Hospital Hill Half Marathon Race Recap

There was one word to describe the Hospital Hill Run: Hilly. Oh boy was it hilly. I can confidently say that this race was the hardest one that I’ve done.

No, I did not PR. In fact, this was my slowest half marathon that I’ve run… and that is totally okay. In fact, I am sure that if someone PR’s on this course, they have a much faster PR in them on a flatter one. Even though I didn’t run this race as fast as I wanted, I still did my best and ran a pretty good race.

The Hospital Hill Run was in Kansas City, MO, which is about two hours away from Manhattan, KS. Frank and I left town after work on Friday to pick up my packet and check out the expo. There was a 5k on the Hospital Hill course that night, so we watched the winners cross the finish line. The winning woman finished around 21 minutes and looked unbelievably spent. That was when I knew I’d be in trouble on those hills.

Frank and I at the start line. I was pretty nervous.

Frank and I at the start line. I was pretty nervous.

I woke up in the morning at 5:30 am, ate some food, had some coffee, and quickly made it to the start line. I love how runners are the only group of people that have their biggest parties at 6 am. The music was blasting and there were people EVERYWHERE. Hospital Hill is a pretty big race with about 5000 people who run the course (there is a 10k and a half marathon).

I lined up right next to the 1:55 pacers and talked a little to some of the runners around me. The race began and we were off. The first three miles feature Hospital Hill, the biggest and longest hill of the race. I just ran comfortably with the pacer and felt surprisingly good. I was surprised at how well my body felt at this pace climbing these big rolling hills. At the top of the hill, we took off on a quick and rather fun downhill.

Normally, when I run with a pacer, I just trust them and try not to even look at my watch. So that’s what I did… I felt good, but a little too good. So around mile 5, I sneaked a look at my watch. We were about 30 seconds off pace, and I started to get worried. I had heard that the last hill at mile 10 would be a crawl and that I would need extra time for that mile. But, I decided to trust the pacer and figured we’d make up those seconds later.

The miles went on, and the pacer looked a little tired. I looked at my watch and we were now almost a minute off. Then, another pacer came up from behind us and took over our group. He stepped up the pace, told us we’d have to shave off 10 seconds every mile, and that was when I knew my 1:55 hopes were not going to happen. He took off with the group and I just couldn’t keep up.

This was when things took a bit of a rough turn for me. Suddenly, I was running alone. I no longer had the pace group to talk to and there were not very many spectators to keep me grounded. I was watching the people around me and they were TIRED. People kept stopping to walk on the uphills. To add insult to injury, a pretty scary storm swept through around mile 9. It rained pretty hard for the rest of the race and there was lightening all around me. In fact, I was pretty surprised that they didn’t pull me off the course.

Mile 10 was the start of Broadway Hill. This was by far the roughest part of the race. I was already on tired legs and this hill seemed to go on forever. I stopped to walk through one of the water stations and texted my mom to tell her how hard this race was. I don’t like to walk, but Broadway Hill was killing me. Then the 2-hour pacer caught up and I knew I was in trouble. I think the thought of having a “2” in front of my time gave me the final push I needed to kick me into gear. I gave it my all and tried to put some distance between me and the pace group.

Um... are these the worst splits ever? Possibly.

Um… are these the worst splits ever? Possibly.

At the top of the hill, someone was holding a sign that said “it’s all downhill from here”, and I breathed a sigh of relief. I was so tired that I practically threw myself down the last hill towards the finish line. I had about a mile left, but I found the determination to eek out a mile at 8:28.

After I crossed the finish line a wave of nausea came over me but someone handed me a cold wet sponge. I’m pretty sure this was the best idea anyone has ever had. I put the sponge on the back of my neck and instantly felt better.

Obligatory finish photo!

Obligatory finish photo!

My final time was 1:58:25… pretty far off my insane goal of under 1:50 and still off from my second goal of 1:55. Honestly, that is totally ok. Hospital Hill is a hard course with close to 800 feet in elevation gain. I know that I have it in me to run a faster time, but not on Hospital Hill. This is a race where you have to adjust your expectations and be happy with just having a strong and happy finish. Maybe I’ll run it again next year and go for a course record… but I’ll never come to this race with a PR in mind.

View of the finish line

View of the finish line

Well, this race is done and now the real work begins. Today officially starts my training for the Chicago Marathon. I’ll post about that soon, but I am glad to have gotten through Hospital Hill.

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16 thoughts on “Hospital Hill Half Marathon Race Recap

  1. Congrats, Kerry! I know this didn’t go the way you wanted and that you had some rough patches in your training but 1:58 is still a bomb-diggity time for such a HARD course! Gosh I got tired just reading this recap!

    I haven’t ever run with a pace group, but I’ve heard a good tip is to try to meet the pacers and chat with them about what their strategy is before the race. There are lots of different ways to get from point A to point B, and if their strategy isn’t something I’m comfortable with I’d like to be prepared for that or make other plans.

    You will be so glad you had this experience. Your next race will seem so easy after this and you will rock it! It sounds cliche but the races that don’t kill us really do make us so much stronger. And you are pretty badass for running through a storm!

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    • Yeah, I realized around mile 7 that there was no way that my goals were reasonable. It turned out that the pacer got sick, which happens, and any strategy would not have put me in a better place than I was. Better weather maybe could have, but given the conditions I’m pretty happy with how the race went. It’s a fun course and I’d like to do it again, especially now that I know what to expect.

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  2. Oh man! I’m so angry at that pacer for you! What a mental game to have to try to bounce back from. You did an awesome job sticking through it! I know the hills were a concern for you since most of your training was in Indiana. Way to power through!

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    • Eh…it’s ok. I wouldn’t have hit my goal anyways. I think had the pacer taken a faster pace, I would have just been even more tired come Broadway Hill.

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  3. Wow, this sounds like it was a really tough race. Way to hang in there and get it done! I’m still super impressed with your time, and I’m glad you’re not beating yourself up for missing the PR. It just gives you something to strive for next time!

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    • Oh yeah. i totally underestimated this course when I made it my goal to PR. I kinda wish I hadn’t run such a slow second half, but whatever. At least I’ll know what to expect next time.

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  4. I think these races make us better than those nice smooth PR runs. They make us work hard on the areas that are a weakness. In this case hills lol.

    Great race, you finished, ans there will be more races. Keep your head up.

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  5. I think you did great in your half!! LOL – love that – runners have the biggest parties at 6am – so TRUE! Ugh, that pacer! I’m so sorry that happened to you. I wonder if she just wasn’t feeling well or if the pace was too much for her. I know you weren’t thrilled with your time, but I think you did great – especially considering the conditions! Cold sponges are the BEST- they do those in triathlons and I live for them. If you like flats, you are going to LOVE Chicago – it’s a pancake. Great course.

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    • Yeah, I think the pacer did get sick. He was not looking too fantastic but had told me that he had paced this group and this race before. I didn’t blame him for me missing my goal at all. Honestly, I wouldn’t have hit that time even if the pacer had been more on top of things.

      I’m pretty excited for Chicago’s pancake course. 😉

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