The Baltimore Running Festival — on October 21 — is just around the corner. If you’re training for the marathon or the half, you’ve probably studied the course map and noticed the race travels through many diverse neighborhoods including the scenic Inner Harbor waterfront area, historic Federal Hill and charming Fells Point. But one of the hardest sections of the course is between Miles 16–20, going uphill from Patterson Park to Lake Montebello, before hitting the mostly downhill, final five miles to the finish line.
It goes without saying that the second half of Baltimore’s course usually worries runners, especially newcomers. But there’s no reason to be concerned about it, you still have time to prepare yourself — and we’re here to help. Even if you’re not running in Baltimore, these training tips apply to any challenging race.
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According to Tim Moore, a certified strength and conditioning specialist, hill training is one of the best ways to improve your running since it helps boost your strength and power while dialing in your form. A coach and trainer for more than 30 years, Moore says properly structuring your training for any race requires that you address the unique attributes of the course. “This means that you not only make a note of where you will specifically have flat sections, uphills and those all-important downhills. But you also need to figure out exactly how the course flows together,” says Moore.
TOP HILL-RUNNING TECHNIQUE TIPS
- Maintain a slight forward lean while running up the hill.
- Focus your eyes about 15–20 feet in front of you.
- Run tall, lifting up through your spine.
- Swing your arms freely from the shoulder joint with your arms bent at 90 degrees and drive elbows back with your hands relaxed.
- Drive your knees forward (not up), and allow your hips to follow behind the knee while performing quick steps.
- Keep your facial muscles relaxed and shoulders down.
- Breathe deeply from your diaphragm in a smooth, controlled rhythm to keep your heart rate under control.
Here are a few marathon training tips to master Baltimore, or any race you’ve set your sights on:
1. STUDY THE COURSE
Creating a workout for a specific hill in an upcoming race usually involves running the actual terrain to get the real ‘feel’ for the course. “As the saying goes, ‘Prior planning prevents poor performances,’ and this is especially true with running hills,” says Moore. “A little training can go a long way to help you achieve your best time on race day!”
2. SET A STEADY PACE
Regardless of your ability, it is critical you maintain a comfortable pace. Too many times Moore has seen runners push hard going up a hill, and then pay for their burst of speed as other runners pass them down the road. His advice is to carry the pace from the flat as far up the hill as possible while focusing on form to maintain momentum up and over the crest of the hill and for 15 yards beyond before they return to their planned marathon pace.
3. TRAIN FOR THE UPS AND DOWNS
Hill workouts come in two distinct types: one is training to run uphill with the least amount of energy possible, while still maintaining a decent pace, and the other is learning how to use gravity to carry you downhill as quickly and efficiently as possible with little effort. “Also, downhill running will help to prepare your quads to be better able to absorb the impact of a fast descent,” says Moore. Despite the relief expected by many first-time runners, declines are not always your best friend in a marathon.
A PATTERSON PARK HILL SPECIFIC WORKOUT
The Patterson Park hill is a longer, more gradual grade, so find a hill about 1/4-mile long and around a 4% grade to mimic the conditions.
Beginners: Start with four repeats at an RPE of 6 on a scale of 1–10 (10 being max effort), walk back down and go again when you feel ready. This will help you gauge your effort and maintain a steady pace so you don’t waste precious energy for the last 10K.
Advanced: Shoot for 8 or more hill repeats at a heart rate of around 80% of your maximum, jog back down to recover.
GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT RUN