Head For The Hills!

Get right to the runs:
Run #1: Rise To Glory   Run #2: Pine Hill Road   Run #3: Pine Hill Road #2   Run #4: Alfalfa Hill Road
Run #5: Uhlerstown Hill Road (Bucks County)      Run #6: Cherryville-Stanton Road
Run #7: Bridgeton Hill Road (Bucks County)

Follow on YouTube to see the routes. Subscribe to the channel for future updates!

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) YouTube Video

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

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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) YouTube Video

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.)

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Hill Run #3: Pine Hill Road

No, it’s not the hill so nice I ran it twice. This is a different Pine Hill Rd, in Delaware Township. And if you’re on the quest to conquer the Rise to Glory, you need to put this one on your list.

I first came across this road on a 20-mile marathon training run. I mapped out an out-and-back route from my house and this was at the end of the first 10 miles. Luckily, I came at it from the top. But then I had to turn around and run right back up. Good times. (This was back in the days before Google Maps had a terrain overlay or elevation information—everything looked flat on the computer monitor. Like the saying goes, the map is NOT the territory!)

This is a short hill, only 0.5 miles, but it is steep (see below!). Much more so than Sand Hill or Pine Hill Rd #1. If you can schedule a bunch of runs up hills like this, Sand Hill will seem much easier come race day.

And if you do go, you can see the last public covered bridge in New Jersey, the Green Sergeant Bridge. If you keep heading west on Rosemont Ringoes Road from Pine Hill, it’s just around the bend. Not to mention, the views of Wickecheoke Creek down Lower Ferry Rd into Stockton are some of the prettiest scenery in the county.

One last thing, this is actually two hills for the price of one. Check out the companion video on our YouTube page for details before you go!

The Hill: Pine Hill Road #2 YouTube Video

Start/Parking: 570 Rosemont Ringoes Rd, Sergeantsville, NJ (use the municipal parking lot at the Delaware Township Hall)

Route: Head west on Rosemont Ringoes Rd for about 1.15 miles. Pine Hill Rd will be on your right—head up until it levels off, about 0.5 miles. Then head back. Or check out Lower Creek Rd if you need to add some extra mileage to your run.

Distance: .5 mile (Sand Hill Rd 1.2 miles)

Elevation gain: 285 feet* (Sand Hill Rd 285 feet)

As always: Be safe! 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. Always assume drivers don’t see you.

* Yep, all the elevation gain of Sand Hill over less than half the distance!

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Hill Run #4: Alfalfa Hill Road

Hmm. Sand Hill Rd., Pine Hill Rd.,another Pine Hill Rd., Alfalfa Hill Rd. And just skim through the rest of this post: Crab Apple Hill Rd. and Adamic Hill Rd… I need to find a hilly road to write about without the word “Hill” in its name. Unfortunately, I already have my next one planned and it is also an “Insert Name Here” Hill Rd.

Alfalfa Hill Rd is another one I came upon by accident (along with Crab Apple and Adamic) in the days before terrain views or elevation data on Google Maps. It’s a short and steep one, but I like it. That part of Holland Twp is quite scenic—as you come up to the start of the hill along Amsterdam Rd., you get a great view of the Phillips Farm property behind a lane of small country homes with wrap around porches, tall trees, and of course, the hill…

The Hill: Alfalfa Hill Road YouTube Video

Start/Parking: You’ve got a few options, depending on how long a run you’re looking for.

  • Short: Phillips Farm has a little roadside farm stand on Church Rd, 350 feet past Amsterdam Rd and Alfalfa Hill Rd. I’m not sure what they’d think about you using their parking area, though. Maybe buy a jar of marmalade before you head home.
  • Medium: The Holland Twp Municipal Building is about 2 miles east on Church Rd.
  • Long: Start in Milford. You can use the municipal lot next to the Presbyterian Church on Bridge St. Head towards the river, turn right on Church St and follow it around to the left and onto Spring Garden St/River Rd. (This is a gorgeous stretch of road—the river on one side and rocks with occasional waterfalls on the other.) About three miles up you’ll come to Crab Apple Hill Rd. Take it up and over—you’ll end at Church Rd and across the street is Amsterdam Rd which you can follow over to Alfalfa Hill.

