Hill Running - It doesn't have too be a negative!

Hill Running - It doesn't have too be a negative!

As Winchester is a rather hilly course we wanted to give you some hints as to how to turn what is often seen as something not to be enjoyed into a favourite part of your training!

On Sunday 22nd September, over 2,000 runners will take to the streets and enjoy a beautiful and scenic 13.1 mile run through the ancient old city, into the countryside and then back home to the finishing stretch outside the Guildhall - in the shadow of Winchester's iconic King Alfred Statue.

If you haven't signed up yet don't worry there's still time! Join the fun by securing your place now.

To get you ready for race day, we've put together some top tips to help you negotiate some of Winchester’s tricky inclines.

Tackling the hills!

The run is relatively hilly but don't be afraid!

Given the race has a few uphill sections, notably, St James' Lane and Romsey Road in the opening stages of the half marathon (check out the race map and elevation) it’s important to be prepared!

Every runner out there loves to hate hill running, but by putting aside specific hours for elevation training, you can succeed!

If you haven’t already, now is the time to team up with a running buddy or group and find a nice hill – if there is such a thing – to get you started!

The basics

When scaling any hill, ensure your body position and posture is upright, with your chest up and open.

Try to open your airways rather than slumping or hunching, which can make it harder to breathe.

Typically, focus your head and eyes around 30 metres in front of you and drive your arms forward during the incline to provide extra power.

From there, propel your knees high and avoid leaning forward too much – given this will reduce your range of movement.

Ideally, you want to create an imaginary straight line in your mind - starting at your shoulder and running down through your hip joint and key lower leg muscle groups.

For each and every stride, land on the ball of your feet and use that momentum to catapult you – like a spring – into your next step.

You should look to tread lightly, and as a result, you'll probably feel a free-flowing bounce and rhythmic effect. 

The benefits

Luckily, hill running has loads of great advantages to help you improve and gain confidence.

Workouts and frequent elevation mileage are superb ways to build your endurance base, stamina and speed bank in the lead up to race day.

Inclines work and boost muscular strength in your calves, quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes – and also bolster hip flexor robustness – leading to more efficient cadence (stride) and running form (technique).

Hill running can also help us avoid injury, given there is a less excessive impact on our knees, shins, joints and connective tissues, in comparison to flat runs and downhill bursts.

Last and by no means least, we all burn more calories when taking on new heights!

Key workouts

1) Long hill reps

Find a long but steady incline, which will take you between two and four minutes to climb.

Practice running up it for a few repetitions and use the downhill stretch to recover by gently jogging or walking.

It's quite easy to adapt and add extensions to this workout, such as varying your tempo or increasing repetitions. However, like any exercise, it's crucial to progress slowly at first and gradually complete one hill session each week.


2) Short hills

If you feel like you have developed a strong aerobic base with slower and controlled long hill reps, then why not try some quicker, more intensive runs.

Typically, you want to find a hill which you can ascend in around a minute to 90 seconds – and then jog back to your start point.

This is an all-round hill workout, which develops leg durability, power and PB potential.


3) Hill repeats

On top of the two workouts above, the best-known hill exercise is the dreaded "repeats".

They involve a runner typically running between 100 to 200 metres at race pace or greater, and at around 85% of their maximum effort.

While no two hills are identical for distance and incline, this workout is great if you're really focusing on intensity and fast leg turnover.

Don't forget to run downhill with proper form, too!

On paper, running downhill seems like the easy part but it can be a painful process, mainly because it gives us, as runners, the sensation that we're constantly breaking. Gravity, too, is another force naturally pulling us downwards.

Eccentric contractions (muscles that lengthen while contracting) increase the toil and strain on our bodies, which makes running form all the more important.

When running downhill, especially during a race, try to arch your hips forward (not your shoulders) and use your arms for balance by placing them slightly away from your body.

Engage and stabilise your core where possible and look out towards the bottom of the hill, rather than concentrating on your feet positioning. This will improve your co-ordination and prevent you from over-striding.


You don't always have to run outside...

While it's useful to practice hill running outdoors or elements of the Winchester Half Marathon route to replicate race conditions, you could also try incline workouts on a treadmill.

The beauty of a treadmill is that you can control your settings.


Race pacing is important

It can be easy to blow the tank quickly when you're running uphill, but – by pacing yourself - you can ensure that you don’t drain your energy levels and kick on when you reach the flat bit!

Focus on maintaining and sustaining a consistent effort level – especially on race day.

Your pace will naturally slow running uphill but you can make up for it in your descent.

You should always look to approach the base of a hill positively and gauge the effort level you're working at.


Get in touch

If you have any enquiries, feel free to get in touch by sending us an email or calling us on 02380 273 657.