I ran the 2009 Hospital Hill Run on June 6 in Kansas City, MO. I really didn't know how I would perform in this race given a very poor train up. But sometimes the running gods smile on you and you get what you don't deserve--a good race with minimal training.
My training for this race was very spotty. I ran the Lawrence half-marathon on April 19 and came out of that tough run with an injury to my achilles. I had to take two weeks off from running for that to heal. Then when I started back running to train for Hospital Hill my legs felt dead. A 6 mile run would leave my legs feeling like I'd run 16 miles in my bare feet on cement. I just had no bounce in my legs on my runs. Then I got sick in May and had to take another two weeks off. My longest run since the Lawrence half was 10 miles and my highest mileage week was around 30 miles. Plus I know I gained a few pounds (OK maybe more than a few :) with the lack of running. I was really getting discouraged with running and I was even considering switching to biking as my main form of exercise.
However, a week before the race I bought some new shoes (New Balance 1063) and ran a couple of times in those shoes. Almost instantly my legs felt better. I now think I was running in shoes that were too old and had broken down. That may have been why my legs felt so pounded. I hadn't thought I had put that many miles (maybe 300) on my old shoes but the new shoes made a big difference.
Hospital HILL is a tough course and you need to be well-trained to perform at your best in this race. I knew I wasn't conditioned well and had not put in enough miles to do great. But I figured that I'd just run, see how I feel, and try to finish under 2 hours.
The weather was cloudy, humid, and low 70s at the start. Not the best conditions for me as I suck at running in warm weather. I drank Gatorade and popped two salt pills about 15 minutes before the start. This year's race sold out with over 5,000 participants and it was extremely crowded at the start. I worked my way up to the 2 hour pace group before the gun went off and told myself just stay in front of them.
At 7:00 am the race started. It was chipped timed so I didn't care that it took a little while to get to the start chute. The chips were disposable which I'd not seen before. We ran north to the Sprint Center, then took a right, ran a block, took another right and headed south. We were running on very wide main city streets so everyone had room to run.
The wind was blowing from the south so I knew the next 6 miles into the wind would be a challenge, but I was heartened knowing also that for the last six miles the wind would be at our backs.
We ran up the first long hill in miles 2-3. Then we ran mostly down hill with a few short up hills for the next 3 miles. We ran past the Nelson-Atkins museum, took a right around the University of MO KC campus, took another right on Brookside blvd and headed north.
I was feeling pretty good. I checked my Garmin at each mile marker and was staying well under my goal pace (9:00 min per mile) except during a mile or two where there were longer hills. At the half-way point, I had about a three minute cushion for finishing under 2 hours. I took a Gu and two more salt pills.
During the second half of the race the strong wind from the south was pushing me and that was a big help. Miles 7-9 were slightly down hill and I was still feeling pretty good. I found myself enjoying the run and thinking again how fortunate I am to be healthy and able to run.
Around mile 10 we ran north past the Country Club Plaza shopping district and headed up Broadway. For me this was the toughest part of the race. Miles 10.5 - 12.3 are almost completely up hill. I kept running but my pace slowed. I knew I would finish under 2 hours if I just stayed around 9:15-9:30 during this part of the race so I just kept it steady and kept telling myself that I could do it.
My legs were tired but not too bad. My breathing was good and my energy level was OK. Though my pace slowed, I never felt too tired or had to walk. It's a long hill at a distance (11-12) that I hadn't run in almost 2 months but I was like the Little Engine Who Could, I just kept chugging.
At the end of mile 12 is the steepest hill (Trinity Hill) on the course, fortunately it's not very long. Knowing this was the last hill on this hilly course I powered up it. Going downhill after that tough effort never felt so good. I glided down the last 3/4th of a mile to the finish. My gun time was under 2 hours and my chip time was 1:56:31 for an 8:54 minute per mile pace.
Here are my mile splits (from my Garmin):
Here's the elevation for the course (from my Garmin):
Success - Me and the Race Organizers
I'm really satisfied with how I did. My training was poor for this race but I think the base condition that I established earlier this year and my two previous half-marathons this Spring allowed me to do relatively well. Now I'm healthy and ready to start a good summer training program to prepare for the early fall races. My feet and legs felt very good through out the race. I'm so glad I got the new shoes.
Hospital Hill is a great half-marathon. I've run it several times and I think it's by far the best half-marathon in the mid-west. Everything is well-organized and there are plenty of volunteers. I had to pick up my packet on race morning and it was smooth. The start was right on time. The chips were disposable so we avoided that awkward and sometimes painful requirement to stand still right after crossing the finish line while a luckless volunteer tries to cut off the chip.
The aid stations through out the course were well stocked and manned by friendly, hard-working volunteers. The course goes through some the most scenic areas of Kansas City. Yes, it's hilly but there are an equal share of uphill and down hill parts.
At the finish we received a very cool looking medal. Even more welcome at the finish was a wet towel that had been soaked in ice water. That was unbelievably refreshing. There was plenty of after race food and drinks. You could even get a hot pancake and sausage breakfast.
I strongly recommend Hospital Hill to anyone who likes to run half-marathons. The race organizers are now capping the number of participants so don't wait until the last minute to sign up.
I could have easily skipped this race even though I had paid the entry fee. I was just getting over being sick, hadn't trained properly, and didn't feel that I'd do well. My confidence was low. But I decided to just run and pace myself by feel. I set a modest goal of finishing under 2 hours and then just ran at my own pace. I kept it steady up the hills and really never got so tired that I wanted to just drop out or start walking. The second half (even with the tough miles 10-12) was just as enjoyable as the first.
I'm so glad that I didn't skip this race. I had fun, it was a great experience, and given everything (being injured, sick) I feel good about how I did. Now my confidence is high and I'm excited again about running.
You just never know with running, sometimes you can have a great run, even when you might not deserve it.