Not quite Queen of the hill

Being a Peachtree Road Race newbie, I try to listen closely when vets talk about past races. So far, I’ve picked up on two overriding themes — prepare for humidity and prepare for hills.

Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot I can do about the humidity. I’ve already resigned myself to the fact that I’m going to look like a sweaty Sideshow Bob that morning. The hills, though — in theory, I can prepare for those. In theory.

If it’s possible to have an arch nemesis that isn’t a person, mine would be hills. I think they exist to be my own special brand of torture. When I’ve trained for long races in the past, I make sure to incorporate hill training into my routine, thinking it’ll make it easier to conquer those evil bumps come race time.

But really, the problem isn’t that I can’t physically run at an incline  — it’s that I mentally put a block up when I see an incline in the distance. It usually takes a good mile into a race before I feel like I have my sea legs, and when I finally feel like I’ve gotten into a rhythm — here comes a hill.

It’s like most of the confidence I’ve built up running on level ground starts to seep out of me when I know a hill is coming up. It’s gotten better as I’ve gotten more experience running longer races, but it’s still a problem. I will say it’s gotten to be sort of a love-hate thing — I hate going up, but I love the way I feel going down.

Am I the only one who has a hatred of hills? Do you have any tips — both physical and mental — on conquering them?

8 comments Add your comment


May 19th, 2011
5:39 pm

Coming from someone that has something similar to ‘cardiac hill’ on EVERY course I run in town… here is my advice. LOOK DOWN. Don’t look up towards the hill, look down and in front of you – look at other people’s shoes, their stride, their socks anything low. When I don’t look at how much hill I have left it makes it SO much easier!!! Also I try to lean into the hill, stay on my toes and go faster!! I know that sounds weird, but if I lean in, stay on my toes and try to run up the hill faster I seem to do better!!! Hang in there and YOU CAN DO IT. I don’t know if it’s because I train on hilly courses or what but the past 2 years I’ve run (I’ve only done 3 PRR’s and the first one I WALKED) I’ve said “when is cardiac hill?” and my hubby responded “we passed it”. (apparently I dont know what cardiac hill is??!!) So if you are running with someone – tell them not to tell you when/where it is. Just run :)


May 19th, 2011
6:09 pm

I’m also a PRR newbie and actually a newbie overall to running (since last summer only). This will be my first 10K and I’m concerned about the same things………hills and humidity. Pam, thanks for the pointers on looking down while going up that hill. That’s actually opposite of what I usually do because I always look ahead and stay focused on short-term goals as I’m running. I will definitely try that as I continue my training and see how that helps me. I’d love to be able to find a hill that is similar distance and grade as cardiac hill so I can be more prepared.


May 20th, 2011
8:38 am

I’m a PRR Newbie too, I hate hills, and I agree with Pam. LOOK DOWN! When you size up the hill you get overwhelmed…and you realize how painful it is. Also, (tip from Kara Goucher) count to 100. It keeps you distracted. Good luck!!

It's Just Hype

May 20th, 2011
10:48 am

I stayed out of Peachtree for a few years because of the fear of cardiac hill. I know it’s a steep hill but eveyone fails to mention that right before cardiac hill you will be coming downhill for what seems about one mile or so. If you pace yourself properly you will be half-way up cardiac before you even realize you are now running up a hill. To be honest, I think the up-hill turn crossing over I-85/passing by the Amtrack is much tougher or maybe it’s just tougher because it’s after you have completed cardiac.

Gen Neyland

May 21st, 2011
7:34 am

Hills can be brutal in many ways (up and down) but I think you’re on track by recognizing they present a mental barrier. Hill work is, IMHO, a vital and necessary, almost weekly function plus my runs from home include them. I don’t try to slay hills per-say, I attempt to live in harmony with them. The tag Cardiac Hill carries with it a sense that it will eat you alive and spit you out. Depends on how one approaches it mentally and physically. Just pace yourself accordingly, save a kick for the home stretch and smile for the camera…

48 yr old jogger

May 21st, 2011
7:53 am

I ran 7 straight races from 30-37 yrs old and now getting back into shape to take on the 2011 race at 48 yrs old. My best advice for newbies is pace yourself according to your fitness level….just getting to the start line is exhausting (5am wake up, walking from MARTA, standing for one hour, etc.) I see so many people sprint the first mile with excitement and by the time they get to heartbreak hill, they are walking!! If in your preparation you run 9 minute miles, then pace yourself to run 9 minute miles during the race…no world records here! It’s an amazingly gratifying feeling to run the complete race and not walk!! Don’t forget: carb load the day before the race and lots of water in advance. You will do great!!


May 21st, 2011
9:48 am

I agree about looking at the ground right in front of you vs. looking toward the top of the hill. Although I’ve heard runners say the opposite: “Focus on the summit”, that just doesn’t work well for me. If I look right in front of my feet, then I am literally taking the hill One Step at a Time rather than looking ahead and having the feeling of running up a mountain.

Except for maybe some really hardcore types, nobody really LIKES hills. But they are just a part of the challenge of running. I find runs on long, flat stretches to be somewhat boring compared to the challenges of rolling terrain. I regularly run hilly routes in my training so a hill in a race is just something to take in stride – no different from the hills I run up week after week. The main thing is to adjust your pace so that your level of perceived effort stays about the same. If you know where the hills are in the course, you can pace yourself accordingly.


May 21st, 2011
8:45 pm

Good practice is to run west on North Ave, from Candler Park to Spring St. It’s pretty much 2.5 miles of up.