Last weekend, I ran the six-mile loop in Central Park, the one that all of us running in the MORE/Fitness Half Marathon will heroically conquer twice on race day. I did it to remind myself where the major landmarks are -- the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Dakota -- so that I would have them fixed in my mind. I also wanted to experience again those long, boring stretches where nothing much seems to happen (the top of the east side, the middle of the west) so that I would know how to pace myself come race day.
I did that, sure.
But what the run really accomplished was to emphasize just how punishing that loop is. If you’ve never run there before, it's no kind of spoiler to tell you: That park is crazy hilly. It undulates. It rolls. If it’s not surging upward, it’s plummeting down. I swear, there is not a single nice, flat, easy stretch.
Ladies, do your hill repeats!
I confess, I’d been slacking on mine. My running buddy told me she’d decided to do all her three-mile treadmill runs on an incline of one percent to get some hill work in her training. I thought that was a great idea and tried it.
I suffered the whole way through.
I know, one percent doesn't sound like much, but it sneaks up on you. Never again with that great idea.
Then I got sidetracked by speed drills and forgot, conveniently, about running hills. I figured my outside runs would take care of that.
Central Park is way more hilly than any of my regular outdoor routes. I am definitely underprepared for that aspect of the race. Yesterday, I recommitted myself to hill drills on the treadmill.
After warming up for half a mile, I ran a mere quarter-mile at a five percent incline. (That’s me: Neglect it for weeks then go whole hog.) As someone smarter would clearly have known, that’s a recipe for pain. After a mile and a half, when my shins were killing me, I stopped.
I just can’t risk getting injured now.
Then, I spent an hour sitting on the floor of my office with ice packs on my legs trying to pretend that such positioning was perfectly professional and that I do my job, deputy editor of MORE magazine, from the floor all the time.
For those of you now starting hill training, what it boils down to is this: To get better on hills, you have to run them. There’s just no shortcut for hard work.
Ideally, I’d run in Central Park at least one or two more times before the race. But I’m not sure I can make that happen. If training is one chunk physical, one chunk mental, then there’s got to be another chunk in there for logistics. Finding the time to run, reorganizing my family’s schedule to let me do it, remembering to eat, to bring clean clothes, to rest…really, when I cross the finish line on April 15, it’s going to feel like a miracle.