Training Program for a 10K Trail Race

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In preparation for the 10K trail race I plan to run in August, I’ve started my race-specific training by doing hill intervals on the trails above my house. I have a half mile loop that is just about exactly half uphill and half downhill. I began with six repeats of this loop with no rest in between loops. I use the downhill section to recover from the uphill section and to work on lengthening my stride.

Here’s how I run hill intervals.
I start at the top of the loop and begin by running down to the halfway mark. In this section I’m trying keep my upper body as far forward as I can while at the same time allowing my pelvis to rotate as much as possible to absorb the shock of running downhill at a fast pace. If I do it right, I don’t feel like I’m expending any energy. In fact, I feel like I’m resting even though I’m going at a very fast pace.

Then, when I hit the halfway mark and begin running the uphill section back to the top, I change a number of things. The first thing I do is shorten my stride so I’m running in a lower gear. This saves me a ton of energy without sacrificing a lot of speed. Next, I pull my hands in closer to my chest and swing my arms with a powerful forward/upward motion. Believe it or not, this helps my obliques to drive my pelvis which then drives my legs in the most efficient way. This feels like “whole-body” running, and it should, because I don’t want to rely solely on my legs to get me up the hills…especially those long, steep ones.

Another thing I do on the uphills is lean my column into the hill so that I feel as though I’m falling up the hill. This saves my hamstrings from having to work to “pull” me up the hill.

The most important thing to me when running hill intervals is to keep my perceived rate of exertion (PRE) as consistent as possible on the uphill sections. I’m trying to maintain a PRE of about 7 (on a scale of 1 to 10) on each of the six uphill sections.

Here are my chronological split times for each of the six intervals:
1. 4:27
2. 4:30
3. 4:26
4. 4:18
5. 4:11
6. 4:03

As you can see, each interval with the exception of the second one was faster than the one preceding it. I lost focus on the second one, which is why I lost 3 seconds.  The idea is to have each progressive interval just slightly faster than the one before it…without increasing your PRE to get the job done. By maintaining a very consistent sense of energy expenditure my body will learn to run more efficiently which should always be way at the top of your list if you want to do well in your event.

To keep my energy expenditure constant and my PRE constant I use all the uphill focuses I mentioned above in varying degrees depending on which one I feel will help me most to accomplish that consistency.

Play with this on your own runs or walks, and challenge yourself to run or walk hills faster without changing your effort level. It sort of forces you to practice your focuses…and that’s always a good thing.

For some additional suggestions on how to run hills click here.

Happy Hills,


Posted in Technique

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