Run to the hills…

Yesterday was Runners World magazine’s inaugural Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon, which started and ended at the infamous Heartbreak Hill of the Boston marathon.

It meant running the dreaded Newton hills in both directions and well as several others. This was one of the hilliest courses I’ve ever run. (I’ve attached the elevation chart)

This is one of those “it seemed like a good idea when I registered months ago” races. Lol

I don’t like heat. Well, I don’t like running in heat. I’m okay with it if I’m sitting in a beach chair with a tropical drink. But to run 13.1 miles in it? Ugh! It was a gamble signing up for a June race. But this weather has been squirrelly lately, so it could have been nice.

But I’m not that lucky. πŸ™‚ It was about 70 when I started yesterday morning and 82 when I finished. Oh well.

But it was a beautiful day. And on the way to the race we saw a deer meandering along the road. I took it as a good omen.

Another good omen? We got a great on-street parking spot right across from the start area. (Less walking and no garage fees. Yay)

Got right into the start chute a few minutes early and chatted with some other runners. One of my favorite parts of racing is the chance to chat with runners and share stories and suggest races and compliment each other’s shoes.

Going into the race I had set a time goal for myself of 2:15. It’s a far cry from my preinjury days, but would also be a post-injury PR. (Actually anything under 2:55 would be. Lol) I’m considering running Disney again in 2016 and need a decent half finish time for corral placement for there. So this seemed like a reasonable time.

In the corral I placed myself between the 2:00 pace group and the 2:15 pace group. Knowing people would take off and I’d have space to run, plus if I didn’t ever see the 2:15 sign I’d be good. Lol

We took off right on time and I was easily keeping with my group. At mile 1 my watch informed me I had run a 9:34 mile. Oops!!! Way too fast. Like almost a minute per mile faster than my race goal.

But it felt okay and knowing I’d lose time at the end on the hills, I only reigned it in a little. Cuz miles 2-5 were the Newton hills in reverse. And I gotta say those hills are MUCH easier in that direction. Lol

Yet even so, at the mile 2 med tent I saw a woman, probably in her 20’s and visibly fit, drop her. I heard her say “I know it’s only mile 2 but i feel really awful” poor thing.

The water stops on this course were every 1.5 miles. Which was perfect. Cuz around 2.5, after sweating from places I didn’t know I had, the calf was starting to cramp like Lebron James (yes, that exactly popped into my head. Lol). Mile 3 Gatorade was much appreciated.

Around mile 4.5 was Heartbreak Bill the gorilla. He’s the mascot for one of the local running companies and during Boston Marathon training season can be found in that same spot, near the Johnny Kelley statue, ready to high-five runners. I always laugh when I see him. Cuz where else do you get to high five a gorilla.

But the downhills and the nice breeze kept me steady and even with that killer uphill towards mile 6, I hit the 10k in under 1:02.

But as the temps climbed my reserves started to wane. I started bribing myself. If I could get to mile 10 without walking anything other than a water stop I was good and could hit my goal.

At mile 8 a woman in a sparkle skirt, green to my blue one pulled alongside me and informed me I’d been her pacer for the last three miles. It was her first half-marathon and she has a habit of going out too fast on runs and since I was a sparkle sister I was good to follow. Hahaha that made me smile. I ran with her for about a half mile, wished her luck and slowed a bit. Talking was sapping energy I couldn’t afford to lose.

At mile 9 was the turn onto comm ave and the hills.

At mile 9.5 was my first walk break. Super short tho. Like 20 seconds. Just enough to bring my pulse from “holy crap” to just high.

At mile 9.75 we saw a runner who had succumbed to the heat. He was on the ground surrounded by paramedics. Every runners worst nightmare. Poor guy. I hope he’s ok.

And at that point, my time goal didn’t matter as much. Just finishing became more important.

Around mile 11 I started a game of run the shade, walk the sun. And run the downhill, walk a little of the up.

And I high-fived Bill again. πŸ™‚

I was also keeping an eye on my watch. And knew I was close to still making my goal. But I was also straddling that fine line between pushing it and being stupid. And trying to not cross that line.

Just after the mile 12 marker I really really wanted to just walk. Lots of other people were. And on a day like that there is no shame in it. But when a woman you’d been taking turns passing goes by you and says “come on. Don’t walk. We’re almost there” you dig deep and find the will to run.

And when you see the 13 mile marker and the downhill beyond it, you turn off your mind and turn on the boosters and go. Down heartbreak, into the finish chute and kick like never before. Straight up the middle. And when you hear the announcer call out “and here’s Kelly Heck, one of our fastest finishers from Norton” you smile across the line. πŸ™‚

I walked over to the first guy holding medals, pointed at him and smiled. He draped it around my neck and said “here you go, you earned it” I smiled again and said “I sure did”.

So yeah…my official finish time was 2:15:39. Missed it by thatmuch.

But it doesn’t matter. I survived survived heartbreak hill. And I’ve got the medal to prove it. πŸ™‚

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