Running Hill Repeats

Last week I added running hill repeats to the growing list of new things I’ve done with my Mom’s Run This Town group. I’ve always included hill work in my race training plans, but I usually do incline intervals on the treadmill. 

Hill Repeats
Now that many women in my MRTT group are training for fall marathons, we’ve decide to alternate our weekly track workouts with hill repeat workouts. I am not doing a marathon, but now that I’ve seen my leg assignments for Ragnar, I figure the more hills I can train on the better.

This week, we ran for about 1.5 miles to warm up, and then tackled a steep hill with this profile (about 100 ft climb over 0.2 miles):


As you can see, I did it 5 times. I should have used the lap feature on my Garmin to time the climbs, but it looks like each one took about 2:15 – 2:20. 

I have learned from experience that if I want to do well on a hilly race course, I need to include hills in my training. For the 10 mile races that I like to do, I think hill training is even more important than speed work. Judging from this tweet, it looks like the people at Runner’s World would agree!

No amount of track work will prepare your legs to run up steep hills, keep running through the burn, and still keep running through the downhill recovery until the next hill!

On the other hand, I have no idea what a hill workout “should” be, so I did some research on sites like,, and Not surprisingly, I learned that there is no one way to do a hill workout. I read about several different types of hill workouts with different pay-offs, from workouts based on short 10-20 second sprints or longer 30-90 second repeats, to simply including long hills and/or rolling hills in your longer runs. The type of repeats we did are similar to what Hal Higdon has in his advanced training plan (repeats up a 1/4 mi hill at a 400m effort).

Even though the articles I read had different opinions about the “best” type of hill training, they all agree that intense hill work only should be done once a week. I usually do speed work one week and hill work the next, and also try to do most of my longer runs on hilly routes–I have lots to choose from, including the Mt. Vernon Trail and up Capitol Hill.

This weekend I dragged my Ragnar team captain out on the rolling hills of the Custis Trail:

Custis Trail

The hills don’t look so bad in this elevation profile, but believe me, this is a tough route!

Would you rather run a race with a sunny, flat course or
shady, rolling hills?

How often do you eat hills for breakfast? πŸ˜‰

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18 Responses to Running Hill Repeats

  1. yikes tough choice! i think shady hills – the sun kills me!
    Linz @ Itz Linz recently posted…Why I Started BloggingMy Profile

  2. I would so much rather run hills than do speed work! That looks like a tough one that you are doing-good for you.
    Deborah Brooks @ Confessions of a Mother Runner recently posted…Aspen Race for Cure 10K-Got O2?My Profile

  3. You are going to be ready for Ragnar! I like to do hills instead of sprints because I can easily find hills and I feel like I always get hurt after sprint sessions. Too many repetitions, too fast or something. Great info. recently posted…Food Prep For the Rest of UsMy Profile

  4. I have learned to embrace hill repeats – doing them have definitely paid off in a number of races I’ve done. But I’d rather do speedwork at the track if given a choice.
    Michelle @ Running with Attitude recently posted…Training Check-in – Week 1 DoneMy Profile

  5. Yum Yucky says:

    I had a late night. Waaay too tired to read a post about hill repeats. The conversation of hill repeats will only make my body more sleepy. In protest, I refuse to comment here today…. Ohhh, wait….
    Yum Yucky recently posted…Greedy Recipe! Jalapeno Eggs Over EasyMy Profile

  6. oh my word, i do NOT like the custis. that chart does NOT do it justice. ouch. good work!!
    Courtney @ Eat Pray Run, DC recently posted…Eat Pray Run DC Reader Survey!My Profile

  7. Kim says:

    Hills are a hot topic these days!!! I don’t mind hill repeats – they make me feel strong (after they are done!!).
    Great job on those repeats!!
    Kim recently posted…The Good and the Bad = LifeMy Profile

  8. oh my, I ran so many hill repeats in preparation for the SF Half and man, those hills still nearly killed me! But I will say that I grew to like hill repeats just maybe not so many of them πŸ™‚
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted…Yoga with Tara Stiles at the Reebok FitHub Union SquareMy Profile

  9. I’ve discovered a new love of hills actually! I’ve been alternating them weekly with speed work, so I’m doing them twice a month. They aren’t part of the run less run faster plan that I’m using, but I tweaked it a bit to incorporate them!
    Sue @ This Mama Runs for Cupcakes recently posted…PRO COMPRESSION REVIEW and Discount!My Profile

  10. Elena says:

    I would definitely prefer a sunny flat course— but then again, I am another one that is trying to learn to love hill repeats. I have done the same as you – doing incline intervals on the treadmill but know that I need to get outside more to run more natural hills.

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