Love them or hate them hills are a part of running that you can not avoid if you train and compete very much. If you live and train in a relatively flat area then they become even bigger challenges during events. If you are fortunate enough to live in a mountainous area then everything else may seem flat and pretty easy.
In the northeastern part of Oklahoma where I live we have some decent sized hills so I can run plenty of them if I so choose. I have developed a love hate relationship with them. There are many ways to get to the top and here are some of the things I do to get there.
The first thing to remember about hills is this, you do not have to run them all in order to finish with a good time. In fact in longer events it is often wiser to walk up the hills at a good steady pace than to use up your energy and legs trying to run them all. Later in your events you may even find yourself passing some of those who chose to try and run up all of them. As you run and train more they will become easier and you will find yourself walking fewer of them without even thinking about it.
On long grinding hills, whether I am walking or running them, I try to keep from looking up to the top, instead focusing 5 to 10 feet in front of me or on the scenery that surrounds me. I learned this accidentally when I noticed on some night runs that the hills seemed much easier than during daylight hours. It is purely psychological but it works. If you can’t see the top you quit worrying about it and focus on what is in front of you and before you realize it you are up and over the top.
Slow my pace going up. If not walking a hill it often still makes sense to slow your pace on the ascent and then speed up somewhat on the downhills and flats. This was the strategy I used to first break the 4 hour mark for a marathon on a course that had many more hills than I had ever run.
If it is near the end of an event I sometimes find a target runner. I decide that I am going to catch them and focus on that while climbing the hill. While I may not always catch them and it may feel like my heart is ready to burst it gets me to the top in a relatively quick time and the downhill or flat after the top feels great. I never use this early because it simply takes a huge toll on your energy levels if the hill is long and or steep.
Never ever give up. The hill is there for one reason, for you to conquer it.
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