When I woke up at 530a, it was partially due to my realization that I had an hour+ to drive for the 4th Annual Heartbreaker Half Marathon up at Hillsboro’s Liberty High School. The other reason I was up at 530a was due to the pitter-patter of 4 year old feet, as well as the pitter-patter of huge raindrops smashing into the roof. I posted immediately to Run Oregon that it looked like we were going to be in for a soggy one.
While I was assured that Hillsboro was dry for the time being by a loyal reader, I didn’t have much faith. I figured that since we were in, you know, Oregon, that rain would find a way. My I-5 drive was sporadic in precipitation, but while that offered up some hope, I was disheartened that my temperature gauge wasn’t rising as quickly as I had hoped. I was prepared for a chilly and wet 13.1 miles – a true heartbreaker if you will.
But the rain never really came, the temperature didn’t dip, the wind was sporadic and minor, and the sun (yes, THAT sun), even peeked through for a while. Instead of a heartbreaking race, over 500+ half marathoners (and a whole bunch more 10k & 5k runners) were given a beautiful backdrop completely free from major weather and race catastrophies!
Personally, I really enjoyed this event. I have done a few AA Sports races before and they always seem to be ran well from what I have experienced. I literally arrived at the start line 5 minutes before start – a combination between getting kids ready in the morning, a long drive, navigating an ambulance at the high school (hope everyone is OK), and finding parking out of the main lot. A little quick stretching and phone navigating occured before heading out of the high school area. I may be an easy pleaser, but I really like running under a big blow-up race arch at the starts and finishes. Maybe it’s just the fact that I don’t typically do a ton of “huge” races, but it makes me feel like this is a big deal – which it should feel like more often.
I took to the streets and entered some rolling hills through the Hillsboro countryside. I have never really been over in this area before, and considering that we started a stone’s throw from Highway 26, quiet and green farmland was a surprisingly welcome sight. The course itself had a decent amount of elevation fluidity to it – without really going over the line. It was not exactly a “flat” race, but was not exactly challenging.
The only real major challenge was “Heartbreaker Hill”, a 1-mile climb of 193 feet only accessible for half marathoners. Beginning between miles 3-4, a decent hike took place. There were even timing mats for this section, as a challenge was made and the top 5 fastest male and female runners over this mile section would receive a seperate prize. I had an urge to take off sprinting- but obviously thought better of it. The timing section was a full mile, but the climb was not a straight climb this entire time. There were some stretches of relatively level running, so it was not as scary as I anticipated.
Following the climb, was a relatively long downhill stretch. I remember thinking that they should time this section too! At the bottom of the decline was an open valley with a giant raised railroad section high in the air. I found this area truly mesmerizing, made even more beautiful by the sun peeking through the clouds and bouncing off the water on the sides of the road. It was awesome.
After this section, we entered the start of two loops, a series of flat and, at times, minorly rolling sections. This is the first time that the wind really became present. It wasn’t the 25-35 mile gusts that were expected, but it was enough to definietly throw a little curveball in to the mix. I wasn’t sure how I was going to like doing a 4 mile repeating loop, but it turned out it wasn’t as big a deal in person as it was in my head. During the first loop, I found myself planning when and where I could push myself and where I needed to be cautious on the second loop. I really think this helped me achieve a faster time than I otherwise would have achieved. It was also great that they had staff, with a microphone and speakers, standing at the split off around mile 7.5 directing the different distances were supposed to go.
The final stretch took us back to Liberty High School and a 3/4 lap on the track for the finish. Again, track finishes, while minor in the big scheme of things, are just cool. I don’t care if it is a middle school, high school, or college, this is the closes I am ever getting to competing on a track so I’ll take it!
There were some minor “glitches” that were heard about – one being a lack of porta-potties along the course. I, for one, do not have issues with needing to “go” while running – though I am a guy and the world is my bathroom (gross). The other being some grumblings about a lack of water at the finish around the 1:45 finishing time. It could have been that staff was refilling water jugs at the time, but individuals around the table wanted a little hydration and were having trouble finding some.
But to me, with a great post-race spread inside the school, I had no issues with this either. Shoot, there was chex mix, oranges, energy drinks, strawberry shortcake, and (my favorite) an oatmeal station – complete with add-ons such as brown sugar, cranberries, raisins, and chocolate chips. Well done! Live music was playing, there were running booths running sales, and plenty of seating to go around. It was it’s own little expo – something typically reserved for the giant races.
Overall, my heart not only remained intact, but so did my lungs and legs. The day stayed dry and my running rain slicker I used was bored by the end of the race. The medals were huge, the course solid, and the day a huge success. Despite the distance from my home, I recommend this race with all my heart…
Check out the full results for all distances here.