The fastest half marathon I ever did in my career was one hour and 33 minutes and it was in the hills of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. I had a training buddy at the time who was a stay at home dad and carpenter so we would train together whenever we could get away from our small kids. If you are not familiar with the terrain in Oceanside, California, it is a lot of rolling hills, some of them steep, and some beautiful scenery with panoramic views of the ocean. There was one hill in particular which we named "suicide hill" and it was about a 2 to 3 minute steep climb with a curve at the top. One's heart rate would max out running up and down this ginormous hill and it made for an unbelievable test of cardio strength and endurance. I was the FASTEST runner I ever was at age 36 and I attribute my running abilities to doing hill repeats OFTEN and this is why:
1. Uphill running helps improve running form. The reason I say this is because the runner must have a slight forward lean and flex the ankles a bit with each step. The knees must come up a little higher and strike under the hips, which is ideal running form. The runner must swing his arms efficiently at 90 degrees back and forth to help "pull" up the hill.
2. Running uphill means little contact with the ground and less pounding on the joints as running on a flat or downhill surface. I have often seen athletes who are nursing an injury running uphill or on stairs since this is way less contact with the ground and therefore less impact on the ankles, knees, and hips.
3. Running uphill is a STRENGTH workout and develops the fast twitch muscle fibers, unlike the slow twitch muscle fibers used in a long slow endurance run. The fast twitch muscle fibers are what give you the most force, although anaerobically.
Sample Hill workout from my training plan:
Warm up: 1.5 miles easy endurance pace
10X 45sec hill repeats (steep hill if at all possible) (Best Sustainable Effort)
Slow jog down after each
1.5 mile easy jog
Check out my triathlon training plans and marathon training plans available on this website for great track and hill workouts!