The top of a hill is a beautiful thing


Now in the final half of marathon training in preparation for the 2016 Ottawa Marathon, I have come to realize there are not many long run routes in Saint John that do not involve hills.

This past weekend’s 23.2-kilometre long run was my longest ever run, ever. Even though it’s only a couple kilometres longer than a half-marathon (a distance I know well), it felt infinitely harder.

Why, you ask? Oh, probably because my elevation gain was 240 metres. Too many ups and downs to count.

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 10.08.48 PM

Ottawa is known for being a flat course. I know hills make you stronger, but I am starting to think that running on Saint John’s hills is only going to wear me out. There were a few times during Sunday’s long run when my head went to a negative space, and with 10 km to go, considered calling home for a ride. All I could think about were those last humps in the graph. And how much it would hurt.

Unfortunately, unless I drive to some unknown flat area for my long runs, these hills aren’t going anywhere. But lucky for me, I heard a very helpful Jenny Hadfield podcast recently with some excellent tips for running hills.

She says there are two ways to approach hills: either as a workout (give it all you got), or “making friends” with the hill to conserve energy. This is the approach I plan to take so I don’t burn out before I get in the miles on my training schedule:

  • shorten stride, keep torso tall and look at the top of the hill
  • keep effort level the same as coming into the hill – slow down, even walk if necessary
  • use benefit of gravity to take you back down the hill, open your stride

Hills can be a good thing. They improve leg, core and upper body strength, as well as power and speed.

I did make it home on Sunday in one piece, and by the end, I was certainly walking up the (very steep!) hills toward my neighbourhood. Other than a minor toenail incident, I actually felt fine post-run. I recovered well and feel very little soreness today. My pace was ultra-slow, but I made it to the end, and that’s really the best I can hope for as I tackle these longer, and longer distances, spending hours on my feet.


See my route on Garmin Connect


Published by

April C

Writer, editor and mom in Saint John, NB.

4 thoughts on “The top of a hill is a beautiful thing”

  1. Living in SJ, I know all too well about the hills. I count sets of 20 to get to 100. Some hills will get me to 200 but it helps me focus on something other than the hill!

    I know the hill in your picture and it’s a beast…

  2. I’ve made friends with the hills around here. I’ve even numbered them and when I talk about running some friends know exactly the hill I’m taking about as they’ve all numbered them too.
    remember…what goes up…must come down

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