The Hospital Hill Half Marathon is the second longest running half marathon in the country. On it's 37th year, Megan and I decided to tackle this notorious monster. In the months and weeks leading up to the 13.1 miles, I found myself asking veterans and new runners alike what to expect, and how to prepare. At the GOTR 5k, I was told that if we could finish the Topeka to Auburn half we could definitely finish Hospital Hill. TtoA was Megan's first half, and my worst. So you tell me-reassuring or repulsive advice?
Regardless, Saturday we both showed up and ready to "conquer the hill." Well "ready" is a relative term. This was my fundraising race for KCREGAP, and I was running around helping with the booth and getting everything situated. I didn't stagger to the starting line until 6:58, and was finding my pace team while they were counting the seconds to guntime. Megan and I didn't ride together, and she left her phone in the car so I was also frantically searching for my solemate.
Guntime. I'm off and somewhat panic stricken. I can not do this race alone. Thinking I couldn't do alone, but knowing I just couldn't not do it I set out. I nervously searching among the heads of runners, looking behind me and as I decided to look forward instead of behind me Megan taps my shoulder. She doesn't know this, but I could have cried in that second. In a race of nearly seven thousand she spotted me within a minute of guntime.
The first mile went uphill, turned and went back downhill. Our first mile split was in between our goals. We weren't really sure what to aim for, since we've had varying advice (i.e. expect 20-40 minutes above your PR). At packet pick-up, Garmin had pace bracelets for runners designed for the course according to mile difficulty and elevation. So we had 2:00 and 2:30 bracelets, and after the first mile it was clear we were hitting the higher end of our range.
Each mile after that, our splits were right on the money for the 2:30 time frame. The name Hospital Hill, is no misnomer. The race is nearly entirely uphill, and done intentionally to make it challenging. The hardest hills were miles 2,3,4 and then again mile 10, 11 and the monolithic 60degree incline at mile 13.
Did I mention the heat and humidity? It was 80ish at guntime with no sun, and by 8 the sun had peeked through the clouds. We persevered. Even with walking when totally necessary, our splits were still hitting 11:00s. The course was fantastic, with tons of support at the aid stations. The other runners were nice, and chatty. We exchanged jokes, encouragement and rallied for beer and pancakes.
Crossing the finish line was incredible. I wanted to be emotional about it. Tears of joy? My body has no idea what those are. I promise I tried to cry a little, like Hello, Julia? You just finished KC hardest half marathon. Maybe more remarkable is not my tears, but my overwhelming nonchalance (oxymoron). I couldn't cry or being emotionally moved because I KNEW I could do this, I had the confidence and training to finish. Cocky? Perhaps, but don't even pretend like you wouldn't be even a little.