Part 1 of Run Cascadia’s Conquer the Hills series
Running hills effectively is as much a test of one’s fitness as technical ability. The focus on part one is mastering hill running technique. Proper technique makes for efficient running which in turn reduces the perceived difficulty of running through hilly terrain. With less discomfort one may even find that they enjoy the challenge that hills provide.
The ascent, it’s more than a grind!
The objective of “good” uphill running technique is to maximize the ratio of horizontal distance traveled to vertical distance traveled in each stride. In my experience the best way to accomplish this is to imagine that you are being pulled up the hill from the pelvis and the direction of force is parallel to the grade. Upper body positioning is important as well arms should be relaxed swinging freely, body upright leaning neither forward or back, and eyes ahead scanning for potential obstacles. To maintain good upper body positioning I like to pretend that there is a string attached to the top of my head holding me straight up and down.
Descend correctly and it will feel like flying!
Nailing the descent is just as important if not more important than running the climb with good form. An efficient descent is fast end energizing. A runner should be able to make up some of the time that was lost during the ascent while recovering for the next effort. Running a descent efficiently requires the runner to maximize the ratio of horizontal distance traveled to vertical distance traveled in each stride. It has been my experience that the best way to do this is to pretend that there is a rope attached to your pelvis pulling you along, parallel to grade. For correct upper body positioning a slight forward lean at the hips and an upright torso is all that is required. The forward lean helps prevent unintentional breaking and the fatigue generating eccentric muscle contractions. The lean accomplishes this by moving the foot strike from in front of the center of gravity to under the center of gravity or slightly behind. You will know you are doing it right because it will feel fast, easy, and maybe slightly out of control.
Now lace up you shoes and crush some hills!