Signing up for the Heart Breaker Half Marathon I knew meant signing up for a race with a mile-long hill at mile 3. It was the other million and two hills that I somehow forgot about. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I started exercising almost eight years ago, with running becoming my focus a few months in. After some shorter races, I came to love half marathons for the time and energy investment: worth getting up before dawn, without being so exhausted that the day was lost to Netflix and my big blue couch. I had completed Heart Breaker in 2012, and yet when I went to sign up last fall for this year, I had some very useful amnesia about how much incline I was going to work through.
The race is structured around three loops. About halfway into the first loop, the half marathon runners head to the right, while 10K runners will head left. The half runners will go through a two-mile loop that includes Heart Break Hill: a one-mile timed hill. That one mile is a challenge, but definitely not insurmountable. Especially since there are a few short portions of flat road to help with recovery. After the small loop, half runners rejoin the larger loop. For a more slow and steady runner like me, that meant landing among the 10K walkers. It was fun to feel super fast running among these walkers (most of whom were really great and not lined up multiple across, so they were easy to weave among).
At the end of the big loop, the 10K runners headed to the right, and back to the Liberty High School stadium. It was with just one bad word that I went left with the other half marathon runners for one more time around the big loop (no Heart Break Hill the second time, woohoo!).
The weather was chilly but lovely out in the sun, and each of the water and Nuun stations were pretty well supported by teenage volunteers. Our route was mostly on streets; the Sunday morning timing and good police protection gave the runners lots of space to spread out. And a real breakfast afterwards was an unexpected treat (the perfect balance to the unexpected hill-a-palooza).
There are just two things that I would have liked to update about this race. The first would be more bathroom facilities available in the high school before the race (or signs to help you find them). Because of a 20-minute line to the ladies’ room, I was three minutes late for the start line. Again silver lining: I have some lovely solo photographs from the starting line. Oh oh oh: there were free race photos. And I actually like the pictures. That was and is amazing.
The other change I would have wanted is how quickly the decorations were taken down in the cafeteria. I finished my race in 2:15, which I was super proud about. But by the time I returned to the cafeteria for breakfast, the tables were already being stripped and balloons removed. The runners and walkers behind me didn’t get to see the fun party atmosphere that the winners had seen.
Overall, I would recommend this race to others as long as they are prepared for the hilly challenge. And have a foam roller at home for afterwards.