Anyone training for a marathon will have come across hill repetitions somewhere in their training program. For me, it is one of my favourite marathon training sessions and one that I know can leave me feeling exhausted but as strong as an ox.
It’s important to remember that a hill session is not necessarily a hill repetition; gentle rolling hill runs or sprinting up hills encountered on a training run all provide running value, but for me the pick of hill sessions is definitely hill reps. My session of choice is 15 repeats of 300m hill sprints with easy jog back down for recovery, preceded and followed by a 10-15min easy jog warm up and cool down.
The benefits of hill repeats include the physical benefits of quicker and longer leg strides, improved leg strength, increased cadence or stride frequency, increased VO2 max and higher anaerobic and lactate thresholds as well as the psychological benefit that comes from knowing hills are no problem.
If your marathon in on a pancake flat course, the strength benefits of hill training and hill reps in particular will still carry through so it is recommended as a part of a structured training program. It is important to remember though that while hillwork is sometimes called speedwork in disguise, there is still a need to incorporate standard speedwork as well as the best way to run fast in a race is to run faster in training.
For me I’m lucky enough to be able to do this in the Melbourne running mecca known as The Tan, which has an iconic hill called Anderson St which just so happens to be a perfect distance from my gym to do my warm-up and cooldown there and back. I find it important to start off so that I feel a slight effort but with plenty in reserve, because I want to be able to hold the same time for each hill repeat on my first as I do on my thirteenth or fourteenth time. After reaching the top I jog comfortably back to the bottom, focusing on form on the downhill but certainly not worrying about pace other than not stopping or walking – always running!
What is your favourite hill session?