U.P.’s Heartbreak Hill

U.P.'s "Heartbreak Hill"

If you’re a serious, regular runner at the University of the Philippines (UP) campus grounds, chances are you’ve run across this mini hill located along Juan Luna Street. Runners have fondly referred this incline as “Heartbreak Hill”, a slight reference to its famous, more daunting namesake in Boston, that’s part of the Boston Marathon route. 

While Boston’s Heartbreak Hill measures about 600 meters rising up to 88 feet, UP’s version measures a measly 100 meters but with a steeper grade that reaches up to 20 feet. It was my first introduction to hill running when i was just getting started during the early 80s and oh, how i hated it! 

The steep incline, even though short was a bane to us newbies then as we tend to struggle at half way and reduced to walking and catching our breaths when we reached the top. Up to now, i sometimes dread the prospect of having to run up this hill several times in a loop as it can zap the remaining energy left for the rest of your run. Well, familiarity breeds boredom too. 

On good days however, it’s a welcome respite for the majority of runners who cringe at the thought of running the loop of the dreary academic oval and would like variety of terrain incorporated into their running. 

Runners doing hill repetitions

If you ask several experts/coaches on how to run an uphill efficiently, chances are, you’re going to get different answers and perspective from each. That said, i’ve tried to incorporate techniques that had helped me tackle hills like those at Kalayaan Flyover, Bayani Road, McKinley Hills and some mountain trails i’ve encountered. Proper form is key and here are some tips that help me tackle the ascent:

— Leaning a bit forward to gravitate you up and get some momentum.

— Keeping the head up and the eyes fixed forward directly ahead. This is difficult for me to maintain as i tend to put my head down and just grit it out, specially when i’m tired.

— Taking short strides and using the forefoot more to lift my feet forward.

— Relaxing my body during the initial stages of the climb and when i reach about two-thirds up, i

— Use my upperbody more than my legs by pumping my arms vigorously (back and forth) to bring me upwards to the top.

— If you can’t see the top of the hill because it’s so steep, just walk it! (tip i got from Lit Onrubia)

At the top, i try to keep my momentum by moving slowly and jogging a few meters after, then resume my normal racing pace. On training runs, i definitely stop and walk when i reach the top! (It’s just the age factor here):-)

Of course, each could be adjusted accoring to the distance and elevation of the hill. Mostly when i start the initial steps up, i don’t strategize nor be conscious about how high and far i have to conquer it, i just rely on the proper form above and adjust accordingly.

Hill running develops strength, power and endurance that’s why it’s always assimilated as a key component in every runners’ training program. But the faster you run it, the sooner you get it done with.