Hill running

Confession: I don’t believe that you “love hills.”

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When I started running in 2013, I hills weren’t my friend. I felt like I was running up the graph that I would later see on Strava. Getting on that hill meant running a slower pace which was just as debilitating mentally as it was physically. While you can’t always tell when you’re going to hit your wall, or have trouble with your left calf, you can see a hill coming from far away, taunting you as it rises into the distance. You know that your pace is about to slow down while your heartbeat rises.

As the years have passed, I’ve met many runners who are proud to say how much they love hills. “I eat hills for breakfast,” is something I’ve read many times on various social media platforms. How do these people like hills?! I just can’t drink this Kool-Aid? After awhile, the real question became: could I learn to love hills?

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First, I tackled the mental. Head down, one foot in front of the other, smaller steps, even breath, don’t think how far it is to the top. That helped a bit, but I would still shudder seeing a hill looming in the distance during my workouts. I tried to have strategic songs to play as I ran up hills – no dice. I visualized how amazing cresting the hill would feel– the lightness in my body as I started the downhill… nope, I still didn’t like hills.

Next, I tried to improve my strength: leg days at the gym, hill repeats, and running more trails. Yet each Friday morning when I ran my usual route and I hit the one big hill, I still hated it, even if I was running it faster.

After my failed attempts, I spoke with a runner friend who “loves hills.” She said she likes to show her toughness on the hills. “I pick people off as I run up them – people often underestimate me and it feels great to pass them on a hill and show off my strength.” I’m a competitive person by nature, so I happily tried this in my next race. No luck.

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When I tell people I don’t like hills, they’re often confused. “Don’t you run trails? Isn’t that just all hills?” Well yes – yes it is. Trails are different, somehow. When you’re running on a trail, you’re out adventuring in the woods. The hills are often steep but short and usually you can’t see very far along the trail, so they’re not upon you until you’re running them.

So this past month, I made my decision: I’m no longer interested in trying to like hills. I don’t like running hills. They are mentally hard, they test my cardio, and they put a burn in my legs like nothing else. So how do I cope? I’ve gotten really, really good at running downhill. You may pass me on the way up, but I promise I will zip past you on the way down.


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