Growing up in the Appalachian Mountains running hills was unavoidable. Now that I have moved to the Lowcountry running hills is next to impossible, unless you are willing to run bridge repeats or hit the treadmill. Over the last couple of years I have come to realize I really miss running hills. Yes I know that makes me sound like a lunatic but this past week when I was running in Bermuda it really hit home…(If you are in need of a destination race check out Bermuda Race Weekend…an event I will definitely be returning for)…and here is why.
1) It reminds me of home: Warren, PA was nothing but hills. If you were going to start or end a run at my parent’s house ( as most of mine did) you were either going to finish by climbing a 1.5 mile hill or by coming thru a series of rolling hills. There are very few road courses I have run that have something comparable to the constant elevation changes I grew up with. Which leads into my second reason for loving hills…
2) They get you mentally prepared. Aside from the obvious physical benefits running hills provides huge mental ones that I think are much more important. Running Boston for the first time taught me this. All everyone talks about are the hills and how hard they are so I compared elevation profiles for Boston and the Run for the Red…the only other marathon I had done. What I saw took away any hesitation I had about the hills in Boston. Although Run for the Red didn’t have a single incline as large as Heartbreak in the last 10k the increased number of hills and how dead your legs are after descending over 1100′ had me feeling confident
3) The obvious physical benefits. Running hills just turns you into a beast. Look at these guys and gals running trail and mountain races. They are superhuman. Running hills, both up and down them, will make you stronger. I could explain all the benefits of hill running but Runner’s World and Competitor both have a ton of articles on that. The short and sweat: If you can kick a decent hill workout’s ass you will kick a hilly race’s ass.
Now my competitive side comes out
4) Most runners fear hills, especially uphills, so be one of the few that looks at them as a time to pick off the competition. By keeping a steady pace and attacking the hilly parts of a race you will likely pass some, or a lot, of your competition. When I hit an uphill in a race I’ll shorten my stride, look in front of my feet or even better yet at someone ahead of me and start pushing myself a little harder. On downhills I lengthen my stride, look towards the bottom of the hill (if you can see it), and focus on chasing down that person in head of me while managing not to get out of control and fall down the hill. And yes that has happened. Attack the hill and beat your competition.
Developing a respect and even love for hills can give you that extra advantage you need to win a race. But more importantly they turn you into a stronger athlete both mentally and physically.