Running Hills, Hill Repeats, Hill Climbs and Ultra Marathon Racing


We need them.  They make us stronger.  We build them into our training and we sometimes avoid them at all costs.  They fight us and sometimes they defeat us.  Hills love them or hate them they are out there.

Ask ten runners and you’ll get ten different opinions on whether or not they like hills.  Myself, I’m a fan on a few conditions:  I know they are coming, I have time to get my mind right and the hill is winnable (or at least I have a fair shot at it.)

hillrunner1

I know they are coming.  I actually enjoy races with hills.  I like the challenge.  I enjoy the test.  I live for the moment that I win the battle with the hill at mile 10, the middle of an Ultra-marathon, or the finishing push at the end of the Marine Corp Marathon.  I know the battle is in front of me and I am ready for the challenge.  Conversely, I loathe the hill that is not on the race map, not listed on the elevation profile or that is right in the middle of a course that the Race Director claimed to be a “flat and fast.”  I love the hill I know is coming…but I hate the hill and the race with the secret.

I have time to get my mind right.  I love the challenge I know is in front of me.  I love getting my mind ready for the fight.  Just like a boxer who uses his entrance into the ring to fire him up for the oncoming battle, if I know a hill is coming I get up for the battle.  During the miles preceding the hill I tell myself I am hill monster, a hill destroyer, I reason my legs are hydraulic pistons ready to pound the hill into defeat.  All this self-talk ensures I’m ready to meet the challenge.  I hate the hill that pops up, catches me flat footed and mentally unprepared for battle.  I go into this hill feeling unprepared, not ready and behind the moment.

The hill is winnable:  I enjoy a good test of my abilities.  I don’t mind being stretched, but I want to know I have a reasonable shot at winning.  I’m not saying I want the challenge to be a push over, but I also don’t want to fight Mike Tyson in his prime.  No matter how well prepared I could be we all know the outcome.  Mike is going to beat me up and maybe eat my ear.  I want to fight the mountain, hill or raising terrain, but I also want to be aware that I can win…or at least have a shot at winning.

umstead Hills

Running hills has made me feel more confident about my running.  Battling a hill has made me feel strong.  Likewise, at times running hills has left me in despair.  If I know the hill is coming, if I have a chance to get my mind right and the hill is winnable I love to run, train, race, and defeat the hills on any course.

Do you love or hate hills….let us know.


  • I’m not a big fan of hills, I try to stay away from then right now. When I do take the challenge, I like to know it is coming. When I get to the top, I’m glad I did it, such a sense of accomplishment!

    • Brian Burk

      It is a love/hate thing…

      Thanks for reading
      Brian