Written by Juanita Fox
After a snowy and abnormally cold winter and spring, Saturday, April 14 dawned bright and clear, with a warm forecast. The incredible sunrise created an exquisite backdrop as Stan Hess and the U.S. Hot Air Balloon Team flew balloons over Garden Spot Village, tethered the Garden Spot Village balloon just south of the starting line for about 90 minutes. It was a huge, colorful beacon welcoming runners and providing rides for some.
Runners and their support teams of family and friends, milled about, anxiously waiting for the race to start. Friends Mindy Wagaman, Kutztown, Pa., and Nancy Grim, Bowers, Pa., ran the Garden Spot Village Half Marathon for the first time. Both are experienced runners, competing in other local races. Mindy says, “What a nice area. I plan to be back!” Mindy hopes to run the Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon to get her Road Apple Award in September.
Nancy says she was intrigued by a race at a retirement community, since she is getting close to the age where she qualifies for a 55 and over community. Most importantly, she says, “I like to see that the community is involved.”
Ryan Griffith, 13, and his mom, Danielle Doebereiner, drove four-and-a-half hours to New Holland from Mars, a suburb north of Pittsburgh, Pa. They chose the Garden Spot Village half marathon for their first race together because it fit into their schedule and they enjoy the beauty of Lancaster County. Ryan, a 7th grader says, “I run cross country for my school team and enjoy long distance running so I thought I would give it a try.”
Danielle adds, “Running together is a great way for us to stay connected through the tough teenage years.”
Nearby, William Rose, 8, the youngest-ever Garden Spot Village Half Marathoner, prepared for the run with his dad. William loves to run because, he says, “It’s a way to spend time with my dad.” William is an accomplished runner, completing his first 5K at age 6 as well as a 10K and a 10-miler before tackling the challenge of a half marathon. William loves to run because of the medals he receives. He came to Garden Spot Village unprepared to receive yet another medal, looking up at his dad and asking incredulously, “I get a medal?”
Jeremy Dovin, 14, Narvon, Pa., also visited with his family near the start line. Jeremy finished third in the 2017 half marathon. He trained to win in 2018 and predicted, before the race started, that he would finish in 1:19:00.
Just before 8am the group of more than 900 runners assembled at the starting line, ready to take on the challenge of running 13.1 and 26.2 miles.
As the runners left the campus, volunteers refocused their energy on hosting the runners’ families and friends, serving food, selling flowers and simply connecting through conversations.
The finish line volunteers quickly moved into place, arranging water, medals and hats for the finishers that were due in just over an hour. Carol Spahr and Claire Corfey, seasoned volunteers, anxiously waited for the first finishers. Claire says, “I’ve volunteered with the marathon since the start and I’ve seen vast improvement in the race.”
Carol, who marked her fifth year of volunteering says, “It’s a fun thing to do… it gets me out, helps me to connect to people and make new friends.”
Fran Rapp, who manages the finish line echoes Carol, saying, “It’s fun to get caught up in the excitement of the morning.”
Just seconds later than he predicted Jeremy Dovin crossed the finish line, with a time of 1:20:18, taking first place in the half marathon. He “pushed” the pace car the entire race and finished nearly three minutes ahead of the second place winner. Jeremy, who hopes to eventually run in the Olympics, has a full schedule of races for the spring. He ran the Cherry Blossom 10-miler in Washington, D.C., on April 8, the Garden Spot Village Half Marathon on April 14 and the Turkey Hill Half Marathon in Manor Township, Pa., on May 5.
Lauren Leonard, 33, Huntingdon, Pa., took first in the half marathon for women, with a time of 1:37:11. It was her seventh time to run in the Garden Spot Village Marathon and it’s just one of many races she and her husband complete each year. She says, “This race is a nice way to start the racing season. It’s a great race. I just love it. That’s why we come back each year…Everyone is so friendly.”
William, the youngest half marathon runner, finished with a time of 2:47:39. With a big grin he says, “Everybody was cheering for me.” He took a moment to look at his step counter and says, “I already went 36,274 steps today.”
Gale Hess, 40, East Petersburg, Pa., finished the marathon first with a time of 3:15:12 and Katherine Marden, Arlington, Va., finished first for the women with a time of 3:37:44.
At the end of the day, with a time of 8:02:30, Elizabeth Olmstead, 72, Wilmington, Del., crossed the finish line, taking first place in the marathon for women runners 70-74 and bringing to end a 10 year tradition. While the race set for April 2019 will look different, it will include the same energy, fun and hospitality that define Garden Spot Village.
To view memories of the day, visit the Marathon Photo Gallery here.