Beloved and abhorred, hills are a central part of training for runners and generally active people the world over. For perspective, hills are to running as oatmeal is to breakfast. Although, oatmeal is also to running as oatmeal is to breakfast, which is a whole other thing. In any case, like oatmeal, there are those who love hills and those who loathe them. What makes runners’ relationships with hills complicated is the fact that regardless of whether a hill is enjoyed or not, all runners come off a good climb the same way: gasping for air and wobbling at the knees. So, why do we feel such strong and often contradictory feelings towards them? Today’s Pro and Con-versation will examine just that.
We begin as two runners approach a fork in the road. To the left: hills. To the right: a flat path. The dilemma: a classic.
Pro: What are you feeling today, left or right?
Con: Right. Right?
Pro: Oh, I was thinking left. Why right?
Con: My legs have been a little beat lately, so I’d prefer to keep it flat.
Pro: Gotcha … softy.
Pro: Nothing. I mean, you’re behaving in the manner of a chocolate-dipped soft serve without the chocolate, but whatever.
Con: Why would I want to go hammer up a hill today? That’s just going to prevent my legs from recovering.
Pro: No, I get you. Why would you want to get stronger? Why would you want to experience the agony and the ecstasy of a long hill climb? Makes sense to me.
Con: We’ll see who’s stronger in 20 years when you’re getting knee replacements.
Pro: Live fast. Die young. Bad girls do it well.
Con: Yeah, because you’re moving really fast up those hills.
Pro: It’s all about relative speed. Relative to you I’m a Japanese bullet train on the uphill.
Con: And people who ask you about running ask you what your uphill mile time is, right? That’s the metric that people care about?
Pro: I refuse to allow others to define my success. Besides, if I want to run fast, then downhill drops flat runs every day.
Con: It’ll also blow out your joints. And the really steep stuff ends up being as slow as the uphill anyway. I’ll take an evenly paced run at a good tempo with healthy form over hunched and scrunched hill running anytime.
Pro: If variety is the spice of life, your life is a single grain of white rice. Why bother eating?
Con: Better to be white rice than bruised fruit.
Pro: Your MOM is bruised fruit.
Con: Congrats. You’ve done it. You’ve lowered the bar to zero.
Will has been running competitively since high school, and is currently running with the HOKA Aggies, a post-collegiate club here on the central coast of California. With a preference for the humorous and the verbose, he enjoys playing the wordsmith almost as much as his daily runs.