U.P.’s Heartbreak Hill

U.P.'s "Heartbreak Hill"

If you’re a serious, regular runner at the University of the Philippines (UP) campus grounds, chances are you’ve run across this mini hill located along Juan Luna Street. Runners have fondly referred this incline as “Heartbreak Hill”, a slight reference to its famous, more daunting namesake in Boston, that’s part of the Boston Marathon route. 

While Boston’s Heartbreak Hill measures about 600 meters rising up to 88 feet, UP’s version measures a measly 100 meters but with a steeper grade that reaches up to 20 feet. It was my first introduction to hill running when i was just getting started during the early 80s and oh, how i hated it! 

The steep incline, even though short was a bane to us newbies then as we tend to struggle at half way and reduced to walking and catching our breaths when we reached the top. Up to now, i sometimes dread the prospect of having to run up this hill several times in a loop as it can zap the remaining energy left for the rest of your run. Well, familiarity breeds boredom too. 

On good days however, it’s a welcome respite for the majority of runners who cringe at the thought of running the loop of the dreary academic oval and would like variety of terrain incorporated into their running. 

Runners doing hill repetitions

If you ask several experts/coaches on how to run an uphill efficiently, chances are, you’re going to get different answers and perspective from each. That said, i’ve tried to incorporate techniques that had helped me tackle hills like those at Kalayaan Flyover, Bayani Road, McKinley Hills and some mountain trails i’ve encountered. Proper form is key and here are some tips that help me tackle the ascent:

— Leaning a bit forward to gravitate you up and get some momentum.

— Keeping the head up and the eyes fixed forward directly ahead. This is difficult for me to maintain as i tend to put my head down and just grit it out, specially when i’m tired.

— Taking short strides and using the forefoot more to lift my feet forward.

— Relaxing my body during the initial stages of the climb and when i reach about two-thirds up, i

— Use my upperbody more than my legs by pumping my arms vigorously (back and forth) to bring me upwards to the top.

— If you can’t see the top of the hill because it’s so steep, just walk it! (tip i got from Lit Onrubia)

At the top, i try to keep my momentum by moving slowly and jogging a few meters after, then resume my normal racing pace. On training runs, i definitely stop and walk when i reach the top! (It’s just the age factor here):-)

Of course, each could be adjusted accoring to the distance and elevation of the hill. Mostly when i start the initial steps up, i don’t strategize nor be conscious about how high and far i have to conquer it, i just rely on the proper form above and adjust accordingly.

Hill running develops strength, power and endurance that’s why it’s always assimilated as a key component in every runners’ training program. But the faster you run it, the sooner you get it done with.

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16 responses to “U.P.’s Heartbreak Hill

    • Alfred, i’m sure runners will be just glad to give directions to HB. There’s a street beside the Bahay Ng Alumni Bldg which will lead you there. Just go straight.:-)

  1. miss ko na ang area na to. this is my favorite part of my UP running route. already tried doing the reverse (downhill) but it’s not as fulfilling as the climb.

    another tip i got for hill running is to visualize a target about 50-100m beyond the crest.

    • You’re right Ronin. There are many techniques which you can do to get past over these hills and your tip is one of them.

    • Hi Mariel! It’s the quick repeats that’s beneficial and yes, reaching to the top without stopping makes you want to go 1 more round!:-)

  2. RunningAtom, in the pictures above, the street perpendicular to heartbreak hill (is that a guard standing on the corner?) will lead you to the infirmary.

  3. nice post sir rene…december 24 of last year was the first that I have tried this…I hope i can back again…heheh…see you on the road

  4. I’ve read about this hill in several blogs but I’ve never really pictured it. It’s great to finally get an inside look on this hill through your post. Thanks Rene!

    • Hi Roelle! You should try going over it next time you run the UP campus. It’s a nice, short and crisp hill.:-)

  5. It is my favorite spot at the UP ckt ground .. especially running in the morning … calm and serene but will burn your hams and quads ;->

  6. i learned about this hill when i join runnex clinic courtesy of sir RENE =) thnx sir ! when long run with sir Jojo Macalintal. (takot me maiwan ng group baka mawala ako hehehe malayo na sa acad oval hehehe)

    d lang pala ikot sa acad oval ang UP … madami pang ibang street napwde takbuhan =) nice view also because of the trees

    nice post Sir Rene !

  7. Hi Sir Rene, this hill has been part of the UPM’s (UP Mountaineers) diagnostic runs during the 80’s – present as part of the 10k and 15k route. We usually run here when it get really busy and boring running the academic oval.

    Ok tumakbo dyan but it’s a bit dark sine there are only a few street lights present. Applicants dread this route hehe…members would usually wait on top of this hill handing out water (or a shot of gin) depending on your preference.

    Incidentally there’s another “hill” inside La Vista named aptly named “Cardiac Arrest”. It’s part of a 12K route from UP that will lead you to Ateneo HS (over the bakod to La Vista). End point will be Loyola Grand Villas.

    We used to run as fast as we can down the zig zag road and back up again (Why, I don’t know for sure). Dito nag umpisa masira yung tuhod ko hehe.

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