Conquer the hills! Hill running is easy if you run smart, strong, and steady.
My Cross Country runners dominate at hill running. We run the hills in practice, and clean up on race day. Do you want to know how to attack an uphill and downhill effectively? Look no further.
Great racers practice great too. First, I will list the short version of what you should do in practice and during races. For more in depth information on each step, just keep reading on this page. Remember to do these steps during practice, because this will make it second nature during a race.
Up Hill Running
1. Go up a hill smooth and steady. Don’t charge up it.
2. Only lean into the hill slightly. Don’t hunch over.
3. Crest the top of the hill and pick up the pace.
Down Hill Running
1. Go down a hill quick, but in control. Don’t run on your heals.
2. Keep your chest upright. Don’t lean too far forward.
3. At the bottom of the hill, stay on your toes and use that forward momentum as long as you can.
So, you want the in depth descriptions? Good!
Why don’t you attack the up hill? Keep your effort the same as it was on a flat part of the course. You don’t get much bang for the buck as they say. When you really push yourself up a hill in a race, it burns up way more energy for the amount of distance traveled.
Don’t lean too far into the hill. A big key to running well is to maximize the amount of oxygen you get during a run. When you hunch over, this compresses your lungs. Lean in with your hips and not your shoulders.
Surge at the top of the hill. We call this cresting the hill. Now you should have kept your effort steady going up. At the top, the time is right to push the pace. Almost every other runner will be thinking about recovering from the hill. You should seize this moment and go right past them. You are simply returning to your race pace quicker than other runners. It also provides a huge psychological advantage. Your competitors will be shocked by your toughness.
The down hills are a bit different. You don’t have to worry about saving energy here.
Shorten your stride and go down the hill on your toes. When you run too much on your heals, this puts way too much pressure on your joints. Keep good control of your body by taking shorter strides, but stay on your toes.
Keep control of your body down a hill by keeping your chest upright. If you ever think you are losing control down a hill, lean backwards to help you slow down. Keeping your chest upright also helps with your breathing. Remember, a big key to running successfully is to get that oxygen into your body. Don’t hunch over and compress those lungs.
Once you have almost reached the bottom of the hill, let your legs go! Try and maximize your speed and keep that momentum going as long as you can on the flat ground. You won’t be burning up much energy because you are using the energy of the down hill to go extremely fast. Stay on your toes and blast past your competitors.
I hope these tips help. Hills aren’t difficult to conquer. They may be difficult for the other runners, but not you. Now you know what to do, and why you should do it. Knowledge is power. Run smart and race fast.
– Written by David Tiefenthaler