Full disclosure: The Medium and Long options have hills of their own. But you’re reading this because you want to run hills, right?

Route: Head up Alfalfa Hill Rd until you come out of the wooded part into the open—you’ll see a blue barn right on left side of the road. That’s the top. You’re 600 feet above sea level. Turn around and head back.

Or if you’re in the mood for a bit more up and down: Continue on Alfalfa Hill to the intersection with Adamic Hill Rd. Don’t take the hard right, but follow Adamic Hill Rd ahead and down to Mt Joy Rd. You just ran an extra 0.6 miles and lost 380 feet of elevation. Now turn around and go back.

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!

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Hill Run #5: Uhlerstown Hill Road (Bucks County)

As you stand in Frenchtown, NJ and gaze across the river into Pennsylvania, there’s an imposing wall of tree-covered rock commanding the view. And there’s a road that goes up there. That’s where we’re going today—Uhlerstown Hill Road! I do not know how to pronounce Uhlerstown. Uh-, Oo-, Yoo-lerstown? It used to be called Mexico City. That’s quite a change.
If you like covered bridges, this is another one to put on your list. Also if you like really steep hills. That’s not quite right word. Reeeeaaaaallllyyyy steep hills. And if you don’t like reeeeaaaallllyyyy steep hills, run it anyway. You’ll have earned some big time bragging rights. I don’t know if this is the steepest hill in the area, but it feels like it. I’ve gone up Uhlerstown Hill Rd. many times and have only managed to continuously run up once. And even so, “run” is being charitable. More like “made running motions while moving at walking speed” is more accurate.
I don’t want to scare you away, but this is a tough hill. But it’s also short—about a third of a mile. And as I said, bragging rights: Not just anyone can say they ran up a hill that’s so steep and narrow that (in addition to being a one-way road–uphill) it’s closed to vehicular traffic from December to April. Once you’ve gone up and come back down, treat yourself to a little out and back along Pennsylvania’s tow path. It’s flat. You’ve earned it.

The Hill: Uhlerstown Hill Road YouTube Video

Start/Parking: Park in Frenchtown, NJ, at the River Rd. parking lot just around the corner from the Bridge Cafe on Bridge St.
Route: Head over the river and turn left onto River Rd (PA-32). Watch yourself here—the intersection is a bit wonky. In about 250 feet, Uhlerstown Hill Rd will be on your right. Follow it through the covered bridge and then up and to the right. When you come to Everbreeze Dr., you’re at the top. You’ve only gone a mile since the parking lot! I bet it feels like more. Turn around and head back down.

Distance: .3 mile (Sand Hill Rd 1.2 miles)

Elevation gain: 250 feet (Sand Hill Rd 285 feet)

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Hill Run #6: Cherryville-Stanton Road

Hey, I found a hilly road without the word “Hill” in its name!

We all think of Sand Hill Rd as THE hill on the Main Street Half Marathon. But the route I have for today includes the first hill on the course–the one you tackle after five miles of flat trails and roads. It’s a decent climb, about 130 feet over 0.6 miles. But I think this stretch is more of a mental challenge than a physical challenge. There are a couple of “deceptive peaks” on the way up. You think you’re coming to the top only to realize there’s another rise…then another one.

And then you come to Cherryville-Stanton Rd. 450 feet of gain over 1.7 miles. Longer and steeper than Sand Hill. But let’s focus on the positive here: while you may not notice on the way up, on the way back down you get a gorgeous view of Round Mountain and Stanton Mountain off in the distance.

When we first started planning the Main Street Half, I proposed a route that would have taken everyone up this hill instead of continuing along Old Clinton. My reasoning was twofold: 1) let’s keep everyone further away from the traffic coming off of Route 31, and 2) let’s get the big hill out of the way earlier so runners can enjoy more downhill in the second half of the race.

Clearly the other members of the race committee didn’t go for it. I’m paraphrasing here, but the consensus was something along the lines of “My good man, I believe you may have temporarily excused yourself from your higher cognitive capacities when designing that particular race route. Perhaps you’d care to devise an alternative for the collective benefit of our registrants?”

And so you get to run up Sand Hill Rd instead.

(By the way, at the top of Cherryville-Stanton, you’re about 670 feet above sea level. Not too shabby!)

