Hill and Turn Surges

Happy July 4th Weekend! I don’t have any special plans except to volunteer at the local Firecracker 4 race tomorrow morning. 

It’s been a recovery week for me, and I have to say I needed it. Marathon training is going to be cranking up the miles soon, and my body needs to let some of the creaks out. 

Yesterday’s recovery run featured a soundcheck for Kid Rock’s concert in the park last night. Tonight Dave Matthews is playing, so maybe I’ll catch more free music on this afternoon’s run. 


13/150 in my AG 🙂

 I wanted to talk a little about hill running because it’s something I’ve been working on. The Fairfield Half has several short but steep climbs, so it was a good opportunity for me to put into practice some techniques I’ve been using on training runs. 

I’m short, like as in 5 feet tall short. A common misconception is that short people (got no reason to live) aren’t as fast as tall runners. Because we have shorter legs to cover the same distance. But as many runners know, short people can have a few advantages over taller people, especially for distance running. One has to do with how or energy systems work (without getting technical, larger mass is harder to carry for longer periods of time and also burn fuel to do so more quickly). 

Another advantage that I’ve found is on hills. With shorter legs and a lower center of gravity, I’m usually able to tackle hills more efficiently than other runners with similar speed to mine. I almost always pass people on hills and I rarely get passed on them. One technique I use going up is shortening my stride, making sure I lift my knees, and use a quick cadence. My body registers less of a gravitational pull and makes the hill feel less tiring. 

On the way down, I really focus on fast feet to carry me down. But I also do not “open up my stride”. Doing so is really hard on my hip and knee joints because my feet are not landing underneath me, and it ends up just adding force to the pounding. I keep my feet lower to the ground, almost like shuffling. I started working on this earlier this year, and I started passing people going down too. It used to be that the people I passed climbing a hill would pass me going down, but not anymore. I’ve noticed that I’ve been able to get really face paces (like in the sub-6 minute range) on downhills without stressing my body. Plus, it’s kinda fun. I’ve maybe squealed “Weeeeeeee!!!” going down a few times. But only during training runs 😉

But one of the latest things I’ve been practicing is to perform 5 surges when I crest a hill. The idea is to re-establish my pace after slowing down on the hill. I’ve read that you can gradually slow down your overall pace of you don’t make an effort to reset pace after a hill, and I noticed in my Garmin data that I was indeed continuing to run slowly for a bit after I stopped climbing, sometimes never getting back to my previous pace. 

To be honest, forcing myself to run faster before recovering from a hill climb … sucks. All I want to do at the top is catch my breath, not push harder for several seconds. However, These strides seemed to make a big difference in my race on Sunday. I kept really even splits, and I think I can partly credit this technique for keeping me on pace. It feels like I recover a little faster from hills doing this, even if while doing the surges I’m kind of hurting. 

I also read that these surges are also great to use after turns, sharp ones in particular. I meant to do that in his race as there were quite a few turns, but I forgot. I blame not practicing it enough during training runs. I can’t recall where I read this info (I think it might have been a training tip email from McMillan Running), but I believe there were some analyses showing a trend of declining pace by runners in races with many turns except for those runners utilizing the surges. 

Here were my splits:

8:20, 8:06 (this is when the men & women converge after a separate start. I always run this mile too fast, I think due to excitement), 8:26 (2 hills with one downhill between), 8:11 (downhill), 8:21, 8:19, 8:16, 8:20, 8:26 (hill), 8:17 (downhill and uphill), 8:19, 8:24 (I think this is due to multiple turns that I didn’t use my surge technique :-/ ), 8:17, 7:59 (.2). 

It doesn’t seem that the extra surges saps much energy since my husband noted that I was passing quite a few runners in the last couple miles. I kept a pretty even pace throughout. 

Anyway, so that’s my latest technique strategy. Try it! 

I will probably run this race again next year. It’s convenient for me because my mother-in-law lives nearby, plus now my son lives in Fairfield. I warmed up by jogging the 1.3 miles to the start then cooled down by jogging (more “shuffling” at that point) back to my MIL’s. It’s really nice to not have to worry about parking and traffic. 

During the race, my husband ran for a bit with me just before the finish chute. These pictures crack me up because of how in sync we are while running. I’ve still failed in getting my husband more excited about running, but I haven’t given up. 



14 thoughts on “Hill and Turn Surges

  1. Darlene says:

    Thanks for the tips. I really suck on hills. Love the pix of you and your hubby. I wish mine would run with me.

  2. Wonder what another race participant would do if you squealed going down a hill. 😀 I need to try that technique on my walking hills. We don’t have many, but I dread them since my knee always complains. Work on turns, next time. This was hills. Important to work on one new thing at a time. You’re amazing. I love the pictures of you and your husband. What a pretty area!

  3. Team fun size in the house!! Nice to know I’m not the only 5′ runner out there. I’m impressed with your downhill running speed.

    I love running hills! Its one of the areas I excel at as well. But, I’m kind of a chicken when going downhill.

    • I get nervous going downhill too, but it’s gotten better since I changed how I run them. I got a hip injury last year from downhill races, and I knew I had to change something.

      Yay! Team fun size! I like that 😉

  4. I’m only 5’2 – I think us shorties have an advantage to tall people. My fastest friends are not tall people! Nice job focusing on hills. I will be doing this as I build my miles again because I feel like its an area where I really slacked and I can see it in races/training. Hills are excellent strength workouts, too! Great tips!

  5. Good tips and congrats on the race! Love the pics – in sync like the rockettes! I also try to focus on my arms more going up a hill. Someone once told me to pretend I have ski pols and they’re helping me up the hill. Seems to help.

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