Hill training often looks something like this: find a 100m-200m hill, run to the top, jog back down, repeat. While this type of workout does provide training benefits, it doesn’t always translate well into a race situation. Why? Because in a race, you don’t stop running when you reach the top of the hill. If you really want to do some damage on a hilly racecourse, you need to practice running through hills. Better yet — practice surging at the tops of hills to really get ahead of your competition.
Incorporating this into your training is easy. Next time you do a hill workout, look for a hill with a relatively flat section at the top, so you can continue running for 30 seconds to a minute once you crest the hill. The idea here is to actually speed up a bit as you reach the top, and keep surging for another 40 to 50 metres. Alternatively, you can incorporate hill surges into a regular run, or a tempo on a hilly course. In this case, each time you get to a hill, run as you normally would up the hill and throw in a quick surge when you get to the top.
The key to doing this successfully is managing your effort on the uphill. Many runners try to maintain the pace they were running on the flats when they reach an incline, so they gas themselves going up and have nothing left in the tank once they reach the top. When you approach a hill, focus on maintaining form and effort, rather than speed. Yes, your pace will slow down, but it’ll leave you with more energy at the top to throw in a surge and then get right back on pace, which will likely result in a faster time when you cross the finish line.
This strategy is effective because most people ease up at the top of hills to catch their breath and bring their heart rate back down. No one will expect you to actually speed up once the hill is over, which gives you a strong mental advantage over your competition. Doing this will also likely create a gap between you and other runners that will be difficult for them to make up.
So the next time you’re doing a hill workout or running on a hilly route, practice speeding up at the top of hills. This one small adjustment will make you a stronger runner and give you an advantage over your competition.