If you’re a trail runner, you will understand that you can’t really get anywhere without a bit of hillage and that hill training forms a core part of your average week! If you’re anything like us, a run is often measured in elevation rather than miles. In fact, certain runners in our group  say if it’s not at least 1,000 feet it doesn’t count!

Most ultras these days involve a few thousand feet of climb and we feel it is as important to train for elevation gain as it just to train for distance. We look at this in greater depth in both our Training for Elevation Gain and Hill Rep Session advice pages however, we wanted to share a real life hill training session with you and a few photos from the event (all photos used with prior permission and courtesy of Barry Bradford). 

Quarry Reps – The Session 

During the recent lockdowns, when we were allowed to run with one other person, a friend of mine introduced me to “Quarry reps”. A familiar stomping ground to him since a boy, he was keen to show me this session and see how many reps I could put myself through. At first glance I have to be honest I thought one might be a push but it turns out that despite my protests, I actually managed 5. It’s a killer of a session. As you can see from the segment below, it measures 0.36 mile with 196ft of elevation. A third of a mile uphill is a long way – especially when you do it numerous times.

hill training

The first third is quite a kick up before it levels out and then climbs again for the last stretch. The aim is to reach the bench at the top of the quarry where you see the trig marker. The reward is spectacular with a 360 degree view of the Mendips, including  Steep Holm and Brean Down and across the Bristol Channel to Wales (you can even see Sugar Loaf on a good day – inside joke!) 

Not that you get much time to enjoy the view as you make your way back down again to repeat. 

A Great Hill Training Session

Anyway, after that session, we added this hill into a few Sunday runs with a resolve to coach a group session here once normal activities were resumed. The chance came this weekend just gone and we decided to incorporate it into the club’s training sessions. By setting everyone off at the same time for a continuous 40 minutes, I think we managed between 5 and 8 reps as a group. We will ignore the fact that I got lapped twice by the speediest of the crew who runs a 5 minute mile to my 8!!!! Safe to say, everyone worked really hard and said they enjoyed it. We will soon see if that’s true when we do it again in a few weeks time.

Requires Strength and Stamina

This session is a great test of strength and stamina. The desire to stop is overwhelmed by the need to get to the top without stopping (especially when there’s Barry the cameraman) ready to catch you at all sorts of unflattering angles. 

It makes you really focus on your form when there’s a camera there too – something that I will bear in mind for future sessions. 

Top tip – don’t over reach on the first rep! You will only regret it.

Anyway, the takeaway from this article is all about setting yourself a hill training challenge. Find a hill that takes you 3-4 minutes to climb and challenge yourself to run continuously up and down for 40 minutes. If you want to get better at hills – you got to keep running up them!!!!!