Tag Archive | Gettysburg Battlefield

Going the Distance

Looking across the Gettysburg Battlefield, on the Spirit of Gettysburg 5K race course

Looking across the Gettysburg Battlefield, on the Spirit of Gettysburg 5K race course

By Karen Hendricks

I crossed something off my bucket list last week… it was something I honestly never thought I’d accomplish especially given my age. Not that I’m over the hill, but getting back into RUNNING at the age of 44 while juggling a family and career isn’t something that naturally fits right into an already-packed, super-busy schedule.

However… Last week I ran my first ever 5K. Can I just take a minute to say “I did it!” 🙂

I have always wanted to run a 5K, planned on doing them in my teens when I ran high school track. But when I was 16, I fell down a flight of stairs and cracked one of my kneecaps. Thus ended my running days. Until recently.

I tried to get back into running several times in the 20s but the twinges in my knee came back every time. Then came career, kids, and no spare time to even consider thinking about running. But for the past several years, taking a mixture of pilates, yoga and ballet classes, plus staying active with walking and biking, I honestly feel stronger and healthier now than ever before. So, keeping my fingers crossed, I slowly got back into running over the past year. It felt great to run intervals, interspersed with periods of walking, as I totaled 3-5 miles. Finding the time isn’t as much as a challenge now that my kids are a bit older (in their teens). One of the easiest ways for me to work walking and running into my schedule is to do it while my daughter has soccer practice at a park. But my favorite time of day is first thing in the morning—what a great start to the day. And the kids are certainly capable of getting their own breakfasts if I’m gone for a little while!

So I was feeling good, pretty happy to have “running” back in my life, but a 5K really wasn’t on my radar screen. Like most things in life, it isn’t until something is staring me in the face, that I think it might be a good idea!

My daughter Kelly is extremely athletic and runs a local 5K every year, either winning or placing in her teenage age group. This year she was signed up and ready to run, but about two weeks beforehand, she sprained her foot. A week before the race, it was obvious that her foot wasn’t going to allow her to run as usual. So, in a light bulb kind of moment, I decided I should change her registration to my name (and my age category!) and run the race instead. I’d always wanted to run a 5K, right? No time like the present. Like Nike says, “Just do it.” Did I mention, it was one week before the race?

My family’s reactions varied… my husband was supportive but concerned I was going to hurt myself. My daughter Katie was excited and volunteered to take photos to document my journey over the finish line. My daughter Kelly laughed, but then offered her runner’s insights throughout the week, as she explained how to tackle certain sections and hills on the race course. My son Kyle was pretty flabbergasted about the idea that his Mom might actually be able to run a 5K.

The gorgeous setting of the Spirit of Gettysburg 5K

The gorgeous setting of the Spirit of Gettysburg 5K

Every other day leading up to the race, I ran three miles and surprisingly, my times weren’t terrible. I wouldn’t embarrass myself too badly. No pain in the knee either. I continued my ballet workouts on alternating days, taking extra time to stretch, although I honestly didn’t have muscle cramps or pains. I rested completely the day before the race.

I figured I couldn’t back out, if I told people publicly about my plans. So the day before the 5K, after I picked up my runner’s packet and bib number, I posted my picture and the following message on Facebook:


I was completely blown away by all the Facebook love that followed… words of encouragement, support and well wishes. It was awesome! The positive power of social media at work.

Then came race day. The forecast was ideal—cool morning temperatures with partly cloudy skies (no bright sunshine). However, upon waking up that morning… rain. Oh joy.

I convinced myself that I would run, rain or shine. But thankfully, about 10-15 minutes before the 8 am start, the rain stopped. What an adrenalin rush, to be part of a crowd of runners, 700 strong, at the starting line. To hear the sound of that many footsteps, along with cheers from the crowd of families and friends lining the course… it was music to my ears.

Here I go...

Here I go…

Several things helped to pull me along as I ran: first, the beautiful course which winds its way across the historic Gettysburg Battlefield; thoughts of my supportive family and friends—especially all those encouraging Facebook messages; but perhaps most of all, it was a drive within myself. Once you’re a mom and have survived those “marathon” days when your children are sick or going through difficult situations, I think there is absolutely nothing else on this earth that you cannot accomplish. There is nothing as challenging, trying and rewarding as being a mom. Running? I got this. Physically and mentally.

Crossing the finish line! Woohoo!

Crossing the finish line! Woohoo!

While my time didn’t win any awards, I felt as though I had a gold medal around my neck as I crossed the finish line. There were four times on the course when killer hills forced me to walk—I allowed myself no more than 100 steps at a time. I finished as runner #531 out of about 700, and I was 35th in my age group. My final time was 34:22… right in my target zone between 33 and 35 minutes. It meant a lot to have one of my best friends, fellow OTMGR blogger Mary Ann, at the finish line with my family as well!

And now I have a new goal… to keep working and improve upon my time for next year. Yes, I think I’ll be back! And now that I’ve said that publically… I have to do it!

After the race: Still smiling!

After the race: Still smiling!


For more information on the Spirit of Gettysburg 5K, sponsored by the YWCA of Gettysburg and Adams County, click here.

