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Preparing for "Only One Hill"

Published on 4/24/2019

What is the best way to prepare for the Mt. Washington Road Race?  Get as fit as you can! What does that entail?  Work on your endurance, strength and speed! 


This one is simple. Make sure that you include a sufficient weekly volume to survive the task, 7.6 miles with an average grade of 12 %.  It takes roughly the same amount of time it takes to run a ½ marathon.  Plan accordingly.  The higher your running volume the easier it will be to achieve your goal.



The key to running fitness, running strong, running longevity, if you're not injured, you can run!

Let’s break this into 4 main categories:

Core Strength

Core strength helps decrease injuries and improves running form.  Runners should include 15-20 minutes of core exercises a few times a week.  Core exercises include everything other than arm and leg specific exercises.  Basically it involves muscle groups that focus on the back, glutes, hips, and abs.  Runners should include 4-6 exercises for each of those areas in their core routine.

Functional Strength

Functional strength exercises are exercises that use the same muscle groups and movement patterns as running, as well as, lateral movements to strengthen neglected areas.  Some examples are: calf raises, step ups, lunges, single leg squats, and side lunges.

Sports Specific Strength

Sport specific strength involves movements that use the same muscle patterns as running up hill.  Bounding and skipping short distances on an incline are both excellent ways to improve running specific strength.

Explosive Strength/Plyometrics

Plyometrics improve your economy and power by improving the stretch-reflex response of your muscles, increasing the elasticity of your muscles and raising the neuromuscular ability of your muscles and central nervous system.  These exercises will make you a much better runner, as well as, much stronger on the hills.  Runners of all ages need to maintain muscle elasticity.  The loss of muscle elasticity is a major limiter among aging athletes.  It’s especially important for older athletes to include explosive strength training (before it is too late!) Examples of plyometric exercises are single leg hops, jumping rope and squat jumps.  More advanced exercises are box jumps and hurdle jumps.


Strength and plyometric mentioned above are 2 key components for improving speed:

In order to increase speed, runners need to gradually introduce higher stress levels (faster running).  There are a number of ways to work on speed.

  • Speed work on a track (MVS track is a great option)

  • Speed work on a hill vary the intensity and distance.Work on short repeats on steep hills (20 seconds to 1 minute) as well as longer repeats with less incline (2-10 minutes)

  • Speed work within your training run. Practice on a hilly course and increase your effort on every hill (pay attention to your hear rate, work the hills hard). Plan a route with enough recovery time between hills to bring your heart rate down enough to attack the next hill.

Consistency is always key.  Write out a weekly plan. Include all the key components: distance, strength work, speed work, and specificity training (running hills). Make sure that your plan is realistic given your available time. Set yourself up for success by setting realistic goals and following your weekly plan.


Enjoy the road to the top!


Road Runners Club of America USATF - New England Mill Cities Relay