For most of my running career I have prided myself on being a flat runner. This encompassed only running on flat roads, going the extra mile to avoid the hills, and sitting around complaining about gaining elevation. When I went out to San Francisco to run a half marathon I made sure everyone around knew two things: 1. I ran the Chicago Marathon the weekend before and 2. I was a flat runner.
As time has progressed I ended up moving to an area which the exit was lovingly called Summit Lawn off of 78 in Pennsylvania, I was basically living on a mountain. To run around the house after work meant running two miles uphill and two miles downhill and repeating for my desired distance. I started using the uphill as a recovery and racing the downhills as a hidden speed work, and it started to become fun. I was PRing flatter courses because I was speed training without knowing it almost every day. I set my half PR on the original United Airline Half course in NYC which was very hilly and felt like I was on top of the world.
Fast forward again, I ended up moving back home to a section of central Jersey where the only hills are overpasses. I ended up grabbing a part time job at Princeton Running Company (PRC) in Princeton New Jersey, this job sat at the highest elevation in Princeton. One of the perks of working at PRC was I was able to hill train during our group runs. It is very hard to make a route that avoids all hills, and although I do complain about how much I hate the uphill, I love the downhill and the energy it brings.
This past weekend my co-worker, Shelby, and I took on Asbury Park RunAPalooza half marathon as part as our Marathon training, and part of my long run. For those of you that don’t know the Jersey shore, unless you are located in Badwater Basin, California, your driveway is at a higher elevation. The race course was flatter than sliced bread, and had one incline of about 2 feet. Watch out.
In the past this course would be one that I looked forward to as a nice flat and fast course, but this year things were a little different. I have been focusing on running tougher courses, with greater elevation changes and more hills. Around mile 6 I actually found myself thinking, “I miss hills.” I was getting no recovery time, no uphill, no down hill. I had to keep the same effort through out and it was exhausting. When I hit mile nine I felt my constant effort slipping and pulled back for a minute just to rest. It was utterly horrible.
Its funny how time changes. I went from a self declared flat runner, not looking for any quad burning fun, to a challenge taker looking to take on the biggest uphills as long as there is a quality downhill on the other side. How did I do on the flat half? Decent, my second best time of the year (it was my 3rd half of the year), but mentally I was not where I should have been. Hills don’t get enough credit, they provide more than a great uphill workout, they give you speed and strength.
Next time you are contemplating going a mile out of the way to avoid a hill don’t. Life isn’t only downhills, embrace the uphills they give you time for rest and reflection, then race the downhills smiling.