As someone who runs for recreation and competition, I get tempted to stick with easy courses. I don’t need to run. I run because I want to, so why should I do hard hills? Well, I like to keep improving, so my dilemma of not wanting to do hills and wanting to become a better runner are often in conflict. While Maryland is quite hilly, where I live is relatively flat. On days when there is a tailwind, I can easily run down the road thinking, “I am the fastest woman alive!” But, that’s not true. I know that if I want to improve as a runner, I’ll have to hit the hills, increase the distance, and do the dreaded speed work (God, I hate speed work).
This past week, I hit the hills and increased the distance. It was my first 30 mile week since cross-country season ended and my first 10-miler since the Baltimore Marathon. One of the things that I have to remember is that there are parts of hill and distance work-outs where I know I’m going to hate that I’m doing this to myself, but the second that it’s over, I’m going to be so glad that I did it. That’s exactly what happened last week.
Near my work, there are a lot of hills. Hills to the point that the course that I ran on Thursday had a nearly 4% grade. Checking out my MapMyRun/Garmin duo, I saw how pathetic my hill running has gotten. Down hill, my pace was great. I felt good and was in a happy place. The way up the hill, I wanted to start swearing and stop running. Thankfully, I didn’t stop, but mostly because I didn’t want to wimp out. Wimping out is no way to improve. When I do poorly at hills, I want to yell, “I am a Midwesterner! I don’t do hills.” But, that’s not really an excuse. As we learned from Wedding Crashers: Rule #76: No Excuses. Play like a champion.
Finally, yesterday I hit the road for a 10-miler. It was windy and not as warm as I would have liked, but the run felt good. There were a couple of points where it got dicey. The worst moment was on the hill pictured below. I have mentioned before that where I live is an island of rural culture in between large suburbs of DC and Baltimore. Generally, I run along bigger roads that either have large shoulders or sidewalks. However, on my long runs (10+ miles), I take a path that goes along a 2-lane road that passes by farms. It’s beautiful, but this 2-lane road has zero shoulder. It is SCARY. If I leave early enough in the morning, there is no traffic, so it’s not that bad. However, I left for my run at about 9:00 yesterday, so ended up on the hill at 9:40-ish–the beginning of prime traffic time. As I was running up the hill, cars started coming. I tripped, a stick jabbed me in the leg, and I fell. Thankfully, the cars were driving slowly enough that they avoided me and my broken pride. Moral to the story: be careful.
Yesterday I was reminded that on long runs, if I have something nice to look at, I can run farther and feel better about it. Sometimes it can be tough, but the Scary Hill is in a beautiful area. The picture below is the police horse farm I run by on my 12 or 13-milers. If I feel like taking a break while running, I’ll play with the horses or other animals that I see along the way. It definitely puts you in your happy place. That’s what running should be about–challenging yourself and being in your happy place. 🙂