I don’t think many runners like running up hills. I sure don’t. But hill training is a pretty key part of any marathon training program.

Hills do a couple of things for me. Firstly, they test my resolve. How serious am I about my training? Am I serious enough to commit to running a quality hill training session every Wednesday for a month and a half? Do I really want the results on race day enough to push through the self-doubt and laziness that could lead me to skip the hills or run them too easy?

Secondly, they build strength. Running up (and down) hills stresses the quads and hamstrings more than running flat. By adding in hill training, I get to build some extra strength that will come in very handy on race day, especially if the course has some incline. As a bonus, running uphill encourages better form by requiring a bit more knee lift than flat running.

Thirdly, they build cardio fitness. Hills are like speed workouts with less of the risk of injury. They also teach me how to moderate and understand how heart rate relates to performance. Knowing how hard I can push, and how to recover and bring my heart rate down while still running a good pace is invaluable on race day.

It’s really tempting to skip the hill workout each week and just drop in another 10km tempo run. But hills have their own benefits to provide. It’s tough work for a couple of months, but the difference they make on race day will be evident.