Chasing the Sub 2 Hour Half Marathon at Heartbreak Hill

Chasing the sub 2 hour half marathon

1:58 is my goal time! (Photo: morgueFile)

In two weeks from today I’ll be at the start of the Runner’s World Heartbreak Hill Half in Newton, Mass. The race will be my third half marathon in 2014, but my first attempt at a sub 2 hour half marathon this year. My current half marathon personal best stands at 2:00:30 from the 2012 Staten Island Half. Breaking “2” is the one running goal that has eluded me time and time again. It has become my Everest.

Chasing the sub 2 hour half marathon

I’ve got “2” on the brain. (Photo: morgueFile)

Last Long Run

On Saturday, I finished my last long run before the big race. I ran 12.15 miles total, with 10 of them in Central Park’s rolling hills at a 9:40 pace overall. My goal half marathon pace is 9:00, which would bring me in at 1:58. A sub 2 hour half marathon pace is 9:10. I’m absolutely within striking distance.

My splits were:


I don’t like that I had two 10:13 miles as I climbed one of Central Park’s steepest hills twice during miles one and five. But I like that I was at least consistent over said hill. And I love that my last mile was my fastest.

Race Goals

My goals for the race are:

A) Run a sub 2 hour half marathon
B) Run a personal record, which means besting 2:00:30
C) Run as hard as I can, whatever time that means

Chasing the sub 2 hour half marathon

My “A” goal is a sub 2 hour finish! (Photo: morgueFile)

I know I have the speed in me to finally break 2 hours. I’m much faster than when I set my current half-marathon PR. My long runs have been consistently 30 to 40 seconds faster per mile than they were in fall 2012. And I’ve since lowered my 5K and 10 PRs by two minutes and three minutes, respectively.

But I’m just not sure I have the endurance I’d like to have at this point in the season. Going into the Staten Island Half, my longest run was a 16-miler since I was in the middle of marathon training. Going into this race, my longest run was yesterday’s 12.15-miler, with just 10 of them at speed. The other 2.15 miles were an easy warm-up and cool down. Do I have 13.1 fast miles in me? That remains to be seen.

Come race day, I think I’ll head out with the 2:00 pace group and just try to hang on.

Having good weather and getting to the starting line healthy are going to be the two most important factors for me at this point. If the weather calls for 80 degrees and 90 percent humidity, I may rethink the attempt. And if I get sick, like I did for my fall marathon, I may back off as well. But if I’m healthy and we’ve got a nice cool June morning, all systems will be GO.

Ready for Sub 2 Hour Half Marathon?

Overall, I feel good going into the Heartbreak Hill Half. This last long run was a morale booster. It’s exactly how I needed to finish out the training cycle before going into my taper.

Chasing the sub 2 hour half marathon

Rolling the dice with the weather in June. (Photo: morgueFile)

But I’d feel better about my chances of going sub-2 if the race didn’t have the words “Heartbreak” and “Hill” in the name. For some strange reason, I seem to gravitate toward half-marathons with healthy climbs—Yonkers Half Marathon, Kauai Half Marathon, Jerusalem Half Marathon, the list goes on. The difference, though, is that I used all those races as training runs. I didn’t actually try to run a personal best at them. Hmmm…

Maybe one of these days I’ll choose a race that has a gentle downhill slope from start to finish. If you’re the race director of one of those events, let’s chat. Readers, if you’ve run one of those mythical courses, I’d love to hear about it and break my hilly half habit.

For now, I’m going to concentrate on the next race on my schedule, the SHAPE Diva Dash 5K obstacle run in Minnesota’s Twin Cities on May 31. I think it will feel good to go out and race a 5K with some challenges thrown in. It will remind my legs what it feels like to run hard. Then a week later, and after some rest days, I’ll be toeing the line in Massachusetts on June 8.

Chasing the sub 2 hour half marathon. (Photo:

Peace? No, 2! (Photo:

If you want to join me at the Heartbreak Hill Half & Festival, be sure to use codes blogrunkarlarunHalf, blogrunkarlarun5&10, blogrunkarlarunHat at to receive 10 percent off registration for the half-marathon, 5K and 10K, or Hat Trick of all three races.

I’m part of the official Heartbreak Hill Half & Festival blogging crew (they’re covering my race entries, accommodations and some meals). I’ll also be speaking at one of the expo seminars, How to Build a Running Brand.

How to run a sub 2 hour half marathon? I’m hoping this is the race where I finally figure it out.


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.

About The Author

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.

