On June 1, I ran the Hospital Hill Half Marathon.
This was my second half marathon, my first being Rock the Parkway back in 2012. First off, let me say, I am not a natural runner. I have bad knees, and I'm not particularly competitive when it comes to sports (as opposed to political debate). But, I'm trying to be a runner, partially because I love the way it feels to accomplish something that doesn't come easy, but also because running makes me happy. It quells my anxiety, gets me outdoors, gives me some time to clear my thoughts. It gives me a sense of ease. On a day when I know I have a million things to do and what feels like a million people to answer to, I can get out for an early morning jog, and say to myself: There you go. You just ran three miles and it's only 8:30 a.m. You got this. The rest of the challenges of your day are no problem.
Running a few times a week has taken me through many of the challenges of the past few years, and in such a simple way. Strap on shoes, toss on clothes, headphones, and go. Minimal equipment, go anytime, go in (almost) any weather. I often think about the very act of running while I'm out doing it- and about an article I read a few years ago that argued that humans evolved with the advantage of being built for running distances. I like to think about the very act of movement, of running, as making us distinctly human. I feel the same way about hiking and snowshoeing. Perhaps I'm not the greatest runner out there, but doing what our ancient ancestors were built to do gives me a particular satisfaction and happiness. It keeps me balanced and focused. It leads me to sleep and eat better than if I'm not active. It sharpens my thoughts. It also brings me to a great documentary I watched recently, Happy. The film really is one you should watch for yourself, but many of the things that scientists believe make us happy are things I experience when running- the sense of community out on my neighborhood jogging trail, the feeling of physical exercise, and the exhilaration of doing something new are all things I love about running.
With all this in mind, Hospital Hill was a fantastic race. It's ranked by Runner's World as one of the top halves in the US, and justly so. The race was well organized, and the course was a great tour of Kansas City: Crown Center-> Crossroads->Power and Light->Hospital Hill->Union Hill->Hyde Park->Nelson-Atkins Museum->UMKC->Brookside->UMKC again->The Plaza->Westport->Broadway->Liberty Memorial->Crown Center. There are six named hills (but honestly I lost count), and the killer was the 8.5% grade hill (!) at mile 12.5. Though this last hill was like a million stabs to the thighs, there was an amazing view of downtown that came into view at the top along with a guy in an Elvis suit giving out high fives. There was good beer and bbq at the finish line. The race had great aid stations, and lots of spectators to cheer on the runners, as well as entertainment in a few spots from DJs and two cheerleading squads. My favorite cheers came from Joe and sprout in mile eight- complete with noisemakers and huge smiles.
While the achy knees healed after two days of rest and a Monday yoga class, and my blistered feet are just about healed four days later, the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction remains. I'm not sure if I'll do another half (10k races are more my speed), but this was a great race to finish, and a nice way to celebrate Kansas City.