When we first moved to Greenville, I was terrified of hills. In my life, up to that point, I had lived in Houston, Central Illinois, South Florida, Singapore and Hamburg. All pancake flat. If you wanted to run a hill, you had to seek it out and even then, you were probably on a bridge of some sort.
When I started running more seriously in Greenville, I avoided the hills at all costs. When I was training to break 2:00 for the first time in a half marathon, I did my first ever 14-mile training run as two 3.5-mile out-and-backs on a trail, just so I could avoid any big hills. And when I was marathon training for the first time, I was known to park in Cleveland Park (the lowest point in the city) and walk about a mile up to the highest point in the city, so that I could run 20-miles with a net downhill.
Of course, it was nearly impossible to avoid all hills, especially when I started training with friends. But even then, I would obsess over them. I would announce to the group if I knew one was coming and run in fear until I was up and over it.
As the years have gone by, I have become more comfortable with hills. I have learned to quiet the voices that tell me that I can’t get up them and would mostly plan long run routes without a great deal of thought about exactly where the hills were. I wasn’t afraid to climb out of the park to head home at the end of my runs anymore.
BUT, as recently as B2B training, I still found that my “regular” loops included an out-and-back on a flat section that is typically busy with traffic. And my tempo runs, always went on the same, what I would consider, least rolling route from my house.
Why though? Why would I take Walter on a busy road, when we could run the beautiful, traffic-free neighborhood streets? Why would I deal with crappy sidewalks and stopping at stop lights when I could enjoy the tree-lined side streets and lovely old homes? Why would I run the SAME streets over and over, when there could be so much more variety in my routes?
Slowly as I have been building up my mileage again after B2B, I have ventured out on hillier roads for recovery runs and easy efforts. And finally Friday, during a short 3-mile recovery run, I had a revelation: I will embrace the hills. I will use them to make me a stronger, more confident runner. I will use them to get faster. I am fortunate to live in an area where I have hills to run on and I will take advantage of them.
So as I set off for a run yesterday afternoon, I went with the intention of exploring new neighborhoods. I ventured into new areas, that are so close to my house, but I had never run before. It was a beautiful fall day and I felt AMAZING. I ran just shy of 8 miles at an 8:13 pace and enjoyed every minute of it.
Now I am on the hunt for new “regular” routes. I want to find new routes at every distance, that don’t include flat out-and-backs. I also want to take off for a run without a plan and see what I find. I have BIG MARATHON GOALS in 2013 and finally learning to embrace the hills is just one more step in making me the runner I want to become.