Hit the hills to master the Heart Run
The 38th annual Heart Run calls on Alaskans to keep their tickers clicking at a steady rate on April 26 by running either the 5K (3.1 mile) or 3K ( just shy of 2 miles). The weaving course starts and finishes at the University of Alaska Airlines Alaska Airlines Center and showcases a good portion of the campus. There’s also a decent hill on the Alaska Pacific University campus. Add three 180-degree turns, and the Heart Run course becomes a day to bond and set a personal record for just that course. In the 1990s classic battles for bragging rights were waged at this event as piles of snow continued to melt next to the roads. My favorite was watching Marcus Dunbar in 1995 swallow up the pavement like a raging horse and posting a 14.39 for the 5K. In the women’s division, Chris Clark set a tough mark to break with a 16:57 just a month after winning the Olympic Trials in Columbia, S.C.
All of us can finish strong like these champions with some preparation, especially on the hills. Working the incline early in the season builds the strength you’ll need for all your events, regardless of distance. Running hills also improves form by forcing your body to run in an aggressive, head-forward motion. Learn where the hills are on the course, the grade or steepness, the length, and what comes after the climb.
In the Heart Run, you are swept with a flat start for a almost a mile before hitting a short abrupt climb after the right-hand turn from Elmore onto University Drive. The climb levels out for a moment, then ascends at a steady grade just past the Moseley Pool to the apex at resident housing driveway.
Try to get to the course at least once a week leading up to the race. Warm up for 15 minutes at an easy, conversation pace, and then head to the hill portion of the course. Do the entire climb first: Run tall, taking short quick strides up the steep portion. Then settle into a steady pace in the middle and focus on tall running form up the final climb. Repeat the effort once more.
After the second climb, walk down to the Moseley Pool and work the second part of the hill four to six times. Warm down by running the remainder of the course, making a right on Alumni Drive the UAA Fine Arts Building and back to the Alaska Airlines Center. A course map can be found at www.alaskaheartrun.org.
On race day, warm up just enough to get slightly sweaty, then run a few 75-yard accelerations. Position yourself with your peer group – it will be crowded, so work the first part hard but have enough to feel comfortable at the hills. If you go out too fast you will pancake at Elmore and University Drive. Concentrate up the hill and be mindful of your form. After the hill, float with good turnover but remember there is a mile left. If you know your peer group stay with them. At the home stretch, maintain form and stay relaxed but focused. Once on Elmore, it’s a build to the final turn at the traffic circle and finish. Drive straight through the finish line. Congratulations! You did something positive for your heart and supported a fine organization committed to helping Alaskans.
Till next month keep striding and smiling.
— Coach Mike
More hill training tips
If your goal is a road race work the uphill during hill training. Save your legs and walk the downhill. If training for up-and-down races like Arctic Valley and Mount Marathon, practicing the downhill builds muscle memory, conditioning and confidence. But know that any hard downhill effort will require extra recovery time.
Stay lean and mean. As the saying goes, “If your mother says you look good, you probably weigh more than you need to.” If you are interested in racing hard, a few less pounds will help you stay competitive. If the weather is awful, go to the stair stepper and ramp it up for three, 10-minute sessions. A long and gradual option is a treadmill run – adjust the grade to 4 or 6 percent for three 10-minute intervals.
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