Becky Runs Boston

My adventures running in Boston, searching for that runner's chai.

Race Recap: Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon


I ran the Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon Sunday morning and WOW my legs are still tired. However, I have managed to get in 1-2 mile runs every morning since as part of the Runner’s World #runstreak challenge (my streak is at 7 days!). Here’s a review of the race and why my legs have been trashed!

I took the T out to Boston College after work Friday evening so that I could check out the expo and pick up my bib. I had sadly forgotten how bad the Green Line is, especially the B line, so it took much longer than expected to get there. I was stressed out and wished I had just opted to drive out on Saturday or at least go home and get my car on Friday, but by the time I walked across campus to the Conte Forum, all my stress melted away. All of a sudden, I was surrounded by other runners, newbies and seasoned professionals, and instantly felt calmer.


First stop was bib pick-up where I grabbed my bib. I had received an email with my bib number earlier in the week, so getting my bib was super quick and easy.

ImageAfter picking up my bib, I walked around the Expo and scored a drawstring back-pack, tried some energy bar and smoothie samples, and picked up my Runners World Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon t-shirt (which I wore all day Sunday after the race!)

I headed back to the Boston College T stop where the woman in line behind me asked if this was the right train to go to Park Street. She was a very petite woman, maybe five feet tall, with an enormous backpack and a Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon and Festival volunteer badge. She was staying with a friend and needed to get to Davis Square. I told her that I too was headed to Davis Square and offered to commute with her. GOOD DECISION. After about half an hour on the T together, I had learned enough information (first name: Diana, hometown: somewhere in Pennsylvania, and has run numerous ultramarathons and marathons) and discretely googled the information to find out more.

She’s legit. She’s a SERIOUS ultramarathon runner. Her name is Diana Widdowson and I had an entire hour to talk to her. (Here are some articles that describe the races she’s run, including the July 2007 Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run and the Mohican Trail Run). I did my very best to ask questions without seeming creepy or stalker-like, and even offered to give her a ride to the half-marathon Sunday morning so that she wouldn’t have to take the T. She was running the Hat Trick (5K and 10K races on Saturday, followed by the half marathon on Sunday) and happily took me up on the offer (especially since she would be dragging her large backpack with her again). We spent the T ride chatting about training for ultramarathons, her favorite races, her upcoming schedule (she’s doing the Leadville Marathon next weekend… it’s one of the most badass marathons out there!), and the importance of having a network of running friends to keep you motivated.

After a lovely Saturday spent outside with family, Sunday arrived way too fast. We were out the door by 6:10am, picked up Diana a few blocks away, and were at BC by 6:45am. We parted ways (I will have to find her on some form of social media…) and after a quick jaunt to the restrooms (in a building, not even a port-a-potty!) Eric and I headed to the start area. I did some stretching in the shade, took a selfie (with Eric), and then joined the runners in the start gate. I didn’t have a hard goal in mind, I just wanted to complete the run in the 2:10-2:30 range (where my other half marathons have finished). I stood at the back of the 9:55 pace group and figured I’d try to run with them as much as I could and if I had to fall back to the 2:15 finish time group behind us, that would be totally fine.


Slanted crowd shot


I am very much a morning person. Eric is very much a trooper for letting me take ridiculous pictures of us ALL THE TIME.

And then we were off and running! After a quick loop around Boston College, we started running down Commonwealth Avenue toward Newton. I felt pretty good and was doing great staying with my pace group. During one significant downhill, I even passed my pace group and ran about 100 meters in front of them. I also saw Elizabeth Comeau, the former Boston Globe blogger who now works for Runners World (I was a little obsessed with her blog). Without any reservation, I screamed out her name and told her how awesome I think she is… I’m such a creep.

Running, running, running, up and down the hills. That’s pretty much the story of this race. Eventually, we turned left and ran through the residential areas of Newton and Waban. Some locals passed out orange slices (always my favorite). We ran past the Newton Wellesley Hospital and the Woodland Golf Course. And eventually we returned to Commonwealth Avenue to run back up the hills. Oh, those hills. During our jaunt through the residential areas, my original pace group caught up to me… and then passed me. I started to walk, then run, then walk, then run… And I really began to struggle as the hill got steeper. Seeing a few people on stretchers, being taken away in ambulances, did not help the motivation. But I kept going, kept shuffling along at my slower pace.



And then! A young woman wearing a One Run for Boston t-shirt was standing on the corner holding a baton… THE baton… aka Miles from the original One Run for Boston. I excitedly yelled out and pointed, and the girl (Lenore) handed me the baton and started running with me! She also took pictures of me running with the baton. BIG thank you to Lenore for the boost I needed to finish the race!

I kept run/walk-ing my way to the finish, and at the right turn back into BC, I gave it a final push and ran as fast as possible to the finish line. As I ran the final 100 or so meters, I saw Eric on the sidelines cheering me on. When I reached the finish, the clock hadn’t yet hit 2:18! I was shocked. Considering it took a few minutes to get across the start line, the clock was suggesting that I finished in something close to 2:15! (Official time ended up being 2:15:39!) – that’s my 3rd best time overall!


Didn’t need an ambulance #winning


Eric made me awkwardly lift my hat up so that my face wasn’t in the shadow. My enormous forehead is now even bigger.

After cooling down, stretching, and grabbing all the free snacks I could hold, Eric drove me home. My middle toe felt like it might have lost a nail, but it was fine. Instead, I have a pretty awesome blister on the edge of my right foot’s big toe. A pedicure is going to be necessary this upcoming weekend, even if all I do is pretty up the rest of the foot to take away from my sad looking toe. I also have incredibly red stripes on my chest from the chafing of my sports bra (no pic necessary for that one!). I need to start using Vaseline (Body Glide is just not doing it for me!)


Sorry this is gross but it’s the TRUTH #RunnersHaveGrossFeet

Overall, the morning was a success. I got a great time, I didn’t pass out from the heat, I didn’t get a horrible headache, I got to creep on famous runners, Eric got to watch me finish, and I got a fancy new medal to add to the group.




7 thoughts on “Race Recap: Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon

  1. omg, Becky: the pic of your foot/blister/grossness??? Despite your oversharing and stalkerism, I am so so so proud of you. I can call in 5 minutes.

  2. Nice work annnnd running those hills and surviving sooo makes you my hero lol 🙂

  3. Your enormous forehead is beautiful. Great work, great post.

  4. Pingback: A Recap of 2014 | Runners Chai

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