Let’s face it no one truly ENJOYS hill workouts. They are hard work and you will never gain on a downhill what you lose on an uphill. But hills build endurance and increase our confidence as runners and they are something you should consider adding into your routine every few weeks.
When I first started running I avoided hills at all costs. This is a very easy thing to do in Boston as the Charles and Castle Island (where I do most of my runs) are both pancake flat. One of my first days at Bootcamp we did what is known to Beantown as “The Devil’s 5K”. You take the four side hills of Beacon Hill (Joy St, South Russell, Irving, Garden), run up and down them consecutively and do 5 squat thrusts at the the top of each hill. And then you repeat this 3 times…. I remember these cool people running up these hills so normally and I was in awe of them. I started up the hill and made it about halfway up before I had to walk. That day I decided my goal the next time we came around would be to try to ONE run hill without stopping.
This winter I decided that I was really going to focus on becoming more efficient running hills. Each week I would look up what day the wind and weather was the worst and I would spend one day a week on the same hills (with the addition of a 5th hill, Anderson) that I started on years before. My only goal each week was to run one more hill then I had the week before. I would tell myself that if I could run 13 hills last week 1 more hill would be a piece of cake. I usually take one hill and tell myself at the top of the hill I can be finished if I want. 98% of the time I get to the top of the hill, feel like a rockstar on the way down, and start the process over. Keep in mind I am someone who if you tell me to do something my motto will be “so start as soon as you can to get it done”. At the start of ever marathon I tell myself “well you have to finish now so better do it faster so it’s over sooner”. This mentality certainly helps when running hills.
In 2013 I got a last minute bid to Boston and sat down with my trainer wondering if I could really run the course. He gave me one piece of advice to “creep up the hills”. Doing this keeps your heart rate down and allows you to run up a hill for a longer period of time. To this day I still repeat this words when I see a hill in a race or get frustrated on hill day. I also focus on shortening my stride, using my arms, and picking an object up the hill running to it and then focusing on a new object. For me and most runners I talk to hills are 90% mental. They can make you or break you during a race and training on them will give you that leg up to pass people who don’t have the mental game to beat them.
I often hear people try to pick races that are completely flat because they are “easier”. For me there is nothing worse then 26.2 miles of the same exact movements on your legs and core. Your legs get no break and recovery wise I have found that races like Chicago have beat up my body far more than races with some rolling hills.
This morning I headed out to Joy Street to tackle my hill workout. As my workout was 17 hills last week I told myself that I had to get to 17 before I started reasoning with myself on how many I would run. I got to 17 and started up my 18th hill before I thought how cool it would be to finish the set of 5 and make it to 20 (OCD to the fullest). After the 18th I told myself one more hill and I could stop. And at the start of the 20th hill I used my run to each point method. At 19.5 I stopped to walk and for 10 seconds was so disappointed that I couldn’t just finish the 20 before laughing to myself about what choice words I would have had if I was me 4 years ago trying to run 1 hill and seeing someone getting mad on their 19th. And now I have a new goal for next week.
While hills can be intimidating they are essential for training and I urge all of you to go out of your comfort zone and “Creep up” a hill on your next run. And running down it will ALWAYS allow you to feel like you are winning some type of race.
Go run a hill come back and thank me by donating to find a cure! We are currently 16% of our goal and would love to get to 25% by the end of the week!!