Training for hills

The benefits of hill training are endless. It is speedwork in disguise, yes? But with a hilly race course, hill training is a must. The first time I trained for Hospital Hill Half, I was kind of terrified. And with good reason.

Runner’s World has rankled it as one of the countries toughest half marathons. It was also included in the “Sublime Climb” list.

How to Conquer It: “Don’t go out hard; be conservative early on,” says two-time Hospital Hill champion Mark Curp, who set course records here in 1983 and ’85. “I doubt there’s more than half a mile that’s flat.”

Hill Story: Hospital Hill gets its name from the medical facilities established there in 1869. The final hill rises 50 feet in one-tenth of a mile, an 8.5 percent grade.

The current course record was set by Julius Koskei of Kenya, who ran the course with 3 teammates in 2012 as an Olympic training run. (They were looking to acclimate to humidity and hills.). The Kenyans finished the race first, second, and third. (I won’t ever look to set a course record.)

I do believe in going in prepared. In the case of Hospital Hill, I look for the biggest, nastiest hills I can find and run repeats ad nauseum. (Yes, there are hills in Kansas. In fact, in my area, it isn’t easy to find a flat stretch!)

My closest option is a gravel road that the high school (and I believe Baker U) cross country teams uses for training. This nasty guy is known as “Signal Oak Hill.” At the top of this hill, there used to be an oak that settlers hung lanterns from to warn neighbors of “ruffians.” That tree is gone, and hopefully too are the ruffians. There is a monument there now, and an amazing view of Lawrence, KS.


Signal Oak overlook

It is a half-mile up with some points reaching over 14% grade. If you can conquer this beast, you can conquer anything!

Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 8.25.14 PM

Speaking of Lawrence, KS, I spend a lot of time on the University of Kansas campus. A tour of the campus will give you a variety of ways to torture yourself.  My favorite KU Campanile Hill.


Beautiful Torture

The campanile is a WWII memorial on the hill above Potter’s Lake. It is no slouch with over 13% grade. This paved loop is really popular for training so no one will look at your funny for running in circles!

Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 8.43.39 PM

Campanile Strava

I will keep looking for more horrible places train for hills. Hope to see you on a hill soon! If you are interested in joining me, you can use code BIBRAVE for a sweet discount!


Disclaimer: I received a race entry as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review find and write race reviews!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s