For more ideas on fitting exercise into your daily routine, click here for my previous post Work it Out: Finding Time for Mom

Check out my fellow blogger Jen’s 5K experience “5K… Hurray!” here

Feel free to share your advice with our community… how do you find time to run or exercise? Have you set a 5K goal? Do you run 5Ks regularly? We’d love to hear from you…


Insider’s Guide to Family-Friendly Events in Gettysburg

By Karen Hendricks

Gettysburg Battlefield Vista: The white monument in the center of the photo is the Pennsylvania Memorial

Gettysburg Battlefield Vista: The white monument in the center of the photo is the Pennsylvania Memorial

Several of our Off the Merry-Go-Round writers live in Gettysburg, PA—myself included. Summertime, to us, means tourist season… although having worked with numerous Gettysburg events and festivals in the past, those in the tourism industry prefer we call our guests “visitors” and not “tourists.” Sounds nicer, I agree. We are thankful indeed for the many visitors who flock to our south-central Pennsylvania town—approximately three million annually. This year, our charming Civil War-era town is humming with excitement as we approach the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3, and tourism officials predict our annual visitors may number closer to four million.

Sesquicentennial events are spread out through the entire year, but certainly the bulk of the commemorations are planned for the end of June into July. As a freelance writer in Gettysburg, I’ve written a number of articles about the 150th anniversary—so many in fact, that during the height of my research, I was dreaming about the Civil War on a regular basis!

Too often, I think we overlook events happening “in our own backyard,” so I am making a point to put several 150th events on my family’s calendar. If you live in the central PA or MD area also, or if you’re headed to Gettysburg on summer vacation, I hope the following “Insider’s Guide to Family-Friendly Events in Gettysburg” is helpful. Welcome and enjoy!

Family-Friendly Events in Gettysburg, Summer 2013:

Battlefield IMG_1862rOk, it’s summer and the kids think that since school is out, learning stops. Here is a way to sneak a history lesson into summertime… because after all, studies have shown that summertime is the greatest period of growth, both physically and mentally, for children.

So Gettysburg’s history in a nutshell goes like this: One hundred and fifty years ago, on July 1-3, 1863, the Battle of Gettysburg claimed 51,000 casualties. The bloodiest battle of the entire Civil War, the name “Gettysburg” became forever etched in history as the turning point in the war, as well as a pivotal point in America’s history. The South (Confederates) never fully recovered from their losses at Gettysburg, and the North’s (Union’s) victory in the Civil War preserved the United States as our country. (Feel free to explain this to your children in laymen’s terms, depending on their ages! 🙂

At the heart of Gettysburg’s commemoration, is a period of ten days, June 28-July 7, 2013. Within this timeframe, Gettysburg will host two major battle reenactments, official Gettysburg National Military Park commemorative events across the 6,000-acre battlefield, and a full slate of events staged by businesses in Gettysburg’s tourism industry.

Rather than giving you a rundown of the highlight events, which will undoubtedly be crowded and/or difficult to access, I’m going to list a few family-friendly events likely to be less crowded. Since they are all programs organized by the National Park Service, they are all free:

July 1-4 NPS Family Activity Tent:

The front lawn of the Gettysburg National Military Park’s Museum and Visitor Center* will host a special family and children’s tent full of activities, programs and hands-on opportunities, 9 am-5 pm daily. Stations will include:

  • A living history stage where a new Gettysburg “personality” will be revealed every hour
  • Infantry, cavalry and artillery drilling stations
  • Soldier pastimes circle
  • Dress-up photo booth
  • “Ask a Ranger” desk

July 1-4 Battle Overview:

For a summary of the Battle of Gettysburg, attend this brief (30 minute) overview program led by park rangers in the Ford Education Center, Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center.* Programs run every hour on the hour, from 9 am-5pm. This program serves as a wonderful orientation to begin your visit to Gettysburg.

July 1-4 Civil War Soldier Program:

What was life like, for Union and Confederate soldiers at Gettysburg? Attend this hour-long program to find out. You may even have the chance to try on a soldier’s uniform for size! This program is to be held at 10 am, 12 noon, 2 and 4 pm, at Ranger Site #1, behind the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center.*

Key Moments:

The NPS is presenting “Key Moment” programs, explaining events that happened during the Battle of Gettysburg, exactly 150 years ago. To travel to the sites, you can park at the National Cemetery North and South lots* and use special NPS shuttle buses, which stop at Devil’s Den, Little Round Top and other sites, every 15-20 minutes:

  • July 2 Key Moments at Little Round Top:

Rangers will explain what happened at Little Round Top, the scene of heavy fighting on the afternoon of July 2, 1863. Programs will be presented every hour, on the hour, from 9 am-12 pm and 2-5pm.

  • July 2 Key Moments at Devil’s Den:

A desperate struggle ensued between the Confederates of Longstreet’s Corps and the Union 3rd Corps on July 2, 1863. Rangers will explain the series of events during presentations every hour, on the hour, from 10am-12pm and 2-5pm. Devil’s Den, with its rock formations, is a fascinating stop for children of all ages, but to fully explore and climb on the rocks, sneakers should be worn.

My nephew especially enjoyed visiting Devil's Den with my family last summer!

My nephew especially enjoyed visiting Devil’s Den with my family last summer!

Every Thursday through August 15: Hike with Ike:

Gettysburg’s history isn’t limited to the Civil War—the town was also home to President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Every Thursday at 7:15 pm, take a free, guided walking tour through downtown Gettysburg that explores President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s life in Gettysburg. Meet the National Park Ranger at the Gettysburg College gates, at the corner of North Washington and Water Streets.

*The Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center –and- the National Cemetery North and South lots are both located off Baltimore Street (PA Route 97) just south of Gettysburg. If you follow the brown NPS signs approaching Gettysburg from any direction, they will direct you to Baltimore Street.

For additional events and more information, check out the Gettysburg National Military Park website.