Six years ago, I was training for my first Boston Marathon. I was incorporating tempos, intervals and long runs into my 40-50 mile weeks (I peaked at 55 miles). The only missing component were the hills. At the time, I was stationed in Baghdad, Iraq – and while I was fortunate enough to be on the largest American base in the country (which afforded me miles and miles of road to run on!), it was flat as a pancake.
There was one hill (man-made) called “Signal Hill” which US forces used for all the long-range signal equipment. Signal Hill had a paved road that was roughly .3 miles uphill (steep uphill!). And at two points going up the hill, there were paved roads around the hill.
This hill became my best friend. Rather than do hill repeats once a week, I made it a point to run up that hill at least once each run – and most runs 2-3x. It didn’t matter if it was an easy run, recovery run or long run – I was running up and down that hill.
Fast forward to the 2009 Boston Marathon. My husband was running beside me around mile 19-20. I had never seen Heartbreak Hill in person nor did I know the exact point it comes in the race. We had just finished a bit of climbing and I saw a sign that indicated we had crested Heartbreak. I looked at my husband and asked in disbelief – and with the biggest grin EVER – “That was Heartbreak Hill?”.