Boston Obsession: The Newton Hills (including Heartbreak Hill) vs. Portland’s Terwilliger Hill

There’s a good chance that every post for the next month will be about the Boston Marathon. I can feel a full-on obsession coming on.

Stretching from miles 15.8 to 20.6 are the Boston Marathon’s Newton Hills, a series of four climbs over five miles, the last one (but not the worst one) being the famous “Heartbreak Hill”.

People who run in Portland, Oregon are usually familiar with the climb up Terwilliger Road; I’ve written about it many times before.  The climb up Terwilliger is only two or three miles, but if you add a climb through downtown on Broadway at the start (just like last week’s Shamrock Run 15K route) it stretches to five.  I was curious how those five miles compare to the Newton Hills. (Coincidentally, both start at almost exactly the same elevation.)

As you can see, Terwilliger dwarfs the Newton hills. I wasn’t surprised by this — nobody claims there are giant mountains in Massachusetts. That doesn’t mean they won’t be agony:

  1. Did I mention they come between miles 15.8 and 20.6 of a marathon? At that point, sometimes just climbing up a curb feels like too much work.
  2. Forget about the uphills. Nobody minds the uphills. It’s the downhills that turn everybody’s legs into mincemeat. The first four miles of the marathon are downhill. The Newton Hills themselves are immediately preceded by six-tenths of a mile of steep downhill. There are significant downhills between hills one and two, and two and three. Then, after Heartbreak, three more miles of  big downhills. I’ve heard it over and over: if you’re going to run Boston, train for the downhill pounding.
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4 Responses to Boston Obsession: The Newton Hills (including Heartbreak Hill) vs. Portland’s Terwilliger Hill

  1. Les says:

    Thanks for the run/walk calculator. I’ll put it to use at the LA marathon this weekend. I did the boston marathon back in 1998. From the looks of your blog, you’ll have no problem with heartbreak. The key for me was being conservative in the beginning and sticking to your pace. Don’t get too caught up in the experience and do fine.

  2. Tracy says:

    This is SO helpful. Thank you. I’m running Boston on the 18th and I’ve been intimidated by the hills. This is a big confidence booster, knowing that I can blow up Terwilliger.

  3. Scott says:

    Yeah, it was a bit of a relief for me too. Good luck in Boston!

  4. […] passed it, but at the same time, they were all starting to blur together. It wasn’t until the Newton Hills, miles 17-21, that I really came to and knew exactly where I was on the course. The first hill in […]

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