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Rachel Hannah’s hill grinder workout

"If I can get through [this] workout, I know I’m getting in shape."

Rachel Hannah
Rachel Hannah
Photo: Jason Ransom.

By Rachel Hannah

I think the 2015 Pan Am Games marathon was probably the most hilly championship marathon ever run: eight times one kilometre up and down a long, steep hill, plus several other long, gradual climbs on a 30 C morning in July.

I’ve always felt that training for cross-country and hitting challenging hills has often helped my road running. One tough workout I like to do when preparing for any race longer than a half-marathon is this grinder:

I do a circuit up and down a big “U” shaped pair of hills. I like the Russell Hill Road-Poplar Plains loop close to where I used to live in midtown Toronto. It features two significant hills of about 400 m each at around a 4 per cent grade. This workout is ideal if you find two connecting hills, so that you can use going down one and the jog in between as a means of active recovery.

I attack it like this

• 6×1,600 m hills by running the “U” loop, almost like you’re in a big halfpipe ramp
• 400 m jog down (make sure that the steepest part down is kept at an easy recovery pace)
• Run it at just under your half-marathon pace effort up for each uphill section
• Then do a 3:00 jog recovery between each “U”
• Pick the steeper hill, and finish with 6x300m of one hill sprint up, easy jog down

If I can get through that workout, I know I’m getting in shape.

Rachel Hannah is one of Canada’s best marathoners, winning bronze at the 2015 Pan Am Games. This story appears in the May & June 2017 issue of Canadian Running magazine.