The Hill: River Rd/Hamden Rd & Cherryville-Stanton Rd YouTube Video

Start/Parking: Another route with a couple alternate options, depending on how long a run you’re looking for.

Alternate 1 – Short (Cherryville-Stanton Rd only):

  • Parking: There’s no parking at the bottom of Cherryville-Stanton, but if you drive up 0.4 miles, you can turn left onto Rolins Mill Rd. Take that down around the bend and you’ll see a little turnout parking area.

  • Route: Head back up Rolins Mill, then turn left and continue up to the top of Cherryville-Stanton at the intersection with Cherryville Rd (Rt 617). It’s about 1.5 miles up and an elevation gain of 330 feet

Alternate 2 – Long (Stanton Station Rd & Cherryville-Stanton Rd):

  • Parking: There’s a gravel parking lot on Stanton Station Rd just west of the bridge over the Raritan River.

  • Route: Head up Stanton Station Rd to Old Clinton Rd. Turn Right, then in about 380 feet, turn left up Cherryville-Stanton Rd. Up to the top! This route is about 2.25 miles up and an elevation gain of 530 feet. A bit shorter and a bit steeper than…

“Official” Route (River Rd/Hamden Rd & Cherryville-Stanton Rd):

  • Parking: Use the gravel lot at Awossagame Grove, on Kiceniuk Rd, just east of the bridge over the Raritan River.

  • Route: Cross over the bridge, then turn left up River Rd (part of the MSHM course!). Take the easy right onto Hamden Rd, over the one-lane bridge and right onto Cherryville-Stanton.

Distance: 2.5 miles (Sand Hill Rd 1.2 miles)

Elevation gain: 520 feet (Sand Hill Rd 285 feet)

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Hill Run #7: Bridgeton Hill Road (Bucks County)

Here’s another foray into the wilds of Pennsylvania. I know we’ve got no end of hills in Hunterdon, but it’s always fun to go exploring.

This is a fairly short but steep climb up the wall of rock just over the Delaware River (360 feet in 0.65 miles). On the way you’ll pass through the little hamlet of Upper Black Eddy (oddly enough, there doesn’t appear to be a Lower Black Eddy, or even a regular Black Eddy. Just Upper. And also, it’s at the bottom of the hill…) and a nice little general store and coffee roaster you can check out if you’re not too sweaty. There’s also an entrance to the D&L Canal Trail if you need to tack on some additional, non-hill miles.

My second favorite point of interest on this route is the half barn at the bottom of the Bridgeton Hill climb. You’ll know it when you see it. I always wonder if it started out like that.

Besides the thrill of running the hill, the main reason to hit this route is it takes you to Ringing Rocks County Park, home of the mysterious ringing rocks and (I just found this out) the largest waterfall in Bucks County. But be warned: the trails in the park are strewn with rocks and are more suited for technical trail running (or carefull walking). Watch your step!

The Hill: Bridgeton Hill Road YouTube Video

Parking:Municipal lot on Bridge St. at the Presbyterian Church of Milford

Start/Parking: Corner of Bridge St. and Frenchtown Rd. in Milford, NJ

Route: Run west on Bridge St. over the Delaware River into Pennsylvania. Turn right and cross River Rd (Rt 32) at the crosswalk. Take an immediate left onto Fire House Ln and then a right onto Sydney Rd–that’ll get you to Bridgeton Hill Rd. while avoiding the busy and narrow-shouldered River Rd. Turn left onto Bridgeton Hill. Cross over the PA towpath and you’ll see the bend in the road up ahead that marks the start of the hill.

Go up! As you approach the final bend near the top (where “Curves Ahead” is stenciled on the pavement), I recommend moving over to the right side of the road for safety.

When you get to Chestnut Ridge Rd, you’ve hit the top, and you’re free to turn back around. But continuing to the Bridgeton municipal buildings will give you 1.5 miles out, for 3 miles total. OR: Keep going a little further–0.3 miles on Bridgeton Hill, turn right on Ringing Rocks Rd and in another 0.2 miles stop at Ringing Rocks Park.

Distance: .65 mile (Sand Hill Rd 1.2 miles)

Elevation gain: 360 feet (Sand Hill Rd 285 feet)

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Be safe! 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. Always assume drivers don’t see you. Even on this road, even when it’s closed to traffic! And especially when running back down.