My dad, who was a marathon runner, once told me races are won and lost on the hills. I think he was right. The hills require dedicated training, determination and courage. If you have to slow way down, or worse, walk up the hills, your overall race time will be thrown off exponentially.
When I was running up a particularly gruesome climb today, I was thinking about how strong it made me feel, how in control I felt. Don’t get me wrong; my heart was hammering in my chest and my hip flexors were screaming. But that hill used to shut me down, weeks ago. I used to have to walk midway up. Now when I crest its peak, I feel a wild sense of accomplishment. I feel powerful. I feel alive.
And when you think about it, running up hills makes a pretty accurate metaphor for living life to its fullest. I would have never felt that power, that strength I enjoyed today if I’d remained the treadmill runner I was up until a few years ago. Sure I got a good enough work-out on the treadmill. At least I thought so, with nothing to compare it to. Now I know I don’t want good enough.
Everyday life can feel like a walk on a treadmill. Repetitive motions. Existing within your comfort zone. Good enough.
Running outdoors on hilly terrain comes with risks you don’t encounter on a treadmill. The pavement can be uneven; you have to share the road with cars that don’t always see you. The weather can be extreme. Injuries are a constant possibility. But the rewards are huge.
Getting off the treadmill of life is risky too. Taking on new challenges, changing jobs, exploring what makes you truly happy — all of that comes with risks and can lead to injuries, to yourself and to the others. Scary stuff, sometimes.
But I know one thing: Running hills gets my heart rate up like nothing I’ve ever done on the treadmill. Despite the risks involved, there’s no going back for me. I love running those hills too much.[If you’re interested in reading my hill training strategies, please click HERE!]