Head For The Hills!

Get right to the runs: Run #1: Rise To Glory   Run #2: Pine Hill Road

One piece of advice that floats through the running community is “if you want to run fast, you’ve got to run fast”. On the surface, that’s a bit tautological (I like my big words!) and not very helpful. Imagine it in another context: If you want to lose weight, you’ve got to lose weight. Yeah. Thanks for the help.

But let’s rephrase it: If you want to run fast, you’ve got to practice running fast. You need to work at the thing you want to get better at. Now that makes sense!

I’ve got some advice for running the Main Street Half Marathon of Hunterdon: If you want to run the hill, you’ve got to run the hills!

I was inspired to write this post and a series of others based on some of the feedback I received after last year’s race:

  •  “I wasn’t prepared for the hills but loved the race!!!”
  •  “Would like to see something with hills, but not that many. I’ve done 3 other 1/2s all with hills, but not like these. If there is any way to change the course…”
  • “…a WAY!!!! Too Hilly! Run…”
  •  “Any way to avoid Sand hill road?”
  •  “The hills were crazy…and I LIVE here!!!”
  •  “Sand Hill Rd was a killer… but the rest was great!”
  •  “Sand Hill was crazy!”
  • “Who the $*@! designed that course? Frank something? OMG, Sandill Rd… If I ever find out where he lives…”OK, that last one isn’t real, but the rest are. I detect a theme.

First off, let me say that there is no other way to map a half-marathon course between Clinton and Flemington. Well, that’s not quite true. There is one other way, but they almost kicked me off the race committee when I suggested it. But we’ll come back to that later…

Second, we come back to my advice. If you want to run the hill (Sandhill, that is), you’ve got to run the hills! Make hills a part of your weekly running, especially in the 6 months leading up to the race. (Right about here, please imagine a deep voice-over telling you to consult with your doctor before engaging in any type of strenuous physical activity or training program.) Luckily, we have endless hilly options for you to tackle, and over the next several months, I’m going to share some of my favorites with you. I recommend seeking these hills out and testing yourself not just for the training benefits, but because there are some truly beautiful routes to be found in and near Hunterdon County.

Remember: When out running any of these routes or any time you’re out on the road, be way of cars, cross intersections safely and run against traffic. Stay to the left!

Hill Run #1: Rise To Glory

The Hill: Sandhill Road (a.k.a. the Rise to Glory)

Start/Parking: Francis A. Desmares School, 16 Old Clinton Rd, Flemington

Route: From the school’s entrance, turn left on Old Clinton Rd. Make a right on Sandhill Rd and up to Thatcher’s Hill Rd.

Distance: 1.2 miles

Elevation gain: 285 feet

Hill Run #2: Camp Carr Climb

Running the Main Street Half Marathon of Hunterdon means running up Sandhill Rd. You want to run the hill? You’ve got to run the hills!

Unlike Sandhill Rd and many of the other hills to come, this is a hill I run up nearly every week—it’s part of my regular 8am Saturday run with the BaseCamp Athletic Club. Come join us, misery loves company!  I mean, there’s strength in numbers!

Up from Camp Carr, Pine Hill Rd boasts a couple of significantly steep, though short, grades: one at the bend about halfway up, and the other right at the top. If you’re not expecting them, they can really sap your forward momentum. (Full disclosure, they can really sap your forward momentum even if you are expecting them!)

The Hill: Pine Hill Road (a.k.a. the Camp Carr Climb)

Start/Parking: Camp Carr, 517 Hamden River Rd, Annandale (park in the lot by the swimming pool)

Route: Southwest on Camp Carr Rd, over the Raritan River onto Pine Hill Rd. Continue on up to the stop sign at Sydney School Rd.

Distance: 0.8 miles

Elevation gain: 187 feet

 (I didn’t mention it in my last post, but obviously, if you’re just out to run the hill you need to turn around and run back downl, so the total distance is actually double. And technically, it also makes the net elevation gain zero.)

One more thing:

I’m not just some sadist poring over topographic maps, searching for steep hills to send people up. I’ve run all the hills I’m writing about. But it’s been suggested by the other members of the race committee that readers may like something more than just a quick description of these hills. Maybe a preview of sorts. Maybe, Frank, you should take a video of yourself out running each of the hills, too.

So, now, follow the YouTube social media link and you can check out these runs. Subscribe to the channel for future updates!