Race Recap – Hillbilly Hike Half-Marathon

This Hillbilly Hike race recap is LONG overdue. I’ve wanted to write a post extolling the praises of the organization of this race for a very long time, as I feel it has significant potential and will only become an even more popular race in the Central Iowa region over the next few years. What a great race!

My “racing” career has been very brief, but I’ve completed enough races to grow a bit tired of the typical downtown Des Moines and Chicago area event starts. Understandably, the downtown views and traffic control that accompany most distance races are attractive to runners, but I deeply desired something different at the end of the the 2015 racing season. The Hillbilly Hike event promised that the woodlands, farmlands, wetlands, and the prairie would showcase “a rainbow of the state’s natural heritage,” not to mention a downhill, flat, and fast course. A gorgeous prairie and wildlife? Sign me up!

After pushing myself to finish my second half-marathon in less than two hours, I wanted a more scenic and relaxed 13-mile run to close out the year. The Hillbilly Hike race would allow me to check out a part of town I otherwise would not, without having to think about stoplights or running out of water. I also loved the idea of running a small race (less than 500-700 runners) on Summerset Trail, which spans from Indianola to Carlisle, in south-central Iowa.

This race turned out to be exactly how it was described! There were multiple bridges, and it starts out completely downhill. A word of caution: it’s extremely easy to run the first half of this race too fast! It’s not the greatest sign of events to come when you roll out a new 10K PR during a half…and you still have another 7 miles to run.

Regardless, the scenery was crazy-gorgeous, and there was a high of 47 degrees that day. After barreling through the first 6.2 miles at 8:37 pace, I decided to take my time and catch my breath. Around mile 8, I saw deer, and then I passed geese. I wish I would’ve stopped running to take pictures, but the race photographers took great shots of the participants. This one looks totally photoshopped, but that’s how pretty the scenery was:


At the finish line, there’s biscuits, gravy, and pie baked by sweet little church ladies (at least, in my head), as the race is hosted by Indianola Christian Union Church. You can also have your name and finishing time engraved into your medal for a couple of dollars. Although I didn’t run this race faster or as fast as the half-marathon I completed three weeks prior, it isn’t very often that you can get your medal engraved on-site in Iowa.


If you are in Des Moines or a surrounding area, and would like a different race experience with a natural backdrop (you might even see wild turkeys!), the next HillBilly Hike (with 10K or half-marathon options available) will be on November 5, 2016.