When I started running, I dreaded running uphill and I did all my running on flats. To be honest, I still do most of my running along the thames but I have changed my views on hills. Lanky Pole once told me that I had to add some hills into my training if I wanted to improve – I just had to work with my arms. I later discovered in my training plan that I had to do “Kenyan hills” from time to time. And it’s true that running uphill will improve your leg strength and your running form as well as make your heart work out. Kenya being just a wee too far just for a run, I guessed the hills of Greenwich would do.

Greenwich park hill

Greenwich park hill photo by Francisco Antunes

The first time I ran there was horrible. I thought “why would people impose such a gruelling exercise on themselves?” but I did it anyway. I now have my little routine and I always take the same path, starting with the very steep ascent on the Maze Hill side and going down “The Avenue”. I’m avoiding steeper downhill slopes because running downhill can be dangerous and lead to ligament injuries when braking repeatedly. I usually repeat this circuit between 3 and 5 times.

Last Saturday I was supposed to do 3 laps, but I surprised myself, and arriving down the slope after the third lap I climbed again for a fourth lap instead of leaving the park and jogging back home.

I’m not saying I love doing that, but it is challenging and I find it rewarding to notice some improvement week on week. I also run the same circuit when I’m supposed to do fartleks, because I convinced myself that they’re the same thing (even if they’re not). That’s because running fartleks, you’re supposed to accelerate when running uphill, and also because I add a sprint when I pass in front of the bandstand.

So it turns out I’m not too bad at running uphill. I remember my race at the Olympic Park: I was always overtaking my competitors when going uphill and they would catch up on me when going downhill. When Lanky Pole learned that, he said: “Oh, you’re one of those”. I’m not sure whether it was disdain or jealousy, but I’ll go for jealousy. Anyway, even if he’s the one who encouraged me to run hills, he prefers running downhill – it’s fairly obvious when you read his tales of the Welsh Castles Relay and of the Green Belt Relay (2 fun reads).

The thing I really love though, is hiking uphill, like we did on the Jbel Toubkal. Walking or running uphill, the important thing is to remember to work with your arms. Whenever I feel slow on a slope, I pull with my arms as if I was pulling on ropes and it really helps. What about you? What’s your experience with running uphill?