Heartbreak Hill Half Part II

Do you need to catch up on Part I? Read it here.

On race morning, my mom and I got up at 5:50. Neither of us slept well the night before, as somehow our room ended up being even colder than it was the night before! My mom had covered herself with a towel and her jean jacket as makeshift blankets, but I don’t think they were all that insulating.

Luckily, we had taken preparations to ensure we got some coffee in the morning. 🙂 We had discovered a nearby Dunkin Donuts the day before, so we each got an iced coffee with no ice (so that way the ice wouldn’t melt and water it down), and stashed them in the fridge. Paired with our bagels with almond butter and raspberry jam, it was a perfect pre-race breakfast.


After gathering our fuel belt, GU’s, and bibs, we headed out to make the short walk to the starting area. We stretched a little, and then separated to go to our respective pace groups. My mom wanted to go with a pacer set to run a 2:00 time, and I decided to try my hand going with the 1:50 pace group. I think we were both a little too confident coming off our PRs from the Iron Horse Half!

When the horn sounded, we headed out and I did my best to keep sight of the 1:50 sign my pacer was carrying. This came out to being 8:25 minutes/mile. Too fast. In hindsight, I wonder why I thought it was a good idea to try to run a pace I had never run in a half marathon before over a hilly course and on a particularly hot day. Well now, I can tell you from personal experience  – it’s not a good idea.


The first mile was mostly downhill, but I still felt like I was pushing it, and I knew pretty early on I wasn’t going to be able to maintain that speed (I did the first mile in 8:26, yikes!). My usual strategy is to start a little slower in the beginning of a half marathon to let my legs loosen up and to conserve energy, and then to try to gradually get faster over the course of the race. That’s what I did in the Iron Horse Half and it worked like a charm. I should have stuck to what I knew for this race, but I somehow thought that getting another PR would be simple – I just had to stick with the pacer!

By mile 5, I was exhausted. I had drastically underestimated the course. Everything I had read talked about how Heartbreak Hill was the last of a series of 3 hills, and was not even particularly steep. This had led me to believe that the course had only 3 hills total. I guess I didn’t think about how the course was an out-and-back loop, so any section that was downhill one way, ended up being uphill the other way! By this point I had completely lost sight of the 1:50 pacer, so I let go of the idea of PRing, and tried to enjoy my surroundings. I got high-fives from a gorilla (or at least, a man dressed in a highly convincing gorilla costume!), and little kids. I also pulled out my phone and snapped some pics while I ran!



It was very, very hot though, and eventually, I started taking frequent walking breaks. A lot of runners were doing the same. There were a whole bunch of runners who would pass me while I was walking, and then I would start running again, and I would pass them walking. This back-and-forth passing kept up for pretty much the whole second half of the race.

Just after mile 9, I came running around a corner to find paramedics and an ambulance helping to transport a runner. I hope he ended up being all right! It’s so easy to push yourself a little too hard and in the really warm temps, it can end up being disastrous. I tried to remind myself of that every time I felt guilty for walking.

FINALLY, just around the 2 hour mark, I passed the 13 mile marker, and knew I was almost there! The crowd support through the BC campus was fantastic, and I pulled out my earbuds to take in all the cheering, music, and energy as I ran my tired legs to the finish. Official time – 2:06:00. Well off from the 1:50 time I had been thinking about, but honestly I was happy with it. Over that course and in that heat, it was actually a pretty darn good time.

My official results

My mom's official results

My mom finished just a few minutes behind me in 2:09, and we flopped down in the shade with our Gatorade, water, and post-race food to trade stories. She had given up on staying with her pace group too, and we laughed at ourselves together for thinking that had been a good idea.

post race

Well, live and learn right? There will be plenty of half marathons to try to PR on(I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we still have quite a few states to check off!). What’s most important is to run your own race. Know what strategy works for you, and stick to your guns. We thought it would be cool to try out the pace groups (the Shamrock half was the only other race we’ve done that’s offered them), but we should have trusted our own experience. Still, Heartbreak Hill was a fantastic race and weekend! Runner’s World did a great job organizing it, we learned a lot, and had a whole lot of fun. What more can you really ask from a race?

shirtA really nice shirt. There’s basically no point to doing a race if they don’t give you a shirt. 🙂 Luckily, the shirts were great too.

Hope you had a fun weekend!


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