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Take A Hill Pill

by Discovery Dave

At some point before the end of the year, I'll log my 4000th mile on Fetch. And although I'll never top the training league, that's still quite a long way. More to the point, it represents a big chunk of my life.

So I've been wondering: what have I learned? If I could go back and share one piece of advice with myself as a beginner, what would I be?

Well, Fat Dave (2006), pull up a chair: we need to talk about that hill. You know the one. The hill that frightens you. The hill that's your nemesis. The hill you try to avoid, but somehow always seems to put itself in the middle of your running routes anyway.

THAT hill.

It's OK to have a hill like that. I'm sure everyone does. But since you keep bumping into it anyway, I'll give you a few home truths that might make you feel a bit better next time that particular hill looms into view. Here's the first one...

Hills are like spiders.

You know that thing about a spider being more afraid of you, than you are of it*? Hills are exactly like that.

That clench you get when you're nearby is the hill's first – and best – defence. If you let it, that sense of impending doom can really start to overshadow your run, and end up being much worse than the climb itself. Then, because your confidence is undermined, you don't give it 100%. It's self-fulfilling.

And the dumb thing is, there's no need.

You, and not the hill, have the power. The fear you get when the hill is close is nothing compared to the tremor it ought to feel when it hears your footsteps approaching.

Why? Well, listen. I'll let you in to another secret...

No hill lasts forever.

The hill has not been invented that will not – eventually – be beaten by lots of small steps and a good dash of bloody-mindedness. Keep moving onward and upward, and sooner or later the hill will go away.

(I'm no guru on running technique but since you asked: try short, quick strides, like changing down a couple of gears in a car. Use your elbows and KEEP GOING.)

People tend to say: keep your head up, and fix your gaze on the top of the hill. But the hill's not going anywhere, why focus on how big it is? I take care of my part – keeping going – and, even if I need to walk, I'll get to the top eventually. It's just a matter of time (and being a bit stubborn).

No, that hill isn't so scary.

And I'll tell you what, when you understand that, you'll go and seek it out from time to time. Really, it's true! Here's why...

The hill doesn't lie.

"Be kind to yourself; you won't lose fitness that quickly."

"You haven't put on weight – you look great!"

"You're running so well lately."

Wondering whether your friends really mean it, or if they're just being nice? Go run up that hill.

The hill doesn't care if you've had a lot on your plate. It's not going to go easy because you're coming back from injury. It will simply give you a fair, unbiased account of exactly where your fitness is at. No argument; no debate.

And that's a good thing, because it works both ways. A lot of the time, the hill is the place you'll first notice your progress.

Sometimes, the hill says you're fitter than you thought you were. And because it doesn't lie, you have no option but to accept the compliment.

Can't run it in one? There's no shame in that. But notice where you are when you stop running, and lock it in your mind. If you can, actually touch a tree or a lamppost. That's your marker. Next time, you'll know how much better you're getting.

Everyone knows hill training makes you stronger. Some say it's speed training in disguise. But that hill – THAT hill – will improve your running in a different, and more important way.

It will help you believe in yourself.

Deep down, that hill is your friend.

