With good uphill technique, you’ll at least be able to hold your own, but more than likely, you’ll pick up a few places. After all, a good percentage of people will walk at least part way up. You’ll gain a lot on them, but if you can maintain close to the pace you had going into the hill, which you definitely can if you practice the technique I wrote about in this post about uphill running technique, then with good downhill technique, you will pass lots of people, and I mean lots.
And keep in mind that the muscles you’ll use to run downhill are different, meaning hills will provide time for some of your muscles to rest, even if you don’t notice it at the time.
I would say the downhill is your very best option for maximizing technique and seizing the opportunity to move up.
Of course, the secret is not to overdo it. You don’t want to work the hills so hard that your legs are shredded for the rest of the race. Believe me, I have done that, but on the other hand, most people just go back to their regular pace on the downhill.
What a waste! Most people just think the downhill is easy, and as such, makes up for the difficulty of the uphill.
That’s the wrong way to think about it, for two reasons:
- One, you want to think of how you can take advantage of gravity.
- Another very important factor is that running downhill can really do a number on your body. Do it wrong, and you won’t be able to walk the next day. You’ll be in a lot of pain, but much worse is that you could have an injury.
Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty.
- As with the uphill, continue to let your arms flail a bit. This will give you additional balance, which will allow you to go faster and still maintain control. You won’t need to worry about pumping your arms as you do with running uphill. On the downhill, you’re just using them to maintain balance with your faster speed.
- Lean forward, slightly, just as you always do. The idea is to keep your body perpendicular to the road. You may feel an urge to lean back, but that will always slow you down.
- Be sure to hold your head high and keep your eyes focused ahead just as you do when running on flat ground, but still make sure to keep your body over your center of gravity. Don’t let your feet get out in front of you.
- Increase your leg-turnover. This is possible because you are aided by gravity.
- Maintain control. Don’t land hard. Don’t pound, and don’t let your lower legs do the work. Your goal is to be light on your feet, as you should be striving for all the time. Don’t let your shins and ankles and knees become shock absorbers! Use your core muscles and run as if the ground was hot. A great drill for this is to practice running downhill so lightly that you can’t hear your feet hit the ground. Visualize your legs moving in a circular pattern as if you were riding a bike.
And that’s it, except one more thing: Practice, practice, practice. Once you’ve mastered this and uphill technique, you’ll be excited about any race with hills because you’ll have an edge over most of the runners.