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Do I have to do hills?

Is the Air Force Marathon Course Hilly?

A question we frequently get in regards to our race is “Is it a flat course, or hilly?” Honestly, this answer varies for each person; not because we are making up a different response, but because every single person has a different definition of what a hill is.

A person who lives in Colorado will not find our course to be hilly. However, a person who lives in Indiana, where not many hills exist, may differ in opinion. So, here is our answer.

We consider our course a relatively flat course. If you run the Full marathon, Mile 1 is a steady incline. Not steep, but steady. It flattens out for a little bit, but then you will experience some gentle rolling hills (not a high elevation, though), along miles 3-6. Then the course flattens out again, and you won’t experience much incline until roughly mile 21, where the incline is an on-ramp. After that, it’s pretty smooth sailing, with some downhill into mile 24. The 10K has the same mile 1 incline as the full marathon, but after that it’s relatively flat. The half marathon has the same incline on-ramp as the full, being around mile 8, going into those same gentle rolling hills and a down incline at mile 10.

While that explanation is slightly lengthy, it truly is a matter of perspective. If you compare us against another Ohio race, the Flying Pig, we are a flat course. But if you measure us up against the Indiana Monumental Marathon, then we have some gentle hills. The bottom line is, while we believe we are a relatively flat course, you will decide, but regardless of whether you think we are hilly or not, doing hill training is important.

Why do hills?

I have yet to meet a person who says they love or enjoy hill training (feel free to tell us if you feel differently!) But depending on your choice of hill workout- be it sprint, long hill repeats or rolling hills- you will build general running strength and fitness.  As much as people dislike this exercise, it truly is healthy for your overall running. Running hills builds your glutes, and glutes are a key part in your movement forward in your day to day running. Contrary to popular belief, it actually takes more muscles to control your body’s motion going down hills that it does to go up. Many people think “I’ll walk up the hill and then run down because that’ll be easier.” However, that is a false statement. You want to maintain the same pace going up as you do going down. Don’t let the hills fool you.

Using gradual hill training in your training will help your body to learn how to pace itself, breath better, and over time, build muscle.

What is Hill Training?

In hill training, you can choose short sprints, long hill repeats, or rolling hills.

Short sprints are exactly what they sound like- short sprints up the hill.  Essentially you would run 10-15 seconds at maxium effort up a steep hill. Take a short minute or 2 rest before starting the sprint all over again.

Long hill repeats are (for example) 10 x 90 second hill repeats, with a strong effort up the hill and a slow jog or even walk back down. Repeat.

Rolling hills are also just like they sound.  You find an area that has some rolling hills and you run, striving to maintain your pace and breathing throughout.

We know most people groan at the word “hills.” But there really is value in them. So, what are you waiting for? Go out and incorporate those hills!