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Runners are connoisseurs of hills. We’re always on the lookout for the best combination of length, grade, surface and mystique to create effective and memorable workouts. PodiumRunner is gathering favorite hills from top coaches and athletes around the country to serve as models for butt-kicking workouts on similar grades in your neighborhood.
Runner: Lindsay Flanagan, 2:29 marathoner, 9th at the 2019 Boston Marathon
Hill: Boston in Boulder
Length: 21 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,138 feet
Elevation Loss: 1,337 feet
Surface: Dirt roads
The workout: 5 miles easy, 15 steady, 1 mile easy
Bonus credit: Create medium-length routes on the same hilly course to run mid-week or on recovery weeks
One of the best ways to develop power and speed as a runner is to incorporate some quality hill work into your training each week. When I’m marathon training, one of my favorite ways to get in hill work is by doing hilly, “moderate” long runs and medium-long runs. Hill repeats can get a bit old after a while, and I find that hitting a hilly route at least one time per week can pay huge dividends come race day—even if the course you will be racing on is flat. The best thing about hilly long runs is that you can perform them each week, or alternate weeks, and can switch up the type of effort you put in as well.
While training for Boston, I ran this route at least one time per week. The route starts with a 6-mile downhill segment—you lose roughly 400 feet in the first 10km—perfect preparation for the first 10k of Boston, which is also a gradual downhill. The rest of the route meanders up and over the hilly dirt backroads near the Boulder Reservoir, and usually finishes with a 2-mile climb back to the start. For the 21-miler that ended lower than the start (just like Boston), I set out bottles and got picked up at the end, a rare occurrence.
When I completed this 21-mile workout, I kept the first 5 miles pretty relaxed, starting at 7:20s, and ending around 6:55/mile. The next 15 miles were just a controlled, steady effort. This simply meant putting in a quality effort, where I had to work a bit but was not overextending. The paces for this segment averaged between 6:15 down to 6:05 [roughly 20–30 seconds slower than my marathon pace]. I ended with a mile easy at 7:30. I didn’t look at my watch during this run and let my body fall into a natural pace. When running hills, it is important to focus more on effort because the pace can fluctuate quite a bit.
This is just one example of the many runs I did on this route, and I love it because it’s both challenging and enjoyable—those mountain views are epic! I also like that you can add-on to this route very easily; the middle section is a 5 mile loop you can do various times. Here is another map of the route, returning back to the car after 18 miles.