Some runners enjoy the challenge of hills, but I don’t! Living in an area that is very flat makes it difficult to prepare for hilly courses. In 2010, I ran my first half-marathon (13.1 miles) in Asheville, NC, which is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains. For some reason, I didn’t make the connection with the word mountain when I chose this race. Local residents even asked how were we able to train for such a treacherous course coming from such a flat area.
Most of the hills were what are called switchbacks. They went on forever. My heart sank each time I saw runners ahead and above me climbing the next section. I cried a little and a few expletives found their way through my clenched teeth. As the race went on, I cannot begin to explain how badly my quadriceps burned or how spastic my calves became with each step, but it was more the mental pain, than the physical agony, that caused me to lose my composure. There are proper techniques that should be used when running uphill but not even the best technique entirely eliminates the difficulty.
Hidden around the final turn, less than 0.1 miles from the finish, was a hill so steep that it seemed to be literally staring back at me. I couldn’t believe they would be so cruel. I stopped placing both hands on my hips and thought, there’s no way I can do this. At that very moment a small-framed, white woman passed me and shouted, “Come on!” My legs trembled with fatigue but her tiny, winded voice gave me the strength to sprint. I finished in 2 hours 10 minutes, the best time I’ve ever posted in a half marathon. Nowhere near as fast as elite runners, but for me, it was enough to make me rejoice as If I had finished first.
It didn’t happen in Asheville but at another race, that had one very steep climb across a windy bridge, was where I gained an appreciation for hills. Hills in road races can be likened to the hills we face in life. Some hills are easy while others seem insurmountable and like the hills in those races spoke to me, the hills in life often speak. They say it’s okay to stop; there’s nothing on the other side worth all this pain, but I’ve learned that EVERY HILL IN MY LIFE HAS LIED!
Hills hold a secret they don’t want us to know; it’s called VELOCITY. When we reach the peak, we are positioned for acceleration. The hill has been conquered, and it is required to repay us exponentially for our work. With less effort, we can easily make up the time lost in the ascent and from the peak, we gain a better view of our dreams and goals.
Whatever you do, keep moving forward. Don’t listen to the hills.