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05 2014

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  1. 1

    Best of luck!! Heartbreak Hill looks like a tough course, so if you can break 2 hrs, that’ll be awesome! 😀
    Jojo @ RunFastEatLots recently posted..At the Speed of a BikeMy Profile

  2. 3

    You are definitely within striking distance! Maybe racing this early in the season will be helpful. You’ll be on fresh legs and there will be no mental burnout. I’ll be rooting you on from Florida! 🙂 GO KARLA!
    Kristina recently posted..Hopping On My Soap BoxMy Profile

  3. 5

    Good luck! I loved the course of the Eugene half but there were hills. I don’t think you can get away from those :-p
    Lesley recently posted..Random Sunday Musings 5/25My Profile

  4. 7

    Super excited for you Karla!! Good luck snagging that sub-2:00 hour half! :0)
    Lauren @ Lauren’s Glass Slipper recently posted..Reebok Spartan Race (and Discount!)My Profile

  5. 9

    You definitely have it in you! I hope you have a great day at HHH. If you’re looking for a terrific fall half, I recommend Wineglass. It has a net decline and seriously awesome swag. Plus I love love love Corning.
    Elle recently posted..Return to Brooklyn: Brooklyn Half Race ReportMy Profile

  6. 11

    I’m also chasing the sub-2 hour half marathon! I am also SO CLOSE – with a 2:00:04 PR at the Frederick Half Marathon a couple weeks ago. I have the ZOOMA Annapolis half this weekend and I haven’t trained well between Frederick and ZOOMA, and it’s hilly, so I’m not going to try for the sub 2 but I really *need* to get there this year. I’ll be rooting you on!
    Cynthia @ You Signed Up For WHAT?! recently posted..XTerra Wetsuits sponsorship & discount code!My Profile

  7. 13

    I reckon you’re ready to break 2. That training run in the park lines up well, not much over race pace and you’ll be rested and ready to go on the day. I’d be wary of setting out with the 2 hour pacers. My experience is that pacers get the pacing wrong early in the race, usually going too fast (but sometimes too slow!). If you feel they’re too fast, hang back for the first few miles and join them once they settle down. Good luck!
    Ewen recently posted..The Hunter Becomes the HuntedMy Profile

    • 14

      Thanks, Ewen! And that’s great advice with the pacers. I’ve had great experiences running with pace groups…and terrible ones too. I’ll definitely run my own race if I need to. I’d just love to not have to think about it too much!
      Karla Bruning recently posted..Star Wars Half Marathon Comes To Disneyland In 2015My Profile

  8. 15

    Good luck! I’m down to 2:05 from my first half that i finished in 2:36….the 2:05 came at a half marathon in Philly this past March called The Love Run. It was a fast course! (It also poured buckets the entire race so I wanted out of the rain pretty badly.)….Anyway just wanted to suggest a fast flat course. And actually another is the Long Branch NJ Half end of April.
    sally @ sweat out the small stuff recently posted..Busy holiday weekends are the bestMy Profile

  9. 17

    Here’s to a sub 2 hour time! And even if you get close without actually hitting it you know you have a whole race season to nail it. You are already so close I think it is going to happen for you soon 🙂
    Have you run in Vancouver? I am doing the half on June 22 and the elevation map looks like it could be a good one for a fast race. Here is the link for the map:
    Kristi@Blog for an Average Runner recently posted..A Last Look at Ottawa Race Weekend 2014My Profile

  10. 21

    Fingers crossed everything lines up weather-wise and health-wise! I’ll be cheering you on! It is hard to get away from hills though! A gentle downhill race from start to finish sounds wonderful! 🙂
    Emily recently posted..Wish I Was Wednesday #58My Profile

  11. 23

    I’m right there with you, though I didn’t time my last long run so I’m not sure how close/far I am. Good luck! The Des Moines half was beautifully flat (though the two tiny hills in it *did* come near the end), and the one I’m doing this weekend (Dam to Dam) is supposed to be nice and flat as well.
    Sadye recently posted..Exiling “should” from my running vocabularyMy Profile

  12. 25

    Go Karla! You’ve totally got this, you just need for your stars to align…you’ve unfortunately had one star or another out of whack your last few attempts, but once you get everything in the right place you’re going to kill it!

    I think a pace group will be helpful, I’d really like to try to run my next marathon for a time goal with one. I didn’t have a formal pace group when I ran my first sub-2 half, but I did have a friend helping to pace me, it’s a lot easier to try to keep up with someone rather than worry about the pace on your own.
    Danielle recently posted..Weekly Training RecapMy Profile

  13. 27

    Let’s be realistic, that hill is pretty painful so feel free to cut yourself some slack on that one. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you!
    Nicole @ Pink Elephant on Parade recently posted..The Tape Trap: Updated thoughts on KT TapeMy Profile

    • 28

      Thanks, Nicole! You know, I’ve heard so many conflicting things about that darn hill and the Newton hills in general that I don’t know what to think. So I’m doing my usual M.O. and preparing for the worst. Hopefully I’ll be delighted by how gentle the climbs were. If not, at least I’m mentally prepared. Thank goodness for hill training in Central Park!

  14. 29

    Karla, you’ve absolutely got this!! I love that you have a range of goals, which is so smart.

    But I have to say this: As you’ve said, you have a history with hills, and even though you’ve used them more as training runs, the point is that you have those hills in your body, so have all the confidence you should in that knowledge!
    Diann_D recently posted..The Art of SmallMy Profile


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