Our expert says:
Downhill running is certainly more likely to affect the hamstrings than uphill running. The reason is that the hamstrings have to work a little harder on a downhill road to help you decelerate. So if someone is going to cramp in the hamstrings, it usually happens on the downhill.
It's difficult to know why it would have happened this year, and not before. There might be a small difference in the training, something that at first glance doesn't seem to have been a problem, but actually cost you some important training time. Or it's the timing of your running, perhaps you've done a race or two differently this year, it would take some detective work to figure out.
So the problem is likely fatigue. That's why it happens on longer races, and not in the shorter ones. Therefore, you need to strengthen the hamstring, and that's done in the gym, and by practicing downhill running. The combination of the two should help. To do downhill sessions is especially important, but don't get carried away - one every 10 or so days is plenty, and you'd have to find a reasonably steep downhill (not so steep that you feel like you're out of control) and then run repeats on it. If you're at a gym, then strength work is quite easy - hamstring curls, lunges, squats etc will help.
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