Ok.. So most people don’t really view hill running that way, but “back in the day” when I ran Cross Country, I used to love hill running. In a race, it was a fantastic time to pass people. I would come up from behind, seeing another runner bent forward, slowing down, gasping and wishing that they were anywhere on the course – but a hill. As I approached, I would stand a little straighter and speed up as I hit the hill. As I would pass them, you could hear comments, gasps of surprise and depression – basically you would mentally beat them by blowing them away on the hill – or even worse, bursting over the top. (Thanks Mr. Hyland for teaching that!) It could be better than passing the person in the last 10 feet of the race!
Most people, especially if left to train on their own, have a tendency to avoid hills as much as they avoid speed work. They are far more work, less fun and wear you out in no time. But these things are the very reasons to DO hill workouts. Something to think about – many races have hills, and if you don’t train on them, how can you run a race on them? Especially if it is a half marathon or full marathon? Not to mention the obvious benefits to strengthening calves and quads! (one good hill workout lets you know you are indeed doing THAT!)
I started thinking about my training plan for the Marine Corps Marathon, and realized that I didn’t know what sort of hills were on the course. I would assume that there has to be some form of incline – but no idea how much. I had planned on doing plenty of hill workouts in my preparation regardless, but figured it was good to know. According to a review I read online, the first 8 miles seem to have the majority of the hills. That certainly doesn’t sound bad at all! I would definitely rather face them in the beginning! (Although the 21st street bridge – which is later in the race – apparently can seem really steep.. And the very end seems to go up… bad timing) So – there is my reason to be sure to run hills!
So, having established I need to have hills in my workout – it raises the question of HOW should I run hills? Afterall, since I have realized that “just running” makes no sense – hence looking into the vibrams and mid foot running styles – why would I want to assume that I would naturally start running hills correctly? I thought about the things that my old cross-country coach taught me – Lean into the hill (not hunch over, just lean in), pump your arms to help encourage your legs to go, stay straight, burst over the top of the hill, leaning forward into the downhill. Definitely remember that leaning into the down hill part, as instinct is to lean backwards and slow yourself down, avoiding any sense of being “out of control.” The problem with that, is each step is putting the brakes on, and causing a serious increase in the impact in your ankles, knees, hips and back. Running down hill becomes a controlled fall, which is much faster than hitting the gas, hitting the brakes, hitting the gas, hitting the brakes – and far more efficient as well!
So this is what he taught, and it makes sense to me. – but is it right?
Well, I checked out marathonguide, about.com, runners world and others. It seems the only part I forgot to mention – was the shortening your steps! (although I now recall his teaching it to us) Seems my cross-country coach WAS as good as I thought he was!