Fitness · Inspiration · Running

The Secret to Climbing Hills? Just Keep Moving.

I’m getting to know my new neighborhood.  It has friendly people, tall trees, at least two coyotes, and…hills. Lots of them. You can’t hardly walk half a mile without sloping downwards or upwards.

I like it, though. Living with hills teaches you things.

I’ve been toddling through a particularly…robust season, on all fronts: home, work, social, you name it. I use the word “toddling” because it fits. Excitement + uncertainty + drifting on and off course + giddiness + messiness = toddling.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed during such seasons, especially when there doesn’t seem to be a clear end in sight. When it gets really hard, I try to keep hills in mind. Specifically, running up them.

Running up hills, whether they’re mountains or the big neighborhood hill around the corner, isn’t easy. There’s pacing to consider, and form, and oh yeah, not forgetting to breathe. Beyond the physical, there’s also the mental challenge. Especially if it’s a looong hill, or one that curves. You ask yourself, “Where’s the top? How am I going to do this? When will I get a break?”

This is where experience proves invaluable. After you have a few hills under your belt, you’re more comfortable with pacing. You can judge a hill and determine a plan of attack before you get to it. You know and practice optimal hill-climbing form. You remember to breathe.

That doesn’t mean hills are suddenly easy. There are still the mental hurdles, and that’s when experience really proves invaluable. Because with experience, you know this: if you just keep moving, if you just keep putting one foot in front of the other, you will, in fact, reach the top. You can, in fact, do this, and you will, in fact, get a break.

Hills teach you things.

After a few hills, you also learn humility, and graciousness. You learn to be gracious with yourself — sometimes it’s better to walk than run (just ask an ultramarathoner!), and if someone offers an encouraging word or hand, it’s okay to let them. I repeat: it’s okay to let them. And you learn to be gracious with other people — different people tackle their hills in different ways, and maybe you can be the one to offer that encouraging word or hand.

If given a choice between a pancake-flat race course and one with some hills, I’d pick the hilly one. Why? When they wear so much on the body and the spirit, WHY?

Because flat courses, even if they are nice and quickly completed, are boring.

Hills teach you things.

And every hill — each and every one — has a top.





6 thoughts on “The Secret to Climbing Hills? Just Keep Moving.

  1. Added perk: hilly runs and courses are easier to recover from because there is not as much pounding 🙂

    I just trained for and ran a hilly marathon so a lot of this rings true for me right now. Getting to know hills for 18 weeks taught me a lot about humility, and realizing that my running is not more important than nature. I’m glad I chose that journey though, and that I ran a hilly marathon (and a hilly half to prep for it). There is just something so satisfying about crushing a hilly course, that isn’t there on a pancake course where the odds are already in your favor. Those of us who embrace the challenge of hills understand that it truly is its own reward.

  2. Every runner is entitled to her own opinion – but I believe he got it right when the late, great Will Rogers (not to be confused with Bill Rodgers) said, “I never met a hill that I didn’t hate.” And boring can be good – sometimes.

  3. I love this post! It reads as a meditation not only on running but on life as well.
    I also love hills. Give me a hilly course any day over flat. Flat is boring. It’s predictable. It isn’t as challenging. I love running hills, love the challenge and the way it wears me down and tears up my ego and leaves me gasping, all of my layers peeled and flayed. Because what a marvelous feeling, eh? One of my favorite trails climbs 1,500 feet in three miles and is relentless. It never lets up. It’s a huge struggle-fest and I secretly love every single agonizing moment.
    Cheers and happy running.

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