Attack the hills, always attack the hills.
Hills can be amongst the most intimidating part of a race. Due to the basic concept of gravity, going up a hill tends to be an awful lot harder than going down it and while we might all like to run races that are entirely on the flat, more times than enough we will meet something in the way of an incline.
What sets some hills out from others is their position. If you come across a climb in the first half of a race it can often barely make a memory. However, if the slope is towards the end when you are almost at the edge of your energy then there is a good chance either you or your legs will remember it for a long time afterwards.
Four that particularly stand-out for me are:
- Dublin’s Heartbreak Hill near the 20-mile mark where you head up Roebuck Road just as the pain begins to really kick in.
- Connemara’s half-marathon where the Hell of the West, a mile and half spiralling climb, waits for you at mile 11
- The ever popular Raheny 5 mile where you blow the Christmas cobwebs off by holding onto the ankles of someone in front of you for the first 4 miles only to be met sharp climb up from the sea-front, a mile to go.
- And my own club’s local Braveheart 5k that have what I affectionately call the Three Sisters, a collection of climbs that surprise the visiting runner as soon as they pass under the bridge and towards the final kilometre.
To meet the challenge of running hills I suggest two approaches, one physical, one mental.
Physically: Incorporate an occasional hill session into your training schedule once every couple of weeks. To do this, find a nice long incline and then do a set of maybe 8 x 2 minutes with a jog back down to the start for a recovery. Aside from getting the body ready for slopes, running uphill is generally injury-risk free for the body.
Mentally: Love the hills and do this by attacking them. Always attack the hills. And if you do this enough times, especially on those slow runs where you just momentarily raise the pace until you hit the summit you can soon get your body into belief that hills are always welcome because they allow you to quicken up. It sounds counter-intuitive but for me it works. I love hills.
Except maybe Heartbreak Hill. But we’ll try again this year.
11 k slow, 55 minutes.