alsoran runners Up hill running

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I can remember when I first started running, I tried to avoid hills at all costs.  Why, because they were hard to run and it was tiring.  It was doing nothing for my self confidence having to break into a walk to get to the top.  The thing is, this was the message I was sending myself and so it was too hard and too tiring!

Then one day by mistake (or chance) I pitched up to a club run.  These guys were training for the Comrades marathon and this was supposed to be an “easy” Tuesday run.  Now you need to know that there really are no flat runs in Fish Hoek.  For this particular evening the guys had decided on running what we call "mountain side".  This meant going up each and every road on the Fish Hoek mountainside!  Well I huffed and I puffed all the way.  Thankfully the guys were kind enough to wait for me, while one or two others came back to fetch me.  I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t be back!

At the end of the run, Fish Hoek A.C. president, DJ Price cornered me and asked me to “just come back” next week.  He said that was all I needed to do.  If I ran with them the following week, it would be a little easier, and if I kept coming back it would get a lot easier.

A week later I was back, my promise to myself broken, and it was the start of my new relationship with hills!  In that week I had a mindset change.  I decided, if there was a hill, I would run it regardless.  I started choosing routes that were more and more challenging.  DJ was right, it did get easier!

I have fine tuned my hill running since.  These are the 4 points I follow:

Mindset:  
When I approach a hill, I tell myself “here’s a hill, lets get to the top of it”.  I don’t specify how, only that I will conquer it.  When I reach the top, I always ‘pat’ my leg and say “well done”.

Strategy:
I incorporate a run-walk strategy to uphill running.  I run to the count of 100, followed by a walk to the count of 50.  Why, well 100 is very manageable and not too challenging so it is relatively easy to run to this count.  Knowing I have a recovery walk to the count of 50 is like a reward for my effort.  You’ll be amazed how quickly you will get to the top.  See my page on “skills to acquire” for more on the run-walk strategy.

Technique:
My running technique for uphill running is simple.  I take smaller steps when I run and ‘walk with purpose’ when walking.  I try to maintain my core stability so watch my posture.  No slouching!  I have also learnt not to fight the hills but to tackle them graciously.

The finish:
By this I mean how I finish the hill.  Whether I have incorporated the run-walk strategy into a hill run or not, I always make sure I run over the crest.  This gives me a mental ‘one-up’ on the hill.  A nice way to finish!

For me, hill training is all about running up hills (stating the obvious I know!) Other runners prefer to do hill repeats and that is also a good way to train.  Basically, if you want to improve your running, don’t shy away from hills.  It’s as simple as that!

Key words: uphill running, Comrades Marathon, mindset, hill, run-walk strategy
Internal links: skills to acquire, core stability
External links: Official Comrades Marathon website, Fish Hoek Athletic Club



Copyright Nikki Campbell 2008
alsoran@webafrica.org.za