The Thursday Runs: Hills

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As shown in my marathon training plan there are numerous types of runs used to prepare for a race. In this series I’m breaking down the types of runs, what they mean and their purpose, and also talking about other important such running things.

Hill training. Owchie.

Whenever I run hills I torn between feeling like a total badass and wanting to crawl into a corner and die. According to the Running Room schedule, hills are done the day after tempo runs. Yup, two hard days back to back, by Thursday my legs are jelly! From John Stanton and the Running Room (Toronto Waterfront Training Program):

Hill training combines the benefits of both interval and speed training. It develops strength and increases max VO2. Hills can be run over a variety of distances and grades and can be combined with longer runs.

  • Hills can be run as repeats or as hilly runs

  • Downhill running can be used to help develop leg speed and to train for specific races containing lots of hills

  • Great care must be taken when designing downhill workouts, as they are significant sources of injury

  • 80% MHR

The hill I run is roughly 800m in length. Per the Running Room program they recommend a hill of at least 600m in length, so I’ll keep with the one I’m running.

Some key tips I follow when running hills are as follows:

  • Keep an erect posture (TWSS) and your eyes in front of you; don’t look at the top of the hill
  • Don’t stop when you get to the top, continue jogging down at a similar pace to running up
  • MAKE SURE YOU WARM UP BEFORE STARTING. Sorry for the caps, but this is super important. It’s nearly 2km from my house to the hill and I run that slowly to warm my body up for the hill intensity
  • REST AT THE BOTTOM OF THE HILL. Yes, hills can suck, but because your heart rate is at 80% of max, it can easily climb even higher is appropriate rest isn’t taken. I take a minimum of 1 minute and will check my heart rate and won’t start again until its in the 120 bpm range.
  • When running downhill take care not to ‘slap’ your feet . A hint of feet ‘thwacking’ is sore shins. Your mid-foot (not your heel!) should strike the ground; let gravity carry you down the hill and increase your turnover as you go down.

I see many (many!) people running hills incorrectly. Mainly, not taking the appropriate rest at the bottom of the hill. Hills are a type of interval training and can significantly increase running speed – if done correctly!

A trip from my mom for hill training is to visualize pushing the hill down with your feet instead of running up the hill. Give it a shot next time you run hills and let me know if it works! πŸ™‚

Similar to my tempo run, here’s what my latest hill workout looked like. I’m a bit behind in training, so instead of running 8 hills per the schedule, I ran six and am increasing to eight and then 10 before starting my speedwork in September.

hills03 hills02My splits are a bit deceiving here, as there isn’t a way for me to separate my walk breaks from the hills. On my Garmin I’d just restart my lap as I started a new hill, but short of pausing RunKeeper, I’m not able to differentiate between running and resting.

Wondering what pace you should be keeping for hills? Here ya go!

(My lovely American friends, I’ll be adding mile splits for you going forward as well. Hooray!)

Half Marathon

  1:45 2:00 2:15 2:30 To complete
Tempo/Hills (min/km) 5:00 6:15 6:36 7:17 8:37
Tempo/Hills (min/mile) 8:00 10:00 10:30 11:13 13:52


  3:45 4:00 4:15 4:30 4:45 5:00
Tempo/Hills (min/km) 5:24 5:44 6:05 6:26 6:47 7:07
Tempo/Hills (min/mile) 8:38 9:10 9:45 10:18 10:51 11:24



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11 thoughts on “The Thursday Runs: Hills

  1. I love your blog!!

    I read your average pace, and just about died with envy. Even in my best shape when I was training for my marathons and running a shit ton, my fastest pace was never that fast. I know, I know – run my own race and all that, plus you are probably 15 years younger than I am…but DANG.

  2. Yay for min/mile!!

    PS, I was totally going to write a post (eventually) that converted in both distance and temperature. πŸ˜€ JUST FOR YOU.

    • Haha. Awesome.
      When I’m not feeling lazy, I’ll convert temps using my app on my phone. When I am, I guess πŸ™‚

      My calculator and I had a hot date converting to miles for the post – I’m hoping they’re correct, or at least, correct-ish πŸ™‚

  3. Pingback: The Thursday Runs: Long Slow Distance | Cowgirl Runs

  4. Pingback: The Thursday Runs: Steady | Cowgirl Runs

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  6. Pingback: The Thursday Runs: Speedwork | Cowgirl Runs

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