On race day, some will cross the Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon finish line reaching a personal record. For others, BIH will be their first completion of a half marathon. Some will be challenged by our rural course and the unpredictable nature of life in the country. And for a determined few, BIH is merely a milestone in training for longer distance running. But when we cross the finish line this September there’s something we all share. We are half marathon finishers.
With 13.1 miles at your back and the roar of welcoming onlookers, it slips into your hands. Oaky leather weighted by two pounds of steel. Our horseshoe medal is a unique embodiment of not only your achievement but also your place here in Bird-in-Hand. It’s a sentiment summed up by the Pennsylvania Dutch phrase, “Vella Shpringa,” which translates to “Gotta Run”. The joyful expression is a reminder of the passion we share as runners. And our horseshoe finishers’ medal is a symbol of our unwavering will to complete a goal.
Horse-drawn buggies are a common sight here in Lancaster County. Our horses regularly traverse country roads and county lines, racking up countless miles each year. And as any seasoned runner will tell you, enduring long distances requires the proper gear. For our horses that means new shoes every four to six weeks. When the time comes, local farriers remove the worn shoes exposing the bare hoof. After caring for the horse’s hooves, the old shoes may be reshaped and refitted, or if it is too worn – or the horse has outgrown it – it may be scrapped for metal recycling. With horses as the preferred means of transportation within our community, this is a process that happens continuously without added thought. Until a member of our all-volunteer fire company had an idea.
He quickly realized the character of a distance runner is much like our horses: hardworking, powerful, and unrelenting in their perseverance. Seeking a unique idea to celebrate the runners who gathered to traverse our countryside, we began collecting castoff horseshoes from farriers throughout the Bird-in-Hand community. The shoes are cleaned, polished, and then embolized by a family-owned metal fabrication shop. The finished medal is hung by a simple strap of leather collected from a local harness shop.
To see how our unique medal is made, watch this video.
Finishers’ medals are often revered as a prize. Proof that you’ve mastered a feat that many won’t even attempt. To us, we look at our horseshoe medal as a symbol of our shared connection. When you carry the BIH Half finishers’ medal home, you’re also carrying a piece of our home with you. And when you catch a glimpse of your horseshoe medal after the race is over, we hope you’ll remember our time spent together here in Lancaster County.
Whether the Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon is an annual tradition, or this is your first year, we are connected – as runners, as a community, and as friends. It’s a sentiment that drives us to support and motivate each other and inspires us to keep going.
It’s a motto we all hold – however you say it. Maybe it really is as simple as Vella Shpringa – Gotta Run.