Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Do Hills Make You Faster?

As my running has gone from shorter to longer distances I have paid less attention to speed, focusing instead on time on my feet. I even stopped running hills for a while to simulate walking them during a race. Now that I have completed a number of ultras, I have started thinking about running them faster.

To be faster I thought, "be stronger on the hills". So during the past few months, I began incorporating hill work into my runs again. This included hill repeats once a week and no more walking....well almost none. For the most part I decided to run hills during all workouts and run them hard. I also began increasing my general pace, no longer settling for slower long runs. Don't get me wrong they are still slow but about 5-10% faster on average. I attribute most of this to running rather than walking the hills.

Last week I went to the track with a friend of mine. It was the first time I had been to a track in over 5 months.

1.5 mile warm up

6 x 1/2 mile repeats with 1/4 mile easy between each

1 mile cool down

What a surprise! My 1/2 mile splits averaged 10 seconds faster than 5 months ago. I think that is substantial, going from a 6:45 to a 6:25 pace for this particular workout. So this begs the question "Do Hills Make You Faster?". I did not run a single speed work out and have been "running" hills almost exclusively off road for months.

I am going to keep running the hills during training as it seems to be working. Not only for speed work, but on long runs too.

What do you do to build strength and speed? Please share your secrets.



  1. Hills are essential. Avoid them at your own peril....because you can't avoid them in mountain/trial runs. Great post...not something 10kers or marathoners would connect with. Ultra runners rule!

  2. I totally agree! Especially as we age the uphill speedwork is way less stessfull on our aging/ reduced elastic tendons than flat out sprints. Plus they work our glutes more which could help avoid injury (ie,weak g.med often culprit for hip/knee prob). I have also heard bikeriding helps with rapid leg-turnover.

  3. Thanks Will and Heather. Another friend of mine G-man said running down hills is another way to improve leg turnover.

  4. Boy, have I got my work cut out for me...that's ok, I'll do the work...


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