

    • Thank you mom! I love you! You should totally give a one mile fun run a try! It would be a blast with all the grand babies! Or check out the coach to 5k program – it’s one I always recommend to new runners! 🙂

  5. Wow great job!! I can never sleep the night before a race either I’m always way too anxious. My racing quirk is that I wear one of my grandmother’s pins on the waistband of my shorts for good luck! Congrats again you did so awesome!!

    • Thank you! us runners need to come up with some deep breathing or meditation techniques so we can get as decent nights sleep before a race! Haha and I love your racing quirk! It’s very sweet to wear something that reminds you of somebody special!

  6. What a wonderful recap!!!! And such a great time too! I’m so excited for you and loved all the pics! What beautiful scenery up there! And I have definitely had that nightmare many, many times.

    Oh and maybe I should swap my stud for my hoop to run my marathon too. It DOES make me feel more badass. 🙂

    (Also I have a Luna bar and lip balm for you! Let me know where I can send it!)

  7. Wow. Well done. If I ever get the bug to try a marathon again I think I would check this one out. I seem to have my sweet spot at 13.1.
    I think one of my favorite races in the Matzoh Ball 5k in Ellicot City. Always very friendly and the course is scenic and challenging. The people are always extremely friendly.
    Once again, well done!

    • Thank you! 10 miler – half marathons are my sweet spot too – so much fun to run! my recent marathon obsession are kind of a mid – life crisis for me! 😉

      I just love the name of the matzoh ball 5k! And Ellicott city is right up the street from me so I’ll definitely have to check it out!

  8. Wow, amazing! Great job and congrats! I’ve never heard of that race, but it looks really unique. I grew up in Ohio and remember seeing the Amish from time to time when we were out in the countryside. Very cool!

  9. Pingback: Counting Down to 2015! | Headlong Running Betty

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