What goes up must come down: Running Hospital Hill




In its 41st year, the Hospital Hill Run has been ranked highly among the thousands of US Road Races, Including #11 by Runners World in 2013. With so many races to choose from this weekend, it was the addition of the Re-run challenge, where runners take on Hospital Hill during a 5K on Friday night, and then the half-marathon or 10k on Saturday morning which made me choose this as my final destination race of the spring 2014 season.

The expo, as well as the start and finish lines for all races are located outside the Crown Center, and easy walking distance from many downtown hotel options. We stayed at the Fairfield Marriott, who accommodated runners happily with late checkouts and a complementary early breakfast. Runners of the re-run challenge received a cotton tee, however breaking away from the tradition of the tech tee – the Hospital Hill Run gave all runners a high quality embroidered backpack. For those wanting a tech shirt, many were available in the official merchandise store.

This was my first visit to Kansas City, and friends had told me to visit the Power and Light District. After checking it out, and knowing we had an evening race, we decided to visit the Country Club Plaza area instead, enjoying a coffee at Starbucks (across the street from Tiffany’s) and taking in a movie at the  Cinemark Theater. Although this is an upscale area with many restaurants and great shopping, the parking garage was free and the movie was only $4.25 at a very nice theater!

The Friday night 5K was well-organized and a family friendly event, with a generous 90 minute time limit – ensuring that parents and children walking or running together (of which there were many) would finish without pressure. Young volunteers handed each runner a cold towel at the finish line, followed by a beautiful medal featuring the Kansas City skyline. After the race a Beer Garden and BBQ dinner were provided for all runners, along with the typical post race snacks of bananas, bars and chocolate milk.

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The clear warm air of Friday night was replaced with a storm front that rolled in overnight. Runners watched social media as the race directors gave frequent updates of the status of the race. Staying dry in the Crown Center lobby runners anxiously awaited news. Informed that there would be only a 30 minute delay, many runners huddled under bridges and overhangs surrounding the start line. Finally we were underway, and although there was a significant amount of rain – the race went on with no further disruptions. The race director gave all runners the option to do the 10K instead of the half marathon if they felt uneasy in the rain – and ensured the crowd that everyone would get a medal.

A tempting offer, but I had come for the half marathon, and was determined to finish it despite the rain and wind. The familiarity of hospital hill from the Friday night race met runners early on, but that was not the end. Up and down we went – hospital hill, rockhill hill, 39th street hill, cherry hill, broadway hill, and finally… the very steep trinity hill.

By mile 9 the weather cleared, and I connected with another runner who was struggling with blisters from wet shoes and socks. We walked together for some time and talked, eventually running the last part of the race and crossing the finish line together. Collecting our HUGE half marathon medals and bonus medals for the Re-Run challenge, I prepared to head back to the hotel. With the race winding down and the complications from the weather,  I did not expect there to be any of the scheduled post race food to be available. To my surprise not only was there food left (a pancake and sausage breakfast) but they were being made by the staff from Chris Cakes who greeted us with an enthusiastic smile!

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What could have been a disaster of a weekend became one I will never forget – largely due to the communication and spirit of the race director, staff, and amazing volunteers who made sure that we were safe and supported – while executing a world-class event.