Becoming the Hill Master: How I Did and How You Can Too!


Are you ready to conquer one of the most challenging races in all of Kansas City ? HILL YEAH!

Welcome everyone on the road towards Hospital Hill!

My name is Jenny Hartz, and although I love running and have years of experience, I’ve never been a speed demon. I often got the pity clap when coming in last for the 2-miler in track. Instead, I found my calling through half marathons where my slow and steady pace payed off over a longer distance. When I discovered Hospital Hill Half Marathon, not only did the alliteration excite me, but the promise of several challenging hills because I am: The Hill Master.

You might be thinking, you actually LIKE hills?


I LOVE HILLS. If there isn’t a hill in the race, I will complain and genuinely be disappointed. But it wasn’t always this way:

I started running cross country in 8th grade because I’m missing the gene that tells normal people to avoid pain and suffering. In high school, our coach passed out little Runner’s World supplements geared for young runners. There was an article in it that changed my life. Ok, well, it changed my running life, but that (and Mountain Dew) are a big part of my life, so yeah, it was a pretty big deal. The article was “Make the Hill Your Friend!” and it was really cheesy. At first, it was a joke with my teammates.

“Hey, guys! Don’t forget the hill is your friend!” The article also mentioned that when you get to the top, you say outloud, “That’s a good hill!” Seriously. But then the more I repeated it and because I’m attracted to things the majority finds hard to do, I started to love running up hills. I would approach a hill, think of it as a friend who was going to challenge and test me, and would make a conscious effort to think positively about the hill.

A lot of running up a hill is mental. People see a hill and think, “Oh man! I HATE hills!” or “This is gonna suck!” or “Why did I sign up for Hospital Hill instead of the Trolley Run?” (For out-of-towners and newbies, the Trolley Run is an all downhill race that’s over a thousand runners now because it’s famously easy).

But approach a hill as a familiar friend, and your body automatically responds positively. I give all the hills I run up names, and I think of them as notches on my runner’s belt when I conquer them. Some are named based on the street, like Broadway Hill, and some are named based on other features, like the Darth Vader Hill (because when you get to the top, no matter what shape you’re in, you will sound like an asthmatic).

I’ve continued my journey as Hill Master past high school and continue to run on my own. It’s hard when you no longer participate in team sports to find the motivation to keep practicing and competing, not to mention the time once you’re out of college and have a Grown-Up Job. The past couple of years I worked at a gym manning the front desk and bartending (yes, there’s a gym with a bar in it! It’s awesome!), but this summer I finally scored my first 9-5, full-time salary and benefits job. It’s sweet, but definitely a challenge when it comes to finding time to work out. I’m sure almost all of you understand the stress of fitting it all in.

In addition to running and working, I recently got engaged. I met my fiancee through the gym – he convinced me to run the KC Half Marathon with only 4 weeks to train. We’ve been running together ever since and have had lots of crazy running adventures. While I like to plan out my training and obsess about nutrition (Mountain Dew fits in there somewhere), Jason is a happy-go-lucky-we-can-do-this-no-problem runner and enjoys rewarding himself with cookies and beer. It’s nice to have that balance of serious runner and fun runner to both help ourselves improve but to also remember to enjoy running. Also, I can’t think of any good reason why runners shouldn’t get beer and cookies after a solid run.

Some topics I plan to cover:

1. Finish my 12 Days of Running Entries – I started this over the holidays reflecting on 12 of the races we did this past year; check them out for ideas of other local races to try and what you can gain from doing smaller races to help prepare for more important/longer races.

2. Knee injuries – if you’re gonna be a Hill Master, you’re gonna take it out on your knees. I’ve struggled with knee problems and even had to quit running for 2 years because of them. But without surgery or bottles of ibuprofen, there are several ways to keep common knee problems in check and help them heal.

3. Nutrition – after gaining weight in college and while being unable to run, I learned a lot from student personal trainers and started to read nutrition articles and books. Through experimenting, I discovered my dairy sensitivity/allergy, and it’s helped a lot. But having food allergies isn’t easy, especially when so many foods recommended for athletes are breads, yogurts, protein smoothies with milk, etc.

4. Smoothies – fret about getting enough calories before a race but getting up early enough to digest everything? Smoothies are the answer with lots of delicious ideas (dairy-free ones too!).

5. Incorporating Cross/Strength Training – running is just one part of our overall picture of health; check out how strength training can help you build muscle to avoid overuse injuries, how other sports/classes can improve your running without the sidewalk pounding, and how to have a fun break from running and discover something new.

6. Planning How to Achieve Your Goal – my goal this year is to get my half marathon PR at Hospital Hill. As Hill Master and because this is my favorite race, it would be an accomplishment that would mean a lot to me that I’d be very proud of. I’ve tried the past two years and have just barely missed it for various reasons. Now, after 2 years of trying, I’ve got lots of ways to help you plan and prepare how to get the goal you want and hope to avoid mistakes I’ve learned the hard way.

I’m very excited to be an official blogger because not only do I get to share my experience with you, but I also get to hear from you all as well. I welcome comments, tips, suggestions, etc and even getting to meet some of you on race day. I’ve already met Blogger Bob from doing Leavenworth Races; it’s always fun to see a friendly face and exchange running adventures. I look forward to sharing our running journey together and hope that at the end, you too will become Hill Master!

Before Hospital Hill in 2010: To the hills! With thighs Wonder Woman would be jealous of, I was ready for my first time to conquer the hills. This year will be my 4th year running the half.

Before Hospital Hill in 2010: To the hills! With thighs Wonder Woman would be jealous of, I was ready for my first time to conquer the hills. This year will be my 4th year running the half.

After the Race: Look Ma! I got a medal AND can still stand on two feet!

After the Race: Look Ma! I got a medal AND can still stand on two feet!

About jhartz87

An English major turned Software Engineer, Jenny currently spends most of her time coding and running. And eating. And then blogging about these things for the enjoyment of others.

Posted on January 18, 2013, in Hospital Hill Blog Post, Humor, Lessons, Races, Running, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Crystal Conchola

    I thought your blog was very witty ! I enjoyed reading it and look forward to your next blog :-). Thanks Hill master


  2. Great post!! And nice to meet you 🙂 I will also be blogging for the race! I can’t wait to get to know the other bloggers!


  3. I love the concept of looking on hills as my friend. The big hill I’ve been trying to run up non stop for the past three months (and failing) is now going to be named! 🙂


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