Training on Heartbreak. Photo: Justin Britton / ARunnersEye

My Favorite Hill: The Boston Marathon’s Heartbreak Hill

Running up Heartbreak Hill builds strength and speed at the same time for the elite athletes of the New Balance Track Club.


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Runners are connoisseurs of hills. We’re always on the lookout for the best combination of length, grade, surface and mystique on which to create effective and memorable workouts. We savor each hill’s unique blend of effort and fatigue, and its aftertaste of muscle burn, satisfaction and strength.

PodiumRunner is gathering favorite hills from top coaches and athletes around the country for you to sample when you’re in their neighborhood and to use as models for creating butt-kicking workouts on similar grades in your neck of the woods.

Coach: Mark Coogan, former Olympian, New Balance Elite Coach and Manager

Hill: Heartbreak Hill, Newton, MA
Length: 600m
Elevation Gain: 83 Feet
Average Grade: 5%
Surface: Paved or Grass
The workout: 8 to 10 repeats @ 3–5K pace, jog down recovery
Bonus credit: Run to the hill at tempo pace (20 minutes), then complete 6–8 hill repeats

Coogan’s favorite hill is the last of the Newton Hills on the Boston Marathon course, infamously and affectionately known as Heartbreak. Coogan sends members of the New Balance Track Club up Heartbreak at least once every two weeks during their build-up phases. “We usually start the season running them a little slower and try to keep the under control,” Coogan says. “As the fall season progresses they will do them a little faster. We work on good form and mechanics. I do stress to the team not to race the hills.”

Photo: Justin Britton / ARunnersEye

Coogan likes this hill’s length and grade as it allows them to work on speed and strength at the same time. “This grade is perfect because we really can run as fast as we want,” he says. “If it was much steeper we would not be able to run as fast.”

While Heartbreak is one of Coogan’s favorite hills in the real world, he does have a fantasy ideal. “I would like a longer hill sometimes. I would love to find a dirt hill that takes 3 minutes to get to top but you can get back down in 90 seconds,” he says, adding, “They are hard to find.”

From PodiumRunner

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