Monday, August 10, 2009

There's Gold in Them Thar Hills!

By gold, I mean not gold in the literal sense but in the rewards that hill work brings to your running regimen. Doing hill work is a terrific way to tax your legs and cardiovascular system without having to increase your speed. Being allergic to running fast during training, I like to think of hill workouts as a poor man's speed work.

Most half- and full-marathon schedules prescribe some amount of hill work. Runner's World put out a concise list of hill workout sessions they recommend. See the link here.

Those of us who live and run here in the Piedmont region are blessed (or cursed, depending on your viewpoint) with a multitude of rolling hills. There are many places where you can crank out a few hilly miles. Here are a couple within the confines of Davidson that I use on occasion. One is hill repeats and the other is a hilly course.

* South St. Davidson: Park near the McEver baseball fields in South St. Begin your uphill run where the greenway begins, but run uphill on South St. toward downtown. Stop at the three-way intersection near CVS. Turn around and do a slow downhill jog back. Each way is six tenths of a mile, so if you're trying to do six miles, run this ten times (five up and five back).

* River Run Subdivision: Park across from the soccer field at the Robert Walker Dr. entrance to River Run. Begin your run there and head into the River Run subdivision. Right turn at River Crossing Blvd. Left turn at River Falls Dr. Right turn on River Ford Dr. When you get to Greyton Lane (near the community swimming pool), turn around and head back. Each way is about three miles, thereby giving you six total of rolling hills.

* Bonus Route - Grey Road: This route isn't nearly as user-friendly as the other two, in that there are no sidewalks, there are the occasional critter (skunk, snake, dog, deer, etc.). Also, while there isn't much road traffic with which to contend, be prepