Mary has represented Great Britain ten times in mountain running, winning six medals, including three team golds.
In 2014 she once again competed in the World Mountain Running Championships, helping GB’s women to team silver in the uphill-only race. A runner with over 20 years of experience, Mary knows what it takes to run uphill, and do so fast! Here are her top tips:
- Running uphill can hold as much of a psychological barrier as a physical one. For long continual climbs don’t think of the whole distance and altitude gain. Instead, break it down into manageable segments that you can mentally tick off as they pass. If it’s a race, I will either run the route beforehand or look at the profile and identify key points, such as completing an especially steep section or getting to a flat section. For last month’s World Championship trial race, held over an uphill-only course at Sedbergh, I split it into five sections and thus it felt much more manageable in my head!
- If the hill is sustained and has a constant gradient, try and find a good running rhythm and stick to it. I often find myself counting to my foot strikes, which keeps me focused and working at a constant effort.
- Shorten your strides and lean into the hill, but keep the same rhythm and effort, as you would do when running on the flat. Taking smaller steps will keep you driving up and forward rather than over-striding and having to lift your weight over your foot plant. I also like the feeling that I am running faster and stronger with the higher cadence that accompanies a shorter stride.
- Don’t look down! Keep your head up and maintain a good posture. Looking at your feet means that you can’t open your lungs as much, which means less oxygen to your legs, which makes the hill harder!
- About 15 minutes before for an uphill race do a couple of short (10 seconds max) hill sprints to ensure your key leg muscles are firing.
- Sometimes it is just as fast to walk very steep ascents, however, if you do, make sure you don’t take the opportunity to ease off and instead really power walk. It can be hard to get back into running if you do walk. So, rather than walking, try shortening your stride and keep running.
- Ensure your shoes have good grip. There is nothing worse than your foot slipping as you try and drive off. My shoes of choice for uphill-only races are the inov-8 roclite 243 in dry conditions and the inov-8 x-talon 190 when it’s wet.
- Don’t forget; when running uphill-only races you will finish at a higher altitude than you started and the weather can be very different so carry extra kit to offer protection.
Photos courtesy of Dave Woodhead