Roaring Runners On

Up up and away!


You’re having the race of your life and feeling strong,
even though you’re running just inside your own red line. You’re on for a PB,
but then the inevitable happens: You turn the corner and there she is, waiting to
devour you. Yes, I’m talking about that dreaded hill that usually comes along
at the worst possible moment in the race and finishes you off. The funny thing is
that most of us can run hills without any problems during a training run, but
when we’re pushing our limits in a race, the increased pace together with
increased gradient takes us to the ‘wall’ very quickly. But the answer to this
problem is really simple: Incorporate more hill training into your training programme.



Now that’s all good and well until you head out the
door for your first hill session, only to realise that you haven’t got a clue
what to do. How often must you do hills, and how steep should they be? What
distance should you cover up the hill, and how many repeats should you do?
Suddenly it’s not that simple. To help you get to grips with all this climbing,
here are the different types of hill sessions that all have their time and

Short steep hills of up to 100m in
length or 15 to 30 seconds in duration are useful for creating leg strength and
power. The focus on these repeats is power. As with all hill sessions, your
focus should be on a strong arm pump, strong leg driving with a hill knee lift
and upright posture, looking forward – not down at your feet! (To achieve this,
imagine there is a rope attached around your waist and someone is pulling you
up the hill). These sessions are excellent in the last few weeks leading up to
a 10km race.

Medium length, medium steepness hill are between 100m and 300m, or
between 30 and 90 seconds. Because these hills are not as steep as the short
hills, they allow you to run at or near race pace, and are a great way to work
speed and strength into a single workout. Include these hills in your peak
training weeks.

Long shallow hills range from 300m to
600m and sometimes up to 1km in length, or a duration of 90 seconds to 3
minutes. The focus here is to build strength, so include these hills early on
in the season as a stepping stone to hardcore speedwork on the track or in interval

Downhill repeats are generally done
on a hill between 300m and 600m in length with an incline of 10 to 15 degrees.
Downhill sessions, or eccentric training, has been shown to reduce the onset of
muscle soreness experienced after a hard workout or event. The benefits of this
type of session last for up to six weeks, but introduce these sessions with caution,
as you must have a strong base before attempting them. Including downhill
repeats every six weeks in the peak weeks before big races, especially Comrades,
will help in reducing muscles soreness in the days that follow the race.



Hill sessions are not the only session that will help
you improve your running, so mix your training up with other types of training,
including speedwork, tempo running, intervals, and long slow distance, plus
cross-training such as swimming and cycling. When you do
your hill sessions, remember the following:

Doing 8 to 10 repeats
with a slow jog or walk back for recovery is more than enough per session.

Form is more
important than speed, so focus on your form.

As with anything,
introduce hill work gradually and slowly.

Do not attempt hill
sessions if you have problems with your calves or Achilles.

Do not attempt
downhill sessions if you have problems with your knees.

And remember that the
hills are your friends!


For more info on hill training and road running tips,
visit Ray’s site at