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On my long run on Saturday, there was a guy who seemed to be matching paces with me pretty well. It was driving me nuts. I like to either pass or be passed and be done with it. After a while he broke the silence and we chatted breathlessly about minimalist shoes, racing, and the stupid pride that drives people to set a mark and try to pass people. (Hahaha. I’m guilty. Very, very guilty.) It drove me crazy that I had to slow down to talk to him. It added at least 10 seconds to that mile.
But then we hit the hill. The blessed hill. And even though we were still talking, I clearly had the advantage and he fell behind. Which brings me to today’s training tip(s) regarding hills. Yeah, hills hurt. And no, they really aren’t any fun, but you can make them more fun by turning them into your strength so that while the other guy is huffing and puffing, you are silently rejoicing that you are finally(!) passing your mark.
Here are some things you can do to take the dread out of your neighborhood hill.
- Give it a name. It adds mystique and makes it all the more enjoyable when you conquer it. We call the hill in Prospect Park “Devastation Pass” and every time I want to slow down, I think that I don’t want to be devastated by Devastation Pass. It helps to give it a little bit of magic.
- Imagine that you are getting help. There are a few imagery techniques to try. One is to pretend that there is a wind at your back and that it is pushing you up the hill. You can’t slow down because of that wind. Another is to pick a fixed point close to the top of the hill, like a tree or a lamppost, that is within your line of sight. Imagine that there is a rope coming from the tree or post to your chest and that it is pulling you up. This has the added benefit of helping you with your posture up the hill. Chest out, arms pumping, hips pushing into the hill.
- Race your friends. If you run with friends, turn the hills into races. First one to the top wins! Do it enough and you’ll get stronger — and faster.
- Embrace the challenge. Think of it as the best part of the run. When you hit the hill, make an effort to not slow down — or even try to speed up a little bit. It’ll get you to the top faster and give you confidence to know that if you can’t pass your mark on the straightaways, at least you’ll be able to get him on the hills. You don’t have to dread them; they can be your friends.