Heartbreak Hill Half Is Here! Will I or Won’t I PR?

Heartbreak Hill Half: Will I or Won't I?

My bib. (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

Greetings from Boston College! I’m in my dorm room (yes, dorm room!) at the Runner’s World Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon & Festival as part of the official blogging crew (Runner’s World is covering my race entries, dorm room and some meals).

The weekend has been packed with activities. I’ve been to Q&A’s with Paralympian Sarah Reinertsen and Olympian Shalane Flanagan. I watched the Saucony and Runner’s World film Finding Strong, and hit the expo to pick up my race bibs, among other things.

Heartbreak Hill Half: Will I or Won't I?

Sarah Reinertsen talks about life as a parathlete. (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

Tomorrow I’ll toe the line in the Runner’s World 5K as a shakeout run for the Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon on Sunday.

And I’ll be a panelist in “How to Get Your Name in Lights: Building a Social Media Running Brand.” If you’re in the Boston area, come check it out at 3:45 on Saturday. Here’s the entire seminar schedule.

I’ll also be popping by the Eukanuba 2-Mile Dog Run because I’m obsessed with dogs. I really wish my pup, Cinderella, could be here to run it with me.

Heartbreak Hill Half PR Attempt

But the big day comes on Sunday. I’ve made no secret about the fact that I finally—finally!!—want to run a sub-2 hour half marathon.

There’s no good reason that I haven’t yet. My 5K and 10K race times indicate that it’s well within my power. My recent workouts agree, as I wrote about in Chasing the Sub 2 Hour Half Marathon at Heartbreak Hill.

For some reason, though, that 2-hour barrier has plagued me. With a 2:00:30 personal best, I’ve got just 31 seconds to shave.

I recognize that doing it at this race might be a tall order. With race day highs called for 85 degrees, it might be a bit too warm for me. And then there are the hills—those famous Newton Hills. The Heartbreak Hill Half course crests the titular climb 12.5-miles in, when my legs will already be good and tired, or bad and tired as the case may be.

Heartbreak Hill Half: Will I or Won't I?

Shalane Flanagan knows the heartbreak of Heartbreak Hill. (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

But I’ve trained for this on Central Park’s rolling hills, two of them in particular. When a hill has a name, you know you’ll looking at a decent climb. Central Park has two sizable climbs that runners have dubbed Cat Hill and Harlem Hill. The former is on the park’s east side below a statue of a crouching cougar waiting to pounce. The latter sits at the top of the park adjacent to the Harlem neighborhood.

With these two hills in mind, and knowing that my legs are used to them, I did some research. Heartbreak Hill has a grade of 3.3 percent. It climbs 91 feet over half a mile. My Central Park hills? I was overjoyed to discover that they are just a hair nastier in the grade department. Cat Hill has a grade of 3.7 percent, climbing 49 feet over a quarter mile. And Harlem Hill has a grade of 4.4 percent, rising 84 feet over a third of a mile. They’re both shorter, but they’re both steeper.

Insert sigh of relief here. I’m glad to know that the worst of what I will face on race day isn’t much worse than my home turf hills. Knowing that will give me the mental fortitude to run strong.

I reserve the right to pull the plug on the attempt if the weather proves especially hot or humid. I know myself, and know that I don’t race well in the heat; I melt like a piece of chocolate. In that scenario I’d rather not run a demoralizing half.

But I’m holding out hope that I’ll have a moderate, cloudy morning under 70 degrees and my PR attempt will be game on.

Wish me luck. I’m going to need it!

Karla Bruning


Karla Bruning is a regular contributor to SHAPE.com, the host of NYRR's On The Run web + TV show, and a race announcer at events like the TCS New York City Marathon. She used to report for Newsweek but spent her free time squeezing in workouts. Now she freelances as a running reporter. She's run 7 marathons, 20 halves, 6 triathlons, sings in an '80s cover band, spoils her dog + travels compulsively.

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06 2014

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