Today I'd like to share a race strategy with you that will make high school cross country coaches everywhere cringe: letting people pass you on the uphill. This tip especially goes out to all my marathon peeps who want to set PRs or just finish strong. In the marathon, any little mistake can be magnified, so now you'll have no excuse.
I remember power walking a few big hills around miles 18-20 at the Harrisburg Marathon a couple of years ago. I got passed and didn't care. I knew I'd see them later. They were hardly passing me anyway because the hills were quite steep. It would cost MUCH more energy to run and I wouldn't be going that much faster. So, more cost than benefit!
Somewhere along the way many of us learn to embrace the idea of “attacking” the hill or pushing ourselves harder when we encounter a hill. It's almost a primal response: see hill, attack hill!
Thing is, it's a pretty stupid tactic if you're trying to run your best time. The best pacing strategy is an even effort. So, when you encounter a hill, you'll slow down, but your effort will remain the same. You'll speed up as you crest the hill as you maintain your effort. You may even increase your pace on the downslope if you're physically strong enough to tolerate the increased loading/pounding.
Recall the matchbook concept. You've got a limited number of matches. The goal is to finish the race just as you last match is flaming out. Every time you spike your effort, you're burning through your limited muscle sugar stores (matches) at a faster rate. Make sure you get to the last mile with one more match!
Is There Ever A Good Time To Surge Up A Hill?
IF you're directly competing against someone and you know they're weak on hills, you can administer a nice dose of psychological warfare by hitting them while they're suffering. Of course, you've got to be mentally ready to handle the effort because you're gonna suffer, too!
OR, if you're feeling good and you know you can handle a spike in effort, then by all means, crank it. Just make sure you know how many matches you have left ;-)
So what do you think? How do you approach hills?