Should You Train on Hills Even if the Broad Street Course is Mostly Downhill?

Running coach Cory Smith gives us the answer.

hilly runs

Hilly runs should be part of your Broad Street Run training plan, even though the course is flat. / Photograph courtesy Getty Images

Each week leading up to the Broad Street Run on May 5th, local running coach Cory Smith shares his training tips and tricks for the epic 10-miler. Here are some of them.

If you want to set a 10-mile personal record, there’s no doubt the Blue Cross Broad Street Run is the best race for which to sign up. With a net downhill and no sharp corners to break your stride, the 10-mile course through Philadelphia is the perfect stage for fast times. As a result, odds are that workouts like tempo runs, long runs, and interval workouts are your weekly staples.

But how about hills? You’re probably doing some hill repeats here and there but designated hilly runs? I’d venture to say not many Broad Street training plans read, “10 miles over a grueling hilly course” or “an easy five over hills.” Which, to be fair, does make sense. Despite a few moderate inclines, Broad Street is mostly downhill or flat. Why train hills if the course is mostly downhill, right?

Wrong. As fellow Villanova runner and three time Olympian Eamonn Coghlan said so perfectly, “Running hills breaks up your rhythm and forces your muscles to adapt to different stresses. The result? You become a stronger runner.” Adding hills during runs adds a layer of resistance you can’t get from running over flat ground. You’re forced to push off a little harder. You engage your calf muscles more. Your stride shortens, forcing you to take more steps. You burn through fuel stores a little faster. All of these changes will make you a stronger runner in the long run.

So, we give you what you’ve really been waiting for: easy ways to incorporate hills into your Broad Street routine.

Hilly Long Runs

Seek out the hilliest routes for your weekly long run. Fairmount Park and Manayunk right off Kelly Drive are fantastic for this. Try making your way up by the Philadelphia Zoo and the Mann Center.

Hilly Recovery Runs

The day after a hard run, such as a tempo or interval workout, choose a really hilly route such as the Valley Forge Loop, the Ridley Crook loop, or Forbidden Drive starting from Lincoln Drive. The key here is to take it at an easy pace. You’ll still be recovering from yesterday’s workout, so you don’t want to overexert yourself. Best to follow this run with an easy, flat day before going hard again.

Hilly Tempo Warmup/Cooldown

Get the hills in before you’re too tired to tackle them by doing a warm-up around the Lemon Hill Loops. Or cool down by running down the hill from Lloyd Hall. Like the hilly recovery runs, the pace should be kept fairly easy. The goal here is too tire out the legs a little more than a flat workout, making the tempo run more difficult. You can also add a little more distance to your warmup or cooldown to kick it up another notch.

Cory Smith is the founder of Run Your Personal Best, an online running coaching business that has helped hundreds of runners achieve personal bests in distances ranging from 800 meters to 100 miles. He is a multiple-time NCAA Division One Regional qualifier and two-time National Championship qualifier while at Villanova University. Along with his work for Philadelphia magazine, Cory serves as a running editor for Gear Institute and is a regular contributor for Outside Magazine, Trail Runner, Gear Patrol, and Gear Junkie.

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