Conquering the hills

I grew up on top of a steep hill in a town called Highlands, N.J., named for the hills that rose sharply above the water. I then moved to Colorado, where I literally ran up mountains for fun.

Then, I moved to Florida, and my thigh muscles promptly forgot they’d ever seen a hill. I only lived in the Sunshine State for four years, but those four years effectively wiped out a lifetime of hill training, which was made all too clear during my first serious hill workout here. It was one of our first Pacers group runs, and we had a great time chatting with our fellow runners; until the hills rendered us physically unable to do anything but wheeze and spit. Running that route was like trying on your skinny jeans after the holidays — a painful confirmation of the fact that you’ve got some work to do.

So I greeted the news that we were running the same route again last night with trepidation.

I was Steve-less again, but this time, when the store manager asked for runners in the 8:30- 9-minute mile range, I found a healthy group in the same range as me. The group stayed together pretty much the whole route, which turns out to not be so bad after all. It’s a really gorgeous, if hilly, run through some of Silver Spring’s prettiest neighborhoods. We finished what counts as a 5.4 miler in 45 minutes. I’m never sure how much faith to put in mapmyrun’s distances. But whatever our pace was, it felt great — one of those nights where the route seems almost unfairly fast.

“Great run,” said one member of the group as we skidded to a stop back at the store. She sounded as surprised as I was.

Looking to improve your hills? Try these common-sense hill workouts from Runner’s World columnist Ed Eyestone.

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