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 race announcer at the TCS New York City Marathon + other major events, TV host for the New York City Triathlon + contributor to Shape, Redbook, Runner's World + other publications. She used to report for Newsweek but spent her free time squeezing in workouts. Now it's her job. She's run 8 marathons, 30 halves, 10 triathlons + open water swims. When she's not running, talking about running or writing about running, she's snuggling her baby, spoiling her dog + compulsively traveling.


06 2014

20 Comments Add Yours ↓

The upper is the most recent comment

  1. 1

    GOOD LUCK!!! I’m feeling you on this. I feel like weather conditions have to be PERFECT for me to PR … I start slowing down once temperatures get above 60, sadly. I’m hoping that I can push myself to train hard through this summer so I can make a few sub-2 attempts this fall! You’re so close, you can do it!
    Katherine recently posted..Who Comes Up With All These Holidays?My Profile

  2. 3

    Good luck, but most of all – have fun! If the heat is too high, chalk this one up to a training run that will lead to a sub 2 hour run in cooler weather.
    Not to wish the summer away, but I do look forward to fall runs. That will be when I am aiming for my PB. I am envious of people who run well in heat.

    • Karla Bruning

      Thanks, Kristi! I took your advice. I ran 5 hard miles, then pulled the plug and ran/walked to enjoy the rest. It was way too hot!
      Karla Bruning recently posted..Heartbreak Hill Half Is Here! Will I or Won’t I PR?My Profile

      • 5

        Sounds like you made the right choice. Heat and PB’s just don’t seem to mix for some of us. I’m glad you had fun. My biggest regret about the marathon I just did was that I didn’t enjoy it and couldn’t get my head into a space where I could. I’m looking forward to the half in Vancouver as a race to just have a good time :)

        • Karla Bruning

          It’s funny with races–I either want to be guts out going for a goal or totally laid back and enjoying it. I hate that space in between. Hope you enjoy Vancouver! Looks like a great course.

  3. 7

    Good luck tomorrow Karla! I am cheering for you from afar and I KNOW you can do this! Good luck hon! xo

  4. 9

    Good luck, have fun, and know that we’re all rooting for you no matter what.

  5. 11

    I am sure you are running right now, but I am sending speedy thoughts and wishing you the best of luck! I am sure you will do great! Such an awesome race, and will be so much fun….and pain of course! Cant wait to hear your recap :)
    Tina Muir recently posted..Recovery Week UpdateMy Profile

  6. 13

    PR or not, it seems like the HHHalf weekend was a great experience! My goal for my next half is sub 2hour so I understand the yearning!
    Runner Girl Eats recently posted..10 Day ChallengeMy Profile

    • Karla Bruning

      It was a really fun weekend. Good luck getting your sub 2!

  7. 15

    I hope you had a great race!!

  8. 17

    Well, I can DEFINITELY sympathize with your early race report. Good for you for being mentally prepared to avoid the demoralization. I wasn’t :/ Time to focus on biking for a while instead!
    Sadye recently posted..Holy smokes, RAGBRAI is closeMy Profile

  9. 19

    I came back to this post because I was curious to see if you achieved your goal, but see that you didn’t – and that’s okay! So much pressure to put on yourself if it was that hot. You gotta get in that 52 degree sweet spot! My Half PR is 01:56 and I think that was only because it was literally 52 degrees and I had just finished marathon training, so half training felt like a breeze. Really not sure if I could replicate those conditions/my fitness level at that point if I tried!

    I really look up to you, you seem like a smart runner and a killer journalist, so I’m sure you’ll break that elusive 2 hour mark sooner than you think. <3
    Hayley in Training recently posted..13 Things on Friday the 13thMy Profile

    • Karla Bruning

      Thank you so much, Hayley! I knew it was a tall order under the conditions. I’ll definitely target a cool, flat-ish fall race. I KNOW I can do this. I just have to pick the right race and get the right temps! Run on!
      Karla Bruning recently posted..On The Run at 2014 NYRR Brooklyn Half Video RecapMy Profile


  1. Race Report: Runner's World 5K at Heartbreak Hill Half | Run, Karla, Run! 17 06 14
  2. Race Report: Runner's World Heartbreak Hill Half | Run, Karla, Run! 19 06 14