This morning I finished a personally satisfying run. Last November, I ran up and down some hills that I had no business tackling. It was the first time in over 15 years that I had tried to run 6 miles, and I just wasn't ready to handle that distance and those hills at the same time. I ended up with shin splints and had to ride the stationary bike for over a week while my legs recovered from that misguided run.
Today was different. I got my revenge, conquering the hills that conquered me. I didn't even intend to run those hills this morning. Today was supposed to be a standard five mile run around a regular loop in the Avondale Estates neighborhood. I ran up Forrest, only to find that my way was blocked. There were signs telling me that the road was closed, but I didn't think that applied to runners until a police officer got out of his car and told me I had to turn back. I turned around, trying to decide which direction I wanted to go. I have a special knack for getting lost, even in my own neighborhood, so I wanted to be sure I didn't turn this into an epic run trying to find my way home.
I chose a direction and soon found myself running the same hills that kicked my butt a few months ago. I couldn't help but think that the first hill used to be bigger. I motored up the hill, no problem, and decided to retrace the hilly route I followed in November. I was surprised to find that all the hills seemed smaller. They were still challenging, but I was able to run them all well within my comfort zone.
The improved hill running is a result of better fitness and improved technique. I'm continually amazed at how the body adapts to the demands you put on it. As long as you don't overload it with too much at once, your body will gradually adjust. If you sit around like a slug and eat chips with a Ben and Jerry's chaser, your body adapts by getting fatter. I speak from personal experience. If you gradually increase your running mileage and include some hills in your runs, eventually you'll be able to easily run most hills and not feel like you're inducing a stroke.
For those of you who don't run, you may not be aware that there is a technique that helps you run up hills more easily. If you're running long distances, you don't want charge up a big hill, because you'll sap your energy and have problems with the rest of your run. If you try to sprint up the hill, the hill will win every time. Instead, you lean forward and take small, quick steps. To me, it feels a little like you're running up a long series of tiny steps. It feels funny at first, until you realize that you're already halfway up the hill and your legs still feel strong. As I run up each hill, my mantra is "Baby steps. Quick turnover. Flow."
Between the improved fitness, better technique, and an unexpected detour, I discovered that I'm a much stronger runner than I was just a few months ago. There will be more hills to climb in the future, and I'm looking forward to meeting new challenges. (You can click here to check out this morning's running route.)
- Tom Godfrey
- Atlanta, GA, United States
- When I suffered a lip injury that ended my career as a classical trombonist, I thought my life as a musician was finished, but I fell in love with music all over again when Santa gave me a guitar for Christmas in 2003. Even as I was struggling with my first chords, I was planning a new performance career. As a trombonist, I performed with the Heritage of America Band at Langley Air Force Base, the Ohio Light Opera, and in pick-up bands for touring acts that included Rosemary Clooney, George Burns, and the Manhattan Transfer. Reborn as a jazz guitarist, I sing and play my own solo arrangements of jazz classics, am half of the Godfrey and Guy duo, and hold the guitar chair in the Sentimental Journey Orchestra. I have been a freelance music copyist since 1995 and have been music director at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation since 2011.