Handle the hills at the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon and finish strong this year with the insight and advice of 2016 women’s winner, Caroline Wöstmann.
The Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon is noted as the world’s most beautiful marathon. But while the scenery is fab, the event is not without its challenges.
Don’t get caught up in the romanticism of the route and forget about training for it, especially when it comes to the hills!
The Two Oceans route is dotted with climbs that’ll floor even the fittest of runners, so be sure to incorporate hill training into your regular weekly runs to make sure you finish strong.
According to the experts at Runner’s World, “training on hills improves leg-muscle strength, quickens your stride, expands stride length, develops your cardiovascular system, enhances your running economy and can even protect your leg muscles against soreness.”
Essentially, hill training will make you stronger, quicker and an all-round better runner.
Not sure how or where to start? Well, last year’s women’s winner, Caroline Wöstmann, is happy to share her insights on hill training and why it’s fundamental to ensuring a great day out.
Don’t ignore hills in your training
“When you are running a race with hills, like the Two Oceans, you need to teach your body how to run efficiently on the hills,” says Wöstmann. What’s more, being unprepared and hacking up every hill will decrease your enjoyment and overshadow the overall experience too.
“If you avoid the hills during training you will not be able to appreciate the view of the ocean up Chapman’s Peak or the beautiful scenery up Constantia Nek.”
Including tough hills in your training will not only prepare your body for the task ahead, but it’ll strengthen your mind too, which is equally if not more important as many people will require a strong mind to get them through the final 10km.
“It is so important to try to simulate the nature of the race course to best prepare both the body and mind for the run ahead.” Be prepared by studying the route.
It’s not a sprint
“An ultra marathon is not a sprint. If you need to take a walk on the tough climbs, then do, you can always make up time on the downhills,” says Wöstmann. Pushing yourself too hard on the climbs, especially earlier on when you’re feeling stronger, could derail you later in the day, so be sure to tackle hills with caution.
“Have a walk break, cheer on a fellow runner and enjoy the most stunning views imaginable,” says Wöstmann. The Runner’s World article substantiates Wöstmann’s tips, and talks about tackling long climbs by maintaining rhythm. “Running hills well is all about rhythm; if you let the hill break up your rhythm you will slow dramatically.” So when it comes to getting yourself to the top of the hill, combine the above advice by slowing down, shifting gears and tackling the climb with a steady rhythm.
Maximise the downhills
Downhills are fantastic for relaxing and catching your breath, providing you run them correctly. The most common mistake runners make is letting gravity take over, which results in a rather lazy style of running. If you’ve made it up a steep climb and regained your composure on the downhill you’ll know the style: lazy strides, feet slapping the ground, losing form in your upper body, letting your hips relax…
Avoid making that mistake by maintaining your form and controlling your stride. Remember to maximise the downhill gradient and let your heart rate get back to normal while allowing your mind and body to relax at the same time.
For Wöstmann, the downhills are all about relaxing and preparing for the next up! “On a hilly route you get the benefit of both the ups and the downs. Personally I enjoy relaxing and catching my breath on the downhills as I prepare for the next climb.”
Practice makes perfect
In this case it’s less about being perfect and more about being strong, both physically and mentally. Without including hills (and tough ones) that mimic climbs in the Two Oceans Marathon, you’re going to have a challenging day out.
Wöstmann likes to include a combination of hilly routes and actual hill repeats into her training. “I have a few hilly routes I try to run once or twice a week and I also do hill repeats once a week for a few weeks until a week or two before the race.”
On top of that, Wöstmann builds mental strength with another trick. “I try to pick a very steep hill of around 1km and although I can’t always run up it at speed, I believe that the physical and mental strength of running up the hill makes other hills feel less tough.”
So head out and find your beastly hill and start putting theory into practice while you build up for the Two Oceans Marathon.
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