Hill trainingMatt Griffiths
Tuesday, 28 August, 2012
Hills! We have always had them and they are handy for moving up in the world. They came before steps, escalators and elevators. People have used them for all kinds of things. They have been used as places to survey the surrounding landscape and as defensive positions. Armies have fought over them. The Kenyans, some of the best long distance runners in the world, came up with another use for them. Hills, they decided, were good to run up and down – continuously! Some of my training is called ‘continuous hills,’ also known as ‘Kenyan hills.’ Even I thought, at first, that I was looking for a run that just kept going up. As my training built up to 30 minutes of ‘continuous’ hills I was concerned that I might have to go to the Alps to find larger hills! (I kept quiet about this thought until one of the Ultra girls got clarification about what ‘continuous’ actually meant!) The training is more specifically about running up, AND down hills, continuously – changing direction every minute or so. A typical session is an hour run that contains 3 lots of 10 minute hills. The whole session should be run at the same effort – threshold pace. There is no coasting downhill to recover! Specific hill training was new to me. I hadn’t included hills in my marathon training before. I found a lovely (?) hill in Richmond Park and after 20 minutes of warm up running I started my first 10 minute session. It was hard, no doubt about it. Some of the dog walkers looked concerned as I panted and puffed my way up and down. I was watched by three curious red deer and I’m sure even they looked worried, as I was gasping so much. When I finished they seemed relieved as they returned to their grazing. Since then I have done several hill sessions. My challenge was finding hills in some of the more exotic places I travel to. Florida, for instance, is not renowned for its Alpine scenery! I actually found a long hump back bridge that joined the Florida mainland to Biscayne key. Great for hill sessions and made harder by the crushing heat and humidity. I soon learned to run there before dawn and time my last few minutes to enjoy a spectacular sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean. The city of Sau Paulo, in Brazil, is purpose built for Ultra Training. Every second street is a steep hill. It is better to run early because the streets rapidly fill up with commuters and shoppers and I haven’t learnt how to say excuse me in Portugese yet! After several weeks of hills I really notice the difference – particularly in the latter stages of my long runs. My legs no longer feel they are in mud and I can maintain a constant pace up inclines and hills. Hill training has produced one of the biggest benefits for me. I would highly recommend it. Nick’s inclusion of ‘Kenyan Hills’ was spot on. As I’m now fitter - I’ve also noticed that the red deer in Richmond Park seem less concerned with that strange human that runs up and down their hill.