Meet the Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon Team

Weather and terrain are often considered the two most important factors when choosing a half marathon. In Lancaster County, we find that heart brings the most value to the race day experience. And for us, the heart of the BIH Half is without a doubt our community. 

There’s just something different about running in Lancaster County. Our runners often comment on the challenge of our country roads, the beauty of our farmlands, and who can forget those horseshoe medals. From the first step, you’ll notice the uniqueness of the BIH Half course. Maybe it’s the horse and buggy pacer or the rolling hills. Many enjoy catching a glimpse of our heritage farmlands and trade stories post-race of seeing a horse-drawn plow tending to the fields or being greeted by grazing cows and livestock. Some are surprised to discover that many of our water stations are positioned outside of our community’s one-room schoolhouses and are “staffed” by local children eager to lend a hand. 

There is no shortage of one-of-a-kind experiences when you run in Bird-in-Hand. But what we cherish most is this shared sense of community that stays with you long after the finish line is crossed. Whether you are planning your first visit, or running our half marathon is an annual tradition, we extend a hearty welcome and invite you to get to know a few of our team members! It’s these folks – and many more – who make the Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon weekend memorable. 

Volunteers hold out water as runners pass throughout the Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon course

The Earl Oberholtzer Family

For the past 13 years, the Oberholtzers have been at the center of the Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon – quite literally. The Oberholtzer family farm is located on the 9th mile of the course. Over the years, Earl, his wife, and their children have enjoyed manning a water station on their farm with help from neighbors and their children’s friends. Today, the Oberholtzers only have one daughter left at home but Earl and his wife continue the tradition of welcoming runners to Lancaster County.

Volunteers prepare grounds for BIH Half Marathon and community events

Jerry & Eva Stoltzfus

Service is a characteristic that seems to run in the Stoltzfus family. When Jerry and Eva’s two sons joined the all-volunteer Hand-in-Hand Fire Company, the fundraising recipient of the BIH Half, the Stoltzfus family knew they wanted to help. They quickly found their place tending to runners from the rehab tent. Jerry, Eva, and their eight children are always at the ready with a cool towel, Gatorade, and a smile of encouragement just when a tired runner needs it most.

Volunteer monitors course conditions for BIH Half Marathon

Matt Fisher

Matt Fisher began volunteering with the Hand-in-Hand Fire Company when he was just 14. Over the years, he’s learned a thing or two about safety. He uses those skills to lead the BIH Half Course Safety Team which consists of about 20 volunteers. Together, the team is responsible for coordinating roadway closures and keeping vehicles off the race course.

The Steve Esh Family

The Esh family has volunteered with the fire company’s fundraising events for over 15 years. The post-race community picnic is a special part of the BIH Half. And that’s where you can find the Esh family. Together with their five children, they enjoy sharing a warm welcome with runners and serving up delicious BBQ chicken, grilled sausages, and all the fixings.

Volunteers gather under the big tent to welcome runners during on-site registration for the Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon

Mark Stoltzfus

As an avid runner himself, Mark is responsible for organizing seven pace runner groups to help set various finisher times throughout the race. If the group is down a pacer, you might even see Mark running the course himself, or testing his speed during the 5K just for fun

Volunteer organizes our race expo, and is a skilled craftsmen himself

Michael (Mike) Fisher

As a community of makers and craftsmen, Lancaster County is known for our homemade baked goods, woodworking, and textiles. The Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon Expo is a special part of race weekend where local artisans and small businesses share their crafts. Mike leads the event bringing everyone together. And as a skilled wood craftsman himself, you might even find something created by Mike from time to time.

Volunteers meet throughout the year to discuss and prepare for the annual Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon

Jake Beiler

If you have run the BIH Half, you’ve likely met Jake Beiler. As the finish line coordinator, he leads a group of volunteers who hand out the coveted horseshoe finishers’ medals. Jake also organizes the collection of horseshoes used to create the medals. Horse drawn buggies are a common means of transportation here in Lancaster County and the horses are typically reshoed every four to six weeks. Throughout the year, Jake will collect around 2,000 worn horseshoes that will be cleaned, polished, and crafted into our one-of-a-kind medal.

Come Run With Us!

Since 2010, we have enjoyed welcoming runners to the Lancaster County countryside. It’s a tradition our community looks forward to each year and we can’t wait to see you again! Be a part of our community and join us for the 2024 BIH Half and 5K – registration is now open.