Running a Hilly Race
I signed up for the City of Oaks Marathon on November 4th. I’ve run it before and swore I would never do it again. It was incredibly hilly, pouring down rain, and freezing cold. I think it took me about 2 months to fully recover. Well anyway, in the name of a new challenge I signed up for it again. After all, the website says it’s a “flatter course.”
I have the fortune of living right along the course so I checked out the map this morning, and planned out my tempo run. I might as well become as familiar as possible with the course since I have the opportunity. I did my two mile warm up and then started my tempo pace, 7:05/mile. Yeah, that was not happening. I couldn’t make myself hit that pace no matter how hard I tried. Why? Because after every small stretch of flat road, there was a long ascending climb. Not to mention it was over 80 degrees and near 100% humidity. I thought to myself, oh my, what have I gotten myself into? But then I came to a realization. I can run these hills every single day if I want. I can master them. They are right out my front door so just embrace them.
Did you know…
Physiologically speaking, hill running…
1) Increases your aerobic capacity that enables you to use less oxygen at increasingly longer distances.
2) Improves your running economy that enables you to use less oxygen to run at a faster pace.
3) Increases your stamina that enables you to run farther at a given pace.
4) Builds strength in your gluteals (buttock), quadriceps (front of thigh), gastrocnemius (upper calf), and soleus (lower calf) muscles.
Biomechanically speaking, hill running…
1) Improves your stride length (from uphill running) and your stride frequency (from downhill running).
2) Increases your ankle flexion that enables you to “pop” off the ground more quickly, so that you can spend less time on the ground and more time in the air.
3) Teaches you how to run relaxed.
This article has three great hill workouts as well as exercises to strengthen your calves and hamstrings. It’s super important to strengthen these muscles because hill running causes them to fatigue quickly. (In my opinion, hills cause the entire body to fatigue a little more quickly, but that’s just me.)
I’m actually very thankful that I live right along the course and can do my long runs on these hills. Not only will it help prepare me physically, but it will also help me mentally. If I know what to expect, I can run a smarter race. Here’s to the hills – may I run them, love them, and master them!
Happy Trails and Happy Running,