Hillbilly Hike Half Marathon, 10k & Greubel 5k – Get your Hillbilly on!
What is the Hillbilly Hike?
Throw out the rules and prepare for a race that is fun, scenic, and in a remote area of Iowa. This location is perfect for Hillbillies and they proudly welcome any visitor, even a Northern-bred runner like myself.
This race began a few years ago with a crazy idea to help fund missions through their small church. The organizers were always doing small fundraisers to help the students/participants offset some of the cost to go and show love to others in various communities. The cause is important to this community because they want their students/participants who have this opportunity to realize they can make an impact in this world: not only on a trip, but also locally.
According to race director Ryan Roust, “Watching people who participate in these trips spread God’s love and then grow deeper in their faith is something we never tire of watching. God has blessed us beyond our wildest dreams and we are so grateful to all the runners who come and be a part of our race. For example, this year’s Hillbilly Hike had 700 runners from 17 states along with 100 volunteers. This continues to blow my mind that people would travel to cold, rural Iowa, to run like a Hillbilly!”
His passion to putting on a quality race for the runners coupled with his philanthropic desire to help his community is evident by his actions year after yea. Ryan said, “We added a 5K a few years ago to support three local kids who lost their parents in a tragic traffic accident. This year, we raised approximately $4,500 dollars that we put into their college scholarships funds. The race provides a chance for us to continue supporting the family and keep their parent’s memories alive. It was such a blessing to have their family help with traffic and pass out medals this year at the finish line.”
Why run with a group of Hillbillies? One acronym: FOMO!
From the moment my father and I received our race bibs, we knew this race would be a horse of a different color. We asked Ryan why our bibs had a totally different race name on it and why the year showed 2017!? In a very calm, matter of fact tone, he responded, “We are so Hillbilly that we are using recycled race bibs to save money.”
After that, we stopped asking questions and embraced the group of Hillbillies for what they are: outgoing people who don’t take themselves too seriously. How refreshing!
Miles 1-2: Ready. Set. Stay Warm!
Lets be clear. This was considered a warm day for the Hillbilly Hike. As I waited for the bus to take all us half marathoners to the start line, I was chatting away with my fellow hillbillies. They were ALL so friendly and welcoming. When we arrived, we sat together for the better part of 15 minutes on the bus, waiting until the last possible moment to stand outside in the bitter cold. Yet, despite the weather outside, the runners and the volunteers were clearly prideful of this event. One runner said, “Thank you for coming to our city to run this race. This makes a difference to us and to our community.”
At 8:00 a.m., my iPhone showed a brisk 31 degrees (didn’t reflect wind chill to the best of my knowledge); but when you run with the Hillbillies, weather is secondary to living in the moment. The race kicked off in Indianola, Iowa at the local high school. The gun sounded and we hit the pavement making our way toward the greenway.
Miles 3-5: There is something about running on a greenway. In the fall. Surrounded by Hillbillies.
While people love to run for a variety of personal reasons, they also love and can relate to this cause. I would estimate about 10 different runners asked about my mission to raise Alzheimer’s awareness worldwide during this 3-mile stretch. People care and they aren’t shy about sharing their stories and how their family is being personally affected. The camaraderie was incredible and I could tell that everyone was genuinely pulling for one another. Moreover, the sheer peacefulness and tranquility of running in such a rural area was breathtaking.
Miles 6-10: Mini horses. Bridge after bridge. Panoramic views of the water.
The next five miles were equally if not more peaceful. As I rounded mile six, I saw a few mini horses just chilling. When in rural Iowa, right? After making a brief pitstop to say hi to the miniaturized animals, I ran across multiple bridges covered in frost. From miles 7-8, runners were blessed with a colorful palette of trees circling the water.
Miles 11-13.1: Open Fields. Hilarious Signage. The Perfect Bling.
When a race is smaller in size, it is not uncommon to run alone for long stretches of time. I certainly prefer to run with other people, but when I find myself all alone, surrounded by the beauty of this landscape, my brain feels totally relaxed. I am used to always being on the go and not pausing enough for moments like this in time. We all need this type of reminder more frequently in my humble opinion.
For the last 2.1 miles, I was surrounded by vast open fields on each sides. As I made my way toward Carlisle, Iowa, there was hilarious signage all along the way, but especially in the homestretch.
With the finish line in sight, I saw my father proudly cheering. By the way, he ended up winning his 5K age group (well done daddy-o!). We ran two separate races, but we ran for the same purpose: to advocate for dementia awareness in Iowa.
We celebrated by taking part in the delicious festivities at the finish line, which included homemade biscuits and gravy, beef stew, and apple pie. Of course, taking home some bling never hurt anyone either, especially this one!
As for the Hillbilly’s, I am in to run with them again. I hope they would say the same about us!
To see more photos of this race, go to: Hillbilly Hike Half Marathon, 10k & Greubel 5k