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Hilly Race Training Tips and How to Manage Pace

Hilly Race Training Tips and How to Manage Pace
Updated: December 5, 2020
Posted In: Best Of The Web

A hilly race requires a different training strategy and a different plan on race day.

Not just gentle rolling hills, but one’s that have a known name like Boston Heartbreak Hill or tackling your first trail race with a lot of vert.

Once I committed to the insanity merriment of running the Hat Trick {5k, 10K,half marathon in a weekend} at the Runner’s World Heartbreak Hill Festival, I knew it was time to to start making mountains out of molehills.

The best way to train for any course is to mimic the terrain…in this case rolling hills.

How to Train for a Hilly Race

At the time I was living in Florida which meant my access to hills involved running bridges or running parking garages. Eventually those aren’t quite enough to mimic what you want to do…which is when you can get a little fancy.

Use Treadmill Maps

Many at home treadmills for running now let you pull up the specific race course and the treadmill automatically adjusted the incline

  • I pulled up the RW Half course map
  • Utilizing Google Maps within iFit, I plotted the first half of the route for about 8.5 miles
  • Then I created a shorter route for the last portion of the race, roughly 3.5 mile course
  • Bopped over to the treadmill, logged in to iFit and both course were synced up
  • I selected the shorter course for a quick test run and then…I ran.

I get that I’m a running nerd to the core, but seriously this is cool!

Use a Treadmill

Even if your system doesn’t have programs built in, I’ve found that treadmill runs are often one of the best ways for runners to consistently get in enough hills when training for a super tough race.

UNLESS you are hitting the trails and live in Colorado like me. Then I get a hill just for waking up.

How to Best Utilize Hill Training

No fancy schmancy treadmill for you??

Good news I’ve got something for you and it’s free…we call them…wait for it…hills.

For those racing Boston, Heartbreak Hill is merely a blip on the overall race. But it’s a 700 meter blip after mile 20 just as many are facing the dreaded wall.

No matter what course you’re doing, these tips will help you to show up on race day feeling strong and confident.

  • Hills early in training program – this will build quality leg strength and has been shown to help with injury prevention per Matt Fitzgerald
  • Long hills, not fast repeats – Repeats early in training as noted are good for strength, but most Boston courses involve long gradual hills that require extended endurance. Try longer hill repeats or setting the treadmill on an incline for a couple of mile




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