Over the past year, I have managed to run on mostly flat terrain with the occasional easy hill. My first half marathon was pretty flat, with the exception of a small hill and a moderate hill. So, I have been able to avoid major hill work...until now. I'm registered for a half marathon in October that is described as quite hilly. So, to prepare for the half marathon and add some new challenges to my running, I have started doing the dreaded hill work. To be completely honest, I have avoided hills for the past year because they scare me. I'm afraid of the level of endurance they require and I'm scared that they will make it impossible for me to continue running at a solid pace. But, as we all know, running requires that we overcome our mental challenges as well as out physical challenges. So, I'm going to look at this new phase in my training as a way to move out of my comfort zone and build my mental endurance.
Yesterday, I went for a 5.5 mile run and purposely chose a route that was full of hills. Not just small, easy hills, but big, long hills. Hills that make you sweat harder and slow down and curse the entire way up. There were three of these difficult hills on the course, along with quite a few more manageable hills. All I can say is...WOW! Those things are brutal. Now I know why I have avoided them for the past year. Even though I only ran 5.5 miles, the run was more difficult than many of my longer runs because of the difficulty of the hills. However, in some sick, sadistic way, I really enjoyed it. I liked pushing myself and struggling over each hill. I liked the way the hills made my legs and lungs feel, and I really liked the sense of accomplishment I felt when I made it home. After all, isn't that what running is all about? Challenging ourselves and facing our fears so that we can come out stronger and faster on the other side?
So, the rest of my half marathon training will include hill work. But, rather than dread it, I'm actually looking forward to it. That's progress, right?