How to Run up Hills.

We have all been there- you go for a run with some friends, or run a race along an unfamiliar route, and suddenly, as you turn a corner, you are facing the meanest hill around. Just how are you meant to get up that thing?

Anyone who has run the Dischem 21 will know that the race starts gently, with a few tiny hills. At the 11 km mark or so, it kicks up into a series of hills that never seem to come to an end.

If you have run the 32k Tough One, you will probably have thought of suing the race organisers at some stage of the race. The first rule of the Tough One course design – Avoid all flat roads. Runners must either be hurtling downhill, or painfully climbing up an impossibly steep hill.

Then, of course, there is the Comrades Marathon. Just when you thought Gauteng had hills, you get to Kwa Zulu Natal, and you realise that we just have insignificant bumps here in Jozi. hill running

Here are a few tips that will get you to the summit, so that you can enjoy the coast down the other side.

  1. Look ahead from between 25 – 30 meters.
    This lesson was drilled into me a few years ago during the Dischem 21. I was in a group of runners all painfully climbing one of the hills up to Primrose. A runner suddenly called out, ‘Runners, don’t look to the top of the hill, it will break your spirit- just look ahead and keep going”. He had it right. Don’t look too far forward, just a bit ahead, and keep moving. You will hopefully not suffer from a broken spirit.
  2. Reward yourself with a hearty, albeit silent, “Well done” every 50 meters or so.
    As you run up the hill, spot a tree or a lamppost. Make a deal with yourself that you just need to get to that one. Once there, find another tree and make another deal with yourself. I remember running towards a tree, and pretending that it had a massive gravitational field that was drawing me to it. Although, while typing this I now, wonder if I wasn’t a bit delirious at that point.
  3. Shorten your stride.
    In the same way that you gear a car down on a hill, you need to do the same thing on a run. Take shorter and more frequent strides. Small strides are less tiring than big ones.
  4. Lean slightly into the hill, but keep your body straight.
    A bent back and stooped shoulders will tire your lower back and shoulder muscles as well as inhibit the flow of blood around your body. Bending your core into the hill will also restrict your ability to breath. Trust me, at this point you need all the oxygen that you can get
  5. Keep positive.
    Avoid the mental chatter that goes something like this, “I hate hills, I suck at them, this is just too hard”. Replace it with a bit of positive stuff, “I was built for hills, thihills do thems is easier than I thought,…”
  6. Walk if you need to.
    It is not a crime to walk. However try to limit how much walking you do. Make a deal with yourself, I will walk from that lamp till the next one and then start running again. You can also do this on a time basis, run one minute, walk one…
  7. Train on hills.
    As a runner you need to throw at least one hilly run in per week. It will both strengthen
    you and give you a chance to practice some of the points that I have written about.

Hope this helps.



Mike Roscoe

About sbrsport

SBR Sport specialises in Swimming, Biking and Running. On the medical side we are able to do intensive bike setups, leg assessments and soft tissue release. - and/or facebook -
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