Welcome to the Uganda Marathon Runners’ Blog! Our series of blogs dedicated to our participants preparing to take part in this year’s event. Over the coming weeks, we’ll share suggestions to help in your preparations for the 7-Day adventure, from training tips to fundraising and travel advice.
Written by a former participant, these blogs are all about supporting our group of 2019 runners – please feel free to get in touch if you have questions or topic suggestions – we’d love to hear from you!
When I trained for the Uganda Marathon in 2015, I was relatively new to the world of running – my training mainly focused solely on upping the distance of my long runs week-by-week, with some shorter runs in between, gradually building my weekly mileage. However, as I became more familiar with what the course in Uganda entailed, I knew I needed to (somehow) recreate the conditions as best I could in the UK. One of those key conditions, aside from the heat and trail paths, was the elevations and descents. From that point on, I tried to gradually introduce hill training into my preparations, and it really paid off come Race Day!
And that’s what this post is all about – hill training and how to include it in your training!
The Why- The Ups and Downs of Running in Uganda
So, why would I recommend adding in some hill training sessions into your prep for Uganda? Well…(and I hope I’m not breaking this to you for the first time)…but the course is well, hilly. There’s a lot of elevations and descents, so the more practice you can get running on hills now, the more prepared you’ll be for your challenge in Uganda!
Looking at the map above, You’d certainly consider the course as hilly throughout. However, there are three key points which feel especially significant. These are:
- ‘Camp Nedegeya’ Hill & Bugabira School – the first noticeably steep hill at around the 5K mark. This is shortly followed by a descent through one of our Charity Projects, Bugabira School. Having the children cheer me on at that point is still one of my favourite moment from the 2015 event!
- ‘The Beast’ – the approach to this is a truly stunning view, and it’s all downhill in the lead-up before it goes up. Think a ‘U-shape’, going down first and then going up. Challenging but fun!
- ‘Heartbreak Hill’ – towards the end of the course, the view at the top is worth every step up the hill as on a clear day, you can see as far as Lake Victoria. Truly stunning.
Don’t let any of these hills intimidate you though! The experience of running in Uganda is a very special one, which will give you added motivation to conquer these peaks. Plus, by incorporating a few hill sessions into your training, you’ll be more than ready for them on June 1st!
The benefits – how hill training will help you
- Build strength in your legs (specifically in your glutes, quads and calf muscles, which can also make you more resistant to injury)
- Increase endurance – you’ll be able to keep going for longer, especially helpful in long distance races
- Improve running economy and speed – you’ll require less oxygen to run faster and it will boost your speed overall! (Hello PB on a flat course!)
- Builds technique – eg. Stride length & frequency, the ability to pop off the ground quicker, balance, stability and knee lift
- Burns more calories – running up even a 5% incline, can burn a lot more calories! (Yay!)
So as you can see, as well as being great prep for running in Uganda, hill training also has lots of general benefits! 🙂
The How: Tips on Technique
When running uphill:
- Keep yourself upright and don’t lean too far forward
- Keep looking to the top of hill (and don’t look down!)
- Keep your strides short and drive your knees up
- Maintain your momentum until you’re over the top as opposed to at the top
When running downhill:
- Let your arms go loose and relax. Run naturally as opposed to speeding up, and only intentionally slow yourself down if you feel you’re getting into trouble/pushing too hard
- Naturally, your stride lengths will increase. Again, let this happen in less you feel your quads getting tired. (In this case, shorten your stride to compensate.)
And finally…adding it to your training
When I trained for Uganda, I tried to do one hill training session a week, but if you’re just starting out with it, it’s probably best to do one a fortnight and work your way into it. Hill sessions are an intense workout (like speedwork), so be sure to start with small inclines and gradually work up to the steeper/longer climbs. Also, consider resting the following day to allow your body time to adjust to the new sessions.
Here are a couple of routines which have worked for me in the past (which can also be done on a treadmill if you don’t have access to suitable hills):
Beginner- Run 100 meters uphill and then walk back to the start to allow recovery time. Repeat 6-8 times. Start with gentle hills in the early sessions, getting steeper as you progress your workouts.
Intermediate- Run 100 to 150 meters uphill, jogging back gently to the start each time, and repeat 10 times. When you’ve done this, jog for 5 to 10 minutes before repeating. (Only attempt this routine once you feel confident about the beginner session.)
Good luck in your hill sessions and remember, even a few hill workouts will help make a difference for Uganda and to your overall running. Start with the smaller hills too – it’s better to start small and work your way up!
As always, give us a shout if you have any questions via email or Facebook- we’d be happy to help. Until next time! 🙂