Pennsic is postponed for this year, but the Unofficial Pennsic Half Marathon (UPHM) is not; the now-annual UPHM run will take place as scheduled, but in a virtual format rather than around Cooper’s Lake. Participants will complete the run on their own, on a course of their own choosing, at their convenience, during the weekend of July 31-August 2, 2020, and record their times and distances afterward on the Unofficial Pennsic Half Marathon page on Facebook.
Jarla Thora Heri started the run eight years ago as a way to help build base fitness in fighters so they would have the stamina and endurance to get through the daily battles of War Week; non-fighters were, of course, also enthusiastically welcomed. The countess came up with the idea while running one morning around the campground and realized that one loop of the perimeter was just a bit over four miles. Three times around would be approximately the length of a half-marathon, which is defined in modern times as 13.1 miles.
The original course, which was completed by only four runners during its inaugural year, included a short out-and-back dip down to the archery field to make it 13.1 miles long, but for safety reasons, and by popular demand (no one liked running that hill!), that out-and-back portion was omitted, and three loops of the course, which is billed as “medievally inexact”, ended up being only about 12.5 miles long. Runners at Pennsic who complete the three loops receive recognition as official finishers, but those who want to do exactly 13.1 miles have the option at the end of running one extra loop around the field known as the “Serengeti”.
Runners also may choose to do LESS than the full course. All who want to participate are welcome, at any pace and for any distance. Because the goal of the run is to promote fitness, walkers are welcome, and any distance that a participant chooses to complete is recorded. This very inclusive (and free!) run celebrates everyone who is working to improve strength and stamina.
This year, the UPHM most especially celebrates all those who are staying fit while in isolation during the pandemic. Finishers of the entire 13.1 mile distance will receive pilgrim medallions designed and handmade specifically to commemorate this year’s hardships. The medallion (cast by the talented and generous Sir Zhigmun' Czypsser of the East Kingdom) is a solitary pilgrim in a robe, leaning on a staff, with the race mascot rabbit at his feet. It is meant to evoke the solitary, but hopeful, nature of our race this year: a journey made in hope through much travail and, at the end, a return to our "home".
The basic rules of the virtual UPHM are as follows:
-- Participants may start any time after 12:01 a.m. EDT, Friday, July 31, 2020.
-- Participants must complete 13.1 miles (or whatever fraction of that distance they choose to complete) in one continuous block of time, and be finished before 11:59 p.m. EDT on August 2.
-- Walking is absolutely acceptable, but virtual participants are expected to complete the course as expeditiously as possible. Most participants complete the actual course within two to five hours, and those running virtually should aim for about the same.
-- Once finished, participants should report their completed distance on the Unofficial Pennsic Half Marathon Facebook page.
Anyone interested in joining the virtual run this year may find the full rules and discussion on the Unofficial Pennsic Half Marathon group page on Facebook. Once there, click on Announcements.
The directors of the race, Master Philip White, Dame Morwenna Trevethan, and Jarla Thora Heri, wish to dedicate this year’s race to their long-time friend and annual race volunteer Baroness Caroline Forbes of Oxfordshire (modernly known as Carol L. Smith), who died of cancer earlier this year. Her heraldic colors were purple and white. Those running are encouraged to wear purple and white in Baroness Caroline’s honor, and may all who bear those colors wear them with the same joy and fortitude she did.
The directors look forward to all of us being together in spirit during this event.