Heartbreak Hill

We ran three miles each day, and encountered a substantial hill on our route . . . well, okay, it wasn’t much. So, in a kind-of mocking irony, we decided to nickname that hill “Heartbreak Hill.”

Welcome to Part 25 of a weekly series on the formation journey of Josh, a first-year novice at the Marian House of Studies in Washington, D.C. 

Start at the beginning here.

My fellow novice Michael and I were jogging along the Metropolitan Bike Trail by the Catholic University of America campus in Washington DC. It was a beautiful day with clear skies and mild weather. We were having a great time.

Both of us had some background with running. We’d run half-marathon distances in the past, but it had been quite a while for both of us. We had not gone jogging together for the first half of novitiate.

Substantial climb?
On Monday and Tuesday, we ran three miles each day, and we encountered a substantial hill on our route. The route climbed about 70 feet over 700 feet of distance. 70 feet of elevation doesn’t sound like much, … well, okay, it wasn’t much. So, in a kind-of mocking irony, we decided to nickname that hill “Heartbreak Hill.” 

But on Wednesday, we were planning what we thought would be a shorter, easier route, with a tiny little hill.

As we drew nearer to the hill, Michael decided to prepare me. He had looked at the route on a map and it seemed like the hill was relatively insignificant. So, Michael decided to prepare me for the climb: “This trail should be a lot easier than the last one, because it’s shorter. It does have a hill, but it’s a much easier hill than the one we went on yesterday. It’s a little small hill that we’re going to have to do. It’ll be nothing compared to yesterday.”

The whole point was to have a lighter run, after all.

“Ah, so we have a little hipety-hop on our route,” I answered wisely. 

He chuckled, so the name stuck. Tuesday’s hill was Heartbreak Hill, but this hill would be named “Hipety-Hop.”

The previous day, as we approached Heartbreak Hill, Michael had warned me that I might want to stop talking with him and conserve my air, but today we didn’t even worry about that. 

We started up “Hipety-Hop Hill,” still bashing the itty-bitty little mound of earth. 

“Hipety hop, hipety hop!” I chortled as we started going upward.

On the way up, we even passed a sign for a business called “Heights”, and I joked, “At least the hill is getting some affirmation!”

But very soon, the hill itself cut off our disparaging comments. 

Michael’s map, with all its indications of the ease of this route, left something to be desired for accuracy. 

The Unexpected
The incline on “Hipety-Hop” turned out to be double that of “Heartbreak Hill.” Whereas Heartbreak Hill rose 70 feet in elevation, Hipety-Hop was 150 feet of elevation. 

Not yet aware of what we were facing, Michael and I were relentlessly brutal in our remarks about tiny little Hipety-Hop. Were we — two athletic men — going to be conquered by an itsy-bitsy little hill?

Of course not!

So, we kept running. 

Then soon we stopped talking.

And soon after that, we stopped running. 

We had reached an intersection and happily paused for a few seconds to catch our breath before we continued on toward the summit. Michael hadn’t expected us to get into our “peak zone” heart rate during this little 1.7 mile run, but we had met our match. When we finally started the long trip downhill after relentlessly running all the way up Hipety-Hop’s 150 feet of elevation, I finally caught my breath. 

I exclaimed, “That was not a Hipety-Hop!”

Next entry: "The Relics Project."
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