Hill training

I've been using bikehike.co.uk to check profiles of courses and training routes.

When I run the 33 Mile Challenge, the distance isn't the only thing I need to overcome: the Marlborough Downs course is hilly.
Map and elevation - click for a bigger version

Here's the course elevation profile:

The highest points on that course then are in the first 15km - an up-and-down climb of about 100m (300ft or so).

Then there's a long drop down to the canal, and a flat section for about 10km, before a steep climb of about 100m, followed by another climb of about 60m.

Then, a steep descent of about 150m, before going straight back up again to 250m.

Last, after a complete Marathon distance, there's a 90m climb, followed by a slow descent to the finish.
The biggest single climb is around 150m, with a good few 100m climbs. This is what I need to train for.

But I live in the Midlands - which is predominantly flat. Hills are hard to come by. I may get in shape for long distances, but I need to put in more effort to condition myself for long, steep, relatively high hills.

Interestingly, what I've found while I've been running, is that it isn't only the ascents that are tough - the descents are punishing too.
Going downhill uses muscles for control and braking that are already tired and worn from a long run. Often it's the fine control muscles that are most tired - those big thigh and calf muscles can take much more fatigue that the small control muscles, I've found.

So I've been scouring the maps of the area for all the big long hills, steep hills and repeating hills that i can find.
Here's the 32km route I found:
32km hilly run

It goes down to a low of about 80m, then climbs for about 70m, followed by a descent than a climb back up of about 50m at about the half-way mark. Then there's a few short hills (they don't feel short yet - I'm still new to this route), before the big nasty climb over Newnham Hill, about 100m.

These hills aren't quite as big as the Marlborough course, but they're close. This course takes me around 3 hours.

Here's the 21km route - starting with Newnham Hill.
21km hilly run

A similar bunch of hills again - I can manage this in about 1.5 to 2 hours.

I run this course with ankle weights on, to simulate a higher fatigue level, as though I was at the end of a longer run.

I also run this course in reverse, so Newnham Hill is last.

There's a big difference between trying to fool your body into being tired, and really being tired.
After 2.5 hours of running, I'm practically out of fuel to burn, and running on grit. I take a backpack full of energy drink. After about the halfway mark, I take a gulp every five minutes of so - it helps keep me going.

When I can run these courses easily, with weights, without much worry - I'll know I'm ready.

Remember to please visit my Just Giving page, to raise money for Asthma UK.


  1. I find that the downhill at 32km really hurts my knees. Feels like my shins are about to explode through the top of them. They never do but its tough to maintain a jog when that is happening.

  2. Hm, needs more peril. You should try being chased by hungry dogs, maybe?
    Or maybe that's too much - start with hungry squirrels, and move up to dogs later on. Hell, if the dogs become routine you could move on to even more dangerous animals, like lions or tapirs.

    1. I've been chased by dogs while running - and bitten too. It does make me go faster.