Taking On Hills: New Challenges As A Half Marathoner

I can’t believe I am admitting this in writing, but I am learning to appreciate hilly runs.

Well, I won’t go as far to say I love them, this is a long way from doing everything in my power to avoid them like the plague.

There are a few reasons why running hills is important for runners. This includes things like increasing endurance, speed, and keeping things fun to prevent boredom. And the latter is exactly what I experienced during this morning’s run.

While training for my most recently finished half marathon I began to set my eyes on what would come next. I toyed with the idea of maybe considering a marathon since I was feeling really good, strong and faster than ever during my training runs. I shot that idea down real quick because I honestly don’t see myself being there yet. The half marathon is the perfect distance for me—long distance enough to set a big goal and work towards it, but something my body and mind are capable of tackling mileage wise.

We were crossing early on in my half marathon training. A group of us started talking about an upcoming race called the Navesink Challenge. A 15k event, the race is full of hills which makes it appropriate that “challenge” is in its name.

I don’t know why I would decide to jump on this bandwagon since I am not a hill runner, but I can only think that I was feeling great and they got me in a positive mindset that day and decided to go home and sign up for it. I even eventually recruited my main running buddy to do it with me.

But since I was still training for my half, I focused on these training runs until finishing that race. With a three week overlap soon the weeks kept on going by. I was running my training runs for it—all except one long run for a much-needed rest weekend away.

Even still I haven’t joined the other ladies in my running group for the long runs on the course.

Until today.

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I admit I was nervous and thought my pace would drastically suffer. I was anticipating how the hills would kill. But I survived and actually really enjoyed the run.

I know am confident that I can do the course on race day. I know what to expect, where the hills are and how steep they are.

It was a brisk morning with that pre-winter chill in the air. We pulled up to the parking lot, waiting for our coach who is always on time. Leave it to her to be running a few minutes late because she was helping a dog on the road.

Within minutes we were off, running together in a pack down the slightly glisten street after the previous rainfall. The trees that lined the road were in peak fall colors. The course started off with some gently rolling hills. I started off with a slower pace to chat with two of my running gals about the Disney Princess Half and recruit more ladies for a girls trip. Horses graze on the hills fenced in on their property and I felt like I was in another state.

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Photo by John Price on Unsplash

By the time we turned on Cooper Road and hung a left to the next road coach said that it was like we were in Vermont. It did feel like we were hidden away on the trails of a state that isn’t known for attractions like the Jersey Shore.

It was a challenging run, but the most scenic and peaceful and fun one I’ve had in a while.

By the time we turned to head back, I couldn’t believe we were halfway through already. I sped up earlier on to run with two of my other running pals and our coach. We chatted the entire time and it made the miles not suck, to say the least. On the way back was the steepest hill and it hurt and we were slow almost to a walk. But coach talked us through it, telling us not to land on our heels and to lean forward slightly. Don’t forget to pump those arms.

We stopped to take a quick picture with the horses, picking up the pace to finish. But in that homestretch, I began to lose my speed and hung back at a more comfortable pace.

I thought I would be much slower on this course, but found that it wasn’t this unreachable goal and that I would be prepared for race day. Even though I hadn’t run the course, I was putting in the work as far as speed, distance, and local hills so it was a confidence booster to know that I was dying out on those hills.

I signed up for the race to set a new type of challenge as a runner. I am comfortable with the half marathon distance and not ready for a full marathon, so adding in a different kind of race like one full of hills is a great way to keep me on my toes.

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