Comments


  • Love it Dave. That's a great piece of writing and it rings very true. Well done mate.
    Nellers 1:18pm, 19th December 2012
  • Loving it. I *knew* I was a runner when I could run up the slope from the river to the park - it's not really I hill but it still makes me grin whenever I do it. Thank you.
    Duchess 1:24pm, 19th December 2012
  • Great piece. Great advice. Great writing. Great Christmas gift. Cheers Dave!
    The Scribbler 1:27pm, 19th December 2012
  • Fantastic reading thanks Dave :-)
    Crooked-smile 1:29pm, 19th December 2012
  • Awesome nice article. 4000 miles is a hell of an achievement as well. I was excited just getting past the 1000 mark. And I still work in km! :-)
    HermanBloom 1:38pm, 19th December 2012
  • Well said Sir
    flanker 2:06pm, 19th December 2012
  • Whilst I totally subscribe to this theory I was halfway up a steep hill on Fuerteventura years ago faced with either going up (patchy loose ground) along (patchy loose ground) or down (firmer ground). I went down and didn't feel bad after a lot of soul-searching. Sometimes it's ok not to conquer it at all costs. The alternative was almost certainly a long fall ending in injury possibly serious.
    Great piece though.
    Frobester 2:24pm, 19th December 2012
  • Fantastic wee article really struck a chord with me thanks Dave! When are you writing your next one And where's that hill you are mine!!!
    alifrobertson 2:39pm, 19th December 2012
  • There is a hill in Berkhamsted that was once my nemesis... I still remember my astonishment the first time I got to the top. Lots of truth in this article.
    Helegant 3:10pm, 19th December 2012
  • :-)
    Jubear 3:31pm, 19th December 2012
  • I remember the first time I got to the top of 'my' hill too... awesome
    D2 4:02pm, 19th December 2012
  • Great article Dave just like the post box everyone has a hill mine I run up every Saturday on a good day the view is fantastic on a bad day I'm in the clouds sometimes its easy some times it's very difficult but its always worth the effort.
    Firesac 5:04pm, 19th December 2012
  • I get a big grin on my face when I breeze up *my* hill because a year ago I would always have to stop for a breather :-) I'm trying to convince my running buddies about the merits of hills (I use the same low gear analogy) but I guess they just have to find out for themselves! When I was a beginner I used to chant 'I think I can I think I can I think I can...'. Great article :-)
    fleecilyFurman 5:11pm, 19th December 2012
  • Yes love the article and Hills are my friend now :-) more than a few to cope with during 10 in 10 :-)
    Toks 5:44pm, 19th December 2012
  • LOVE this - thanks for the reminder. Off to find a hill and thump it :-)
    Iron_Mum 6:49pm, 19th December 2012
  • Great article! It's no secret that I love hills... hill reps are actually my favourite training session ;-)
    And btw... the reason for keeping your head up & focusing on the top of the hill is primarily to open up the airway more to get more oxygen in for your muscles but also to see the hill get smaller ;-)
    Trin 7:17pm, 19th December 2012
  • Love this article :-)
    jaks 7:21pm, 19th December 2012
  • Hills are just flat ground with imagination.
    RichHL 8:08pm, 19th December 2012
  • Lovely article I can still remember my first post box - I used to live in a flat area and it was the mark of how far I could run without stopping! :-)
    Minnie Mad 8:58pm, 19th December 2012
  • Gotta love a hill :-)
    Nandi 9:25pm, 19th December 2012
  • Great article. I'm now confident that I will finally conquer the long long hill that is currently my nemesis.....
    Barnzzz 9:45pm, 19th December 2012
  • My old boss used to say (as he got fitter) 'There used to be a hill there'
    Jason1969 10:12pm, 19th December 2012
  • That makes me feel better that a did a hill session on Tuesday and it was slower than usual. At least I did it.
    milemonster 8:26am, 20th December 2012
  • Fantastic article - I 3 hills! (Good job we have one or two of them here in the Valleys!) :-)
    Shred Betty 8:57am, 20th December 2012
  • That should say I love hills! ;-)
    Shred Betty 8:57am, 20th December 2012
  • Brilliant Dave. Captured it perfectly. I'm going to link this one again on FB. :-)G
    HappyG(rrr) 10:29am, 20th December 2012
  • Brilliant :-) :-)
    Sunbed Athlete 11:11am, 20th December 2012
  • Liking the style of this dude - great place of writing and all I can say is bring on the hill!!
    Purc72 1:23pm, 20th December 2012
  • I'm from the Flat Lands but I still love hills (even the metaphorical ones). My colleagues think I'm nuts!
    Flatlander 2:29pm, 20th December 2012
  • Brilliant! I have a LOve-Hate-Love realtionship with hills...especially on my bike...for all the reasons you wrote about. Gotta Love (hate!) them Hills :-)
    jog-on 2:43pm, 20th December 2012
  • AND! There's always the other side of the hill. A downhill is as good as a rest.
    cackleberry 7:51pm, 20th December 2012
  • It's all hills where I live.
    My chant is: 'Yes I do do hills; yes I do do hills...'
    Columba 9:34pm, 20th December 2012
  • Couldn't agree more hills always find me out if I've been slacking (like this Tuesday!) Great article.
    Fiona C 3:35pm, 22nd December 2012
  • Thanks for this Dave will share it along with my mantra 'I'm from Yorkshire and I eat hills for breakfast :-)
    northernslowcoach 3:00pm, 26th December 2012
  • Great article come to the firth & we can do some hills ;-)
    richmac 6:20pm, 26th December 2012
  • nice one
    GALLIAN 1:22pm, 27th December 2012
  • I am going to find me a hill this weekend thanks for the tip hills are the future
    GVC 10:20am, 29th December 2012
  • Wonderful stuff! I can't believe you have actually just made me see Stow hill as a friend!!!
    TheBookFairy 4:30pm, 29th December 2012
  • I remembered this in my race this morning - two laps I tamed the nasty hill on the first lap and then knew I could do it on the second one - thanks!
    Winniefree 8:21pm, 30th December 2012
  • Great article Dave. My hill (or nemesis) is in Cirencester Park .. our running club nickname for it is 'Big Bertha'. It's not as steep and long as some but it's there. I remember the first time I managed to get to the top without stopping. Now all I have to try and do is emulate my running friend. She ran up it last month and decided she could probably manage it again. She ended up doing it 5 times in succession. Now there's a challenge for me! :-)
    WtnMel 10:56am, 31st December 2012
  • There are lots of hills where I live so you've just gotta embrace them! Good article Dave.
    AdeleT 4:39pm, 7th January 2013
  • Yes it is a great article. I returned to running in 2004 and at the time I lived in Winchester. There aren't many hills in the south but just south of Winchester there is one. Not sure how high but would guess 200 or so feet from the base to the summit. It is steep but once at the top you get the most fantastic views of the surrounding country side and of Winchester. Having moved to Kinsgton I now do my off road running in Richmond Park and the run from Kingston Gate to Robin Hood Gate is a climb and from the top on a clear day one can see the Shard. Two things get me to the top of any hill-- 1-It surely must be doing me some good(it hurts) and 2-the view will be worth it.
    philrunner 8:47pm, 9th January 2013
  • Ps-the hill near Winchester is St Catherines
    philrunner 8:48pm, 9th January 2013
  • Excellent stuff Dave.
    Now where is my biggest hill cause i'm off to give it a good hiding.
    Blackbird Leys ( boy) 7:41pm, 3rd February 2013
  • Love em! Well written!
    LBM 8:32am, 4th February 2013
  • I Love the hills :-) Great article Dave
    akmilne 9:10pm, 1st March 2013
You need to log in to leave a comment.
Dave's hill wasn't available for comment, so we're using this stunt hill to provide the necessary drama. Thanks for the pic Mikuro.

When he's not plodding round the wilds of Cornwall, Discovery Dave (formerly known as Fat Dave) runs Lungfish, a marketing copywriting agency. He also has a mildly entertaining blog about writing, marketing and PR.
* Ironically, and contrary to conventional wisdom spiders are NOT afraid of you. They are cold, soulless killing machines that would eat you and everyone you hold dear in two seconds flat if they could. The fact they haven't done so already is only because they haven't worked out how. But hills are not like that. Trust me.

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