Race directors often praise their courses for being flat, and runners try to avoid any races that include big climbs. When you’re going for a fast race time, that’s fine, but in training, you should be sure to include hills in your routine. Here’s why:
1. Hills Make you fast. As marathon champion and Olympic Gold medalist Frank Shorter has said, “Hills are speedwork in disguise.” They build strength and work the fast-twitch fibers in much the same way as do running intervals on the track.
2. Hills improve form. There is no such thing as overstriding when running uphill. Doubt me? Then try it. Running uphill also encourages runners to make better use of their arm swing, which is a feature of proper running.
3. Running hills is low-impact training. Concerned about putting too much stress on your body? Running uphill is hard on your muscles, but easy on your joints. That’s because each step is higher than the last, which minimizes the distance that each foot falls. The result is lower impact stress.
4. Running Hills increases confidence. Most long distance races include at least one hill; some famously so. There’s Heartbreak Hill in Boston, and Hurricane Point at Big Sur, among hundreds of others. The only way to be sure that you’ve got what it takes to conquer them is to practice climbing in training. As the saying goes, race the way you’ve trained, and train the way you’ll race.