A Double Long Run Session This Weekend That Made Me Realise I Love Hill Running.
Well it’s been an amazing weekend of running for me.
Yesterday I managed a 16 mile run where I went up and ran along the brow of Knockagh Hill. Today, I’m just back from a very hilly 18 miler. That means that I’ve ran 42.5 miles over 3 runs this week.
Both of my weekend runs were hilly efforts and each of these runs has proved to me how much I love running on the hills. I thought I’d dedicate this post to the topic of hill running and how I’ve managed to fall in love with it over the past year!
How To Enjoy Hill Running.
- Focus on your breathing not your pace - It’s very important to stay in control when you’re running on hills. If you go out too fast then you might become phased and back down. Keep it slow and steady and beat the hill in any way you can. Once you’ve beaten it, you can come back at a later date and run faster.
- Be patient and start small - If you’re terrified of hills then do a few smaller ones to begin with. I started out by aiming for around 80m of elevation gain on each run. This then became 100m, 120m and then 140m.
- Remember the long term goal is to make running easier - My stomach used to drop every time I seen a hill in a race. Now I run lots of hills in training so that I no longer have anything to fear on race day. Unless I’m running in the Scottish Highlands. Then I’m still really, really screwed.
- Keep your eye on the prize - For every second you spend running uphill you will get to reap the joy later of running down the hill again. It can be easy to forget this when you’re tackling a miserable uphill section.
- Start your workouts running uphill so that you can finish on a down hill stretch - If you’re wanting to run longer distances, it can really help to get the hills out of the way at the start and to stay at a higher elevation. This way you can end your runs going downhill. This is perfect if you’re really struggling at the end of longer runs (as I was today!). It’s brilliant just coasting home.
- Relax into the hill - You shouldn’t be working against the hill, but working with it so that you can negotiate it much more easily. When I started hill running I was so tense that it seemed like I was trying to kick my way through the hill. I’d resent the hill for being there and would chant inwardly ‘move you stupid piece of fucking rock’. This is why the hills got the better of me for so long.
- Try not to panic on really steep sections - When I panic I tend to speed up and lose control of my pacing. If this happens on a hill then my run is effectively screwed. If in doubt, slow down and catch your breath. If the hill is too much for you to handle today, try to get a little bit up it and then come back next week and go even further. You don’t have to do it all in one go, any progress is good!
- Go fucking mental on the downhill stretches now and again - There’s nothing wrong with going all out on a downhill section now and again. It makes speed work a lot more entertaining and fun. If you enjoy yourself on the hills then you’ll want to come back.
- Time the downhill sections with refuelling - Today I realised that I’m much more likely to drink water or take gels on downhill sections when I can breathe more easily. It can be helpful to take this into consideration if you’re running an undulating race in the near future.
- Remember, hill running is great strength training for your legs - This means it’s perfect for increasing your stamina and your pacing. Since I started hill training my easy pace has went from 10:30 min/mile to 9:20 min/mile over roughly 10 months. Hills in general have become much easier over time too which has made me wanna run them even more.