It is vitally important that one does some form of hill training in order to enjoy and have an easier run at the Old Mutual Two Oceans Half and Ultra Marathons.
According to Alan Green, club captain for the West Coast Athletics Club and qualified Sports Scientist with 20 years coaching experience in the health and fitness industry as well as sports coaching in various disciplines, you can either do a few hill repeats on a hill ranging between 100 m and 400 m in length, or you could look for a training route that has a few hills of various distances and inclines.
He says that to prepare for the race, a good rule of thumb would be to do at least four running sessions a week, with one session been a slightly faster paced run, one hill session, one long run session and one recovery run session per week.
"The two most important sessions are the hill run session and the long run. The long run will be used to gradually build up your confidence to know that you can run the distance that you have set out to run and also to prepare your body and energy systems for what you will encounter during the event. If you have sufficient time available and you can train every day then it is best to train no more than six days per week and have a rest day on the seventh day."
The technique of running uphill
Green says that when it comes to running uphill everyone needs to practice their technique to see what works best for them.
"The easiest and most economical method of running uphill is to slightly shorten your stride and keep your feet close to the ground. You will lean slightly forward from your ankles and with a short shuffle motion move forward. It is also important to remember that it will be your arms that propel you forward, so practice driving your arms forwards aiming them straight ahead and keeping your shoulders relaxed.
"Those who enjoy and are strong uphill runners can run using their natural running motions and remembering to run past the top of the hill."
One of his top tips to keep you going is to focus on a point about 10 meters in front of you or even the person in front and try to resist the urge to look for the top of the hill, as this can cause you to slack off in pace as the top might still seem far off.
Tips for running downhill
Green points out that it is equally important to remember that when running down hill you should lean slightly forward and relax your shoulders while keeping your pace and stride length as normal as possible.
"A mistake that many runners make is to run as hard as they can downhill to make up for time lost on the uphill sections. This generally only results in sore quadriceps muscles on the legs and a lack of energy to continue running efficiently once you encounter a flat of uphill section again."
How to tackle the Two Oceans Half
The Two Oceans half has a new route this year so there is one extra noticeable hill in the event and runners will now encounter Edinburgh Drive which Green says is a nice section to get you into the event and prepare you to maintain your running pace.
"The hardest hill on the half is probably Southern Cross Drive which is approximately 2.6km in length. When running this road if you need to look up, then focus on the big white wall situated on the left hand side of the road as it bends to the right. From here to the top is not more than 250-300 m. Another hill to remember is Union Avenue which is a 3km section right at the end of the run and is fairly undulating."
Tips for the ultra marathon runners
The Two Oceans Ultra 56km Marathon has a few noticeable climbs namely Small and Big Chapmans Peak which also includes a quadriceps muscle draining descent into Hout Bay. From here you will gradually and steadily climb all the way to the marathon mark and then a kilometre and a bit later encounter the hardest climb which is Constantia Nek.
"This climb is also approximately 2.8 to 3km in length and the gradient varies from comfortable to steep. Again remember that Union Avenue waits ahead so keep a bit of your energy for that. At the top of Constantia Nek there is a lot of spectator support so resist the urge to run hard and get carried away with the excitement."
"A lot of people will either attack the uphill or downhill portion of a hill depending on their particular running style and preference. It is best to keep in mind that if you do run up a hill, to keep the same pace till you have cleared the top of the hill by a few meters. Keep the shoulders relaxed and lean slightly forward from the ankles and not the hips as this will cause your breathing to become harder. When running downhill keep a slightly forward lean and try not to over stride or brake on each foot strike.
"Keep your arms slightly bent at the elbows and let them drive straight forward as this will help you to keep your legs driving forward when running. A hill is a good opportunity to slow down your pace and even to take a short walk break if you wish to and also to take in nutrients like a gel, sweet, or even a potato. The ice cream on offer in Hout Bay is also an excellent different taste to enjoy just before tackling Constantia Nek."
Visit the Old Mutual Two Oceans website here for more information on the routes.
Sources: Alan Green, club captain for the West Coast Athletics Club and qualified Sports Scientist with 20 years coaching experience in the health and fitness industry as well as sports coaching in various disciplines.