On February 15th, I joined just over 400 other runners for the half marathon distance at the 5th annual Heart Breaker Half. I won’t lie – it was hard. I’ve been battling an awful cold that turned into bronchitis and just won’t go away. After discussing my cough (and hacking) and management with an albuterol inhaler, I was given the “okay” to run by my doc. I don’t regret running 13.1 miles, but I do regret forgetting my inhaler at home on race day! Oops.
Despite my personal setbacks that added fun variables to the race event, this was a very enjoyable event. We queued up at the start line at Liberty High school in Hillsboro, and made our way to the street behind. There is a small gate to exit the school grounds and runners bottle necked a bit to exit out on to the street… but once we made it past that obstacle the rest was pretty straight forward. The course is very well-marked with volunteers cheerfully pointing out the way.
Since my training had been less than ideal with this cough, I knew I would “need” music to get me through the many walk breaks (coughing spells) I would have. Nat King Cole softly crooned into my ear, “I love you for sentimental reasons. I hope you do believe me. I’ve given you my heart.” And I got all gooey thinking about my love for running and being out on these beautiful country roads in the early morning and the beautiful rolling hills and the scenery. This is really where I want to be and that feeling carried me through each of those rolling hills and slowly climbing inclines and seem to go on and on.
Some of those hills sneak up on you and you wouldn’t know you just conquered a hill without looking back and seeing where you had just been. Someone going much faster (and likely on their second loop while I was on my first) shouted to me, “You’ve got this! Keep killing this hill!!” I was bebopping along and I was surprised because while I knew that it wasn’t flat I hadn’t thought of it as a “hill”. There are both some of those sneaker hills that are a steady climb and the big ones that left me gasping for breath.
Although the course had one loop that we ran twice, I did not really notice or feel “bored” by that. Click here for the course, if you haven’t seen the map. The area really is beautiful and I enjoyed seeing the 10K runners on some of the half course and though I was actually lapped by a friend, it was fun to see and cheer for others and get encouragement too.
Just before starting the second mile of the race and again just after the 8th mile you will have a small stretch on the course that is gravel road. For the most part, this is a packed dirt road with loose gravel on the sides and in the center where traffic wear and tear has not compacted it or has pushed the loose rocks. On my first pass through this section (about 0.8 of a mile) I had to stop and undo my shoe to fish the rock out and someone else came and sat next to me on a concrete ledge off to the side to do the same thing. On my second time through that area, I made sure to stay on a path made by cars using the road. Cars did pass by on the opposite side of the road and no dust was kicked up by the cars…which I was so very grateful for!!
Sometimes it seemed that runners would run on both the right and on the left side of the road while cars were trying to use the left side. This made for less than ideal conditions as the car would try to veer to the center of the road to avoid a few of the runners on the left and the majority on the right. I admit that there was one section that all the runners ahead of me were on the right but the police officer told me to stay to the left. It felt very strange to be by myself on the left on that section of road while everyone was on the right. Perhaps more signs would be a benefit to direct runners which side of the road to use? Especially if sides to use change. Despite this, there were many signs that warned drivers “Runners On Road” and some roads blocked completely from traffic of any kind.
This was an event I would love to do again, and especially without this nagging cough and cold on race day or interfering with training. Maybe next time will be a course PR. After runners crossed the finish line, they could enjoy the awards ceremony, live music, vendors like RoadNoise selling gear at a discount or just kick back and enjoy orange wedges and other snacks or strawberry shortcake. I completely missed the awards ceremony with all of my walk breaks, but one category is who ran the fasted on a timed one mile stretch that involved “Heart Breaker Hill”. I don’t see individual times posted for that timed section on the results but my husband says he thinks that one of the fastest runners did it in 5 minutes. Whatever the time, I applaud everyone who made it in the top of their age groups, the fastest on that hill and to everyone who came across the finish as a front of the pack racer, back of the pack runner or everything in between, before or after. Runner, Race Walker or hacker and cougher…we were all finishers and that’s what’s important.