The Sleepy Hollow Half Marathon was one of the most beautiful courses I’ve run. It was also perhaps the most miserable, pain-in-the-ass races, full of “Are You Fucking Kidding Me With This?” moments I’ve ever run.
On one hand, the first five miles are run through beautiful trails, through the woods, over old rail-road bridges, along the Hudson River.
On the other hand: 1,279 feet of elevation.
Not that you’d know that from the race’s website. Bounce around there a bit and you’ll see no elevation chart. I don’t blame them for this. They’d likely lose quite a few entrants if they put this on their website. And I think you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t run this race. It is beautiful. It is a challenge. And I want you to experience the same sort of misery.
The organizers, Rivertown Runners, did drop a few hints. In the email sent out two days before the race, they made it clear you were unlikely to PR, but you’d have fun. Oh, and this was Point No. 1 in their list of reminders:
Don’t go out too fast (I am sure you have never heard that before)! In order to help you with this the course begins uphill.
Hahahaha. What a bunch of cards! But I wasn’t worried. I train on Prospect Park’s North Hill. I ran the Manhattan Half, which forced me around Harlem Hill twice. The Hamptons Half Marathon started out with a slight uphill. No biggie.
So we start. Then, about a half mile in, there’s the first hill. It’s as big as the North Hill. And this was supposed to be a gentle one? Or had I told myself that? After that, we were in the woods, running through the dirt and trees, a few hills here and there, a big down hill, to the river and around and … HOLY SHIT … would you look at what happens just after mile 4? Would you just look at that?
I swear I’ve walked backwards and made faster progress than what I did running up that hill. Is it the biggest elevation gain in the world? No. Are people who live in mountainous states laughing at me right now? Probably. But it was practically like climbing a wall. They should have thrown down rope ladders so we could have pulled ourselves up.
Then, after recovering from that, you get off of the trails onto a nice smooth highway, where you run uphill for, I don’t know, a mile and a half — between 6 and 7.5, basically. That was the one that really killed me. But I knew it was pretty much over after that. There was a long bit of downhill on the way back in. I spotted Cara just at the start of the uphill, looking pretty strong considering our training level (not much) and the week we’d had (let’s just say college-level hangover). From then on, all “rolling hills,” I’d been told.
I was lied to. Right before mile 10, another big one. Keep in mind that by this point, the old legs are getting tired. So the smaller ones after that were getting harder.
And, finally, to top it all off, right there at the finish, between 12.87 and 13, there is a stretch steep enough to launch Saturn rockets. All you want to do is sprint and get this thing over with and it’s all you can do not to start walking–and sobbing a little bit.
But finish, I did. 1:57:04. Without crying. A full 12 minutes slower than my PR, but I haven’t been training nearly as hard as I did when I ran that PR. And, oh yeah, HILLS!
Of course, now I think everyone should run the Sleepy Hollow Half. It’s fun!
But seriously, it was a well-organized race, beautiful course, shiny medal, plenty of clean port-o-lets before the race and free beer after! I’d only make one suggestion. It’s called Sleepy Hollow. You should have a headless horseman on the course somewhere. Perhaps he could be stationed at the start of mile four and chase people up the hill (or carry them).