Running With the Amish and Christopher McDougall
Bart Yasso had an article titled Running with the Amish in Runner’s World. (February, 2012) The article is a great read, both due to Yasso’s writing skills and to all he covers in it. Some of the article took me down memory lane because I went to a one-room Amish school for seven years, but finding out there is an Amish running group was news to me.
My family is part of a strict Mennonite sect, with a few more liberties than the Amish, but with a similar lifestyle. There were no Mennonite schools in our area, so my siblings and I went to a local Amish school. Though I still live in the same area, I left the Mennonite church years ago and I don’t have many connections with Amish folks anymore.
But running creates all kinds of connections.
Last fall, I met Mark, a former Amish, when he emailed me after reading Because I Can. Along with having the connection of both leaving a sheltered community, Mark is also a runner and does many of the local races I do.
At one race, Mark mentioned that he does some runs with the Amish running group Bart wrote about and he invited me to join them for a run… and not just any run, but for the “regular run under the full moon” mentioned in the article.
This week it was full moon and there was a run, so a few of us joined them.
Following the address Mark gave, we arrived at a farm not too far from Lancaster. We were a little early and only a few others mingled around as we greeted the host, John.
The full-moon runs draw as many as 30 people, Mennonites, Amish, and English (which is what the Old Order Amish call non-Anabaptists). The course changes each month, designed by whoever is hosting the run. – Bart Yasso
As I met a few Amish guys and one girl, I had some odd moments of feeling like I’m in some type of time-warp. Nothing about their dress and style seemed to have changed from 30+ years ago and yet we were going to run together. Life sure is funny at times.
We wanted to get some pictures of the group, but we wanted to respect the no pictures rule of most Amish, so we posed for pictures and just happened to be in front of some of them. This was about 15 minutes before the run and at least, 20 more people showed up before we ran.
And one person that arrived was Christopher McDougall.
The Christopher McDougall!
Christopher is the author of the bestselling book, Born to Run, a book that inspired me and gave me confidence to run longer distances again. I was so impressed after reading Born to Run I even gave away a copy because I wanted to share it with my readers.
I had returned to running before I read it in 2010, but I was concerned about how far to push my body. Reading Born to Run helped me realize our bodies are stronger than we give them credit for and I increased the distances I ran. Reading it also inspired me to try barefoot running, which resulted in more healing happening in my left foot. I have a post titled From Stubborn to Flexible on my old blog about that.
Christopher has never run with this group before, but he lives in the area and decided this was the month for a moon light run. At the beginning of the run, I ran about half a mile with him!
I can die happy now :)
It was a hot, humid, but beautiful evening! And again, here are a few of Bart’s words…
The Mennonites wore running shorts and running pants, and synthetic tops. The Amish men wore black pants held up with suspenders and long-sleeve, button-down shirts. Most were clean-shaven… The one woman in the group wore a long dress and a head scarf. I should note that they all wore running shoes.
The host of the evening had planned out two routes, one 10 miles and one 5 miles. Along with about half of the group. Rose and I opted for 5 miles. I knew I couldn’t keep the pace of most of them, and after a mile or so, Rose and I were running alone.
With a faster start than normal (had to stay with Christopher as long as I could!) Rose and I soon slowed down. I turned on my run 3/walk 1 minute timer and we enjoyed the run along almost empty roads between cornfields and barns. Thanks to Mark we didn’t get lost, he probably ran almost 10 miles on the 5 mile loop, because he doubled back a few times to make sure we knew the route. Thanks Mark!
By the time we arrived back at the farm, it was dark and the flicking lights of the gas lanterns lit up the yard. The host had filled a table with our rewards! Chocolate milk, vegetables and dip, fruit, pretzels and ice cream with fresh peaches!
As we ate, we talked about the normal talk of runners… running plans, races, shoes, etc. While silently I marveled at this unique evening. So many worlds had collided… from a one-room school to the bestsellers list to a cool moonlight run with friends.
I love how running connects us all!
I’ve always liked full moon and most months I spend a hour or two on my porch when it is full. Now I’m thinking it might be time to start a new practice… moonlight runs. And I’m sure each month will bring with it joys of its own, whether I’m running with a group of Amish, a bestselling author, a few friends or all three.
What is the most unique running experience you’ve had?