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  • Writer's picture Irina

Ode to Hills

The hills are alive with the sound of music from the musical "The Sound of Music"

Doug calls me the Queen of Hills and that has more to do with my slight obsession to run up the bloody things and less to do with how good I am at it. I even chose to get up at 6am on my birthday to run up a hill and Doug and Liz were kind enough to join me! Looking back, any sort of incline felt like Mount Olympus and I would simply not attempt it even if it meant not meeting the Greek gods that still live there. I am improving and I guess that’s the goal. Keep moving, keep improving, keep pushing up those hills.

There’s no easy way to do it. I always say that the only way to run up a hill is to actually start running it. Clever huh? It’s the truth though. I feared and hated hills in equal measure. I avoided them at all costs and when I was left with no option but to run even the shortest incline, I thought I was going to die and I didn’t even mind. Anything to get out of running the rest of the hill. There came a time however when I looked at my list of fears and decided it’s time to cross out hills.

I did two things. First, I attempted a few runs with a combo of run-walk-run-curse-walk-stop-curse-run-stop-stop-stop-walk . Most of the time, I had Doug breathing down my neck, telling me off every time I stopped. I can still hear his voice. “Don’t just stop. It’s harder if you stop. You’re going to build up lactic acid.” I don’t care Doug! I am in survival mode. I can’t breathe. I need to stop. My muscles ache. Shut up Doug!!!!!!!! Very, very annoying. Especially because I know you are right. Still, I will use my last breath to argue with you.

Aaah those were the days…

Second thing I did was to join Liz’s run groups. I have said I am a solo runner most of the time but group runs are valuable for support, motivation, something to commit to and a great group of people to run with. I remember it was summertime and with the long days, sunset runs were idyllic. Well ok, maybe not idyllic, but ideal for conquering hills. Off we went, huffing and puffing into the sunset, sharing the pain and the unique bond that running creates. No one gets left behind. We are a team. We’ve got this. Just a few more steps to the brow of the hill, come on, we can do this. Heavy breathing and laughter echo in my ears. I love Upper Beeding Runners.

Running up that hill, sings Kate Bush. With Liz, Sara and Doug, November 2018

Very gradually, I started shifting the balance, doing less walking and more running. Cursing has never really stopped to this day. Running was slow, probably walking pace but it didn’t matter. Snails overtook me and they carry their house on their back! It took a long time to get to the point of running the whole thing and it was very much two steps forward, one step back. It only took a week or two without a hilly run and I was back to the combo. Hills require determination, a certain liking for self-afflicted pain and consistency, consistency, consistency. The more you run hills, the more you can run hills. It never feels comfortable. I am always out of breath. Heart rate goes bananas. It never becomes easy. I always want to stop. I never do. It’s always worth it.

Waving and pretending I am so cool!

The most amazing feeling awaits me when I reach the top. An overwhelming feeling of achievement. I look back at the bottom of the hill and I am so proud I’ve done it, so grateful I didn’t stop. I realise my strength and in that moment I am happy. No other way to describe it. And I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet. You know what they say, what goes up, must come down. Hurray for the downhill! I feel I am running faster than a speeding bullet, snails are eating my dust now, I feel light as a feather, I feel sorry for anyone I come across still running up. I have conquered the world and I have lived to tell the tale. Nothing can stop me now.

Light as a feather! No snails in sight!!! @Bottom of Beeding Hill

All that is well and good, and would probably be enough to have me going back for more. But there’s even more to hill running than the fleeting joy of the moment. It does absolute wonders for my running overall. Mindset first of all. If I can do the hill, I can definitely do the flat run. No excuses. Strength in the legs increases massively and so does stamina. Last but not least, speed. I have improved my speed quite a bit over the last year and I owe most of that to hills. It is quite incredible how reciprocating the body is. If I put the effort in, I know it is going to reward me. If I give up, I’ve only got myself to blame.

Do you think I am done talking about hills? Not yet!

Some trivia: all my life I have lived on top of hills. With the exception of when I lived in London 1997-98, my family home, eight different flats in Athens, Doug’s house in Brighton and our current home are all on top of hills. There must be some cosmic connection, right? Was the Universe sending me a message all along?

I can’t help but think how running hills influences my life in non-running ways. I don’t think I am alone in saying that life is full of hills. Small hills, like every day problems that are a pain in the backside but I know I can resolve quickly if I just make the time and effort and big hills, serious issues that feel like mountains and facing them I feel small, weak, powerless. They are there though, and I have to somehow deal with them so what do I do? Same thing I do when I run. I start the climb. I make slow progress, I stop, I curse. I start again. One foot in front of the other. I seek support, help from the people around me. They may have more experience at this than me. I can rely on them. I know I can. I won’t be left behind. The more I train my brain to think this way, the better chance I have to get over my personal hills and roll down the other side, preferably with a wonderful sunset in the background, Greek gods cheering and a glass of bubbles to celebrate!

Cheers guys!!! Christmas day, 2020

Now, what else can I cross out from that list of fears?

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6 commentaires

16 févr. 2021

Well done Irina for everything, texts, photos etc. You are really make the reader to understand what you are feeling. You are motivating us to change our daily routine and see things from a different perspective. Keep going, be happy and make us happy!!!


15 févr. 2021

You deserve it .


15 févr. 2021

Well done irina !!now drink a glass of wine and enjoy.


14 févr. 2021

I love this story. And can relate so much. Until about a year ago I avoided hills altogether, that was until I ran Annington with Liz one day. Now I relish the challenge of a hill!! Another fabulous post. ❤️❤️❤️


14 févr. 2021

Read your post at 06:30 while I woke up for my Sunday hilly long run. I was thinking everything you said on the road thinking about hills literally and in life generally. It’s all about hills. Uphills and downhills as you move on as there’s no mountain high enough.. keep conquering hills and write posts about them...❤️

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