Finding The Perfect Hill


Got a question about running? You’re in the right place. Every Tuesday, world-renowned coach, author and athlete Hal Higdon posts and answers athlete questions here. You can submit your question by joining the discussions on Hal Higdon’s Virtual Training Bulletin Boards.


Just curious, when I see “hill training” listed in various training programs, yours and others, what kind of hill am I looking for? Steep? Long and gradual? Time goal to the top?


All of the above. It depends on what convenient hills you have nearby. Adapt your training to what is available. I have the advantage of living at the top of a hill with two approaches: short and shallow on one approach; long and somewhat steeper on the other.

For my hill training, I always choose long and steeper. Did I say, somewhat steeper? The hill is approximately 400 meters long. It is not so steep so as to prevent me from maintaining a good rhythm. A typical “hill training” workout for me toward the end of a training cycle might be 6 x Hill, running the hill up fast, then jogging back down easy. When training for Boston or other hilly marathons, I sometimes would insert a fast downhill repeat or two.

Effort would be about the same as if I had done an interval training workout on the track: 6 x 400 meters. Times might be slightly different, but times don’t matter in hill training. Steepness of the hill doesn’t matter. Length of the hill doesn’t matter. You adapt to your surroundings, whatever hill is convenient. Mine obviously was convenient, because it ended at my mailbox In other hill workouts, I used a steep sand dune a mile away that would have brought a Kenyan to his knees.

Hill training is a great way to strengthen the quads, so necessary at the end of marathons. Good luck finding a Perfect Hill near you.

About the Author

Hal Higdon

Hal Higdon is a Contributing Editor for'Runner's World'and author of 34 books, including the best-selling'Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide. He ran eight times in the Olympic Trials and won four world masters championships. Higdon estimates that more than a quarter million runners have finished marathons using his training programs, and he also offers additional interactive programs at all distances through TrainingPeaks.Hal uses'TrainingPeaks'to power his interactive marathon and half marathon training plans.'Check out more of Hal Higdon's training plans here'or on'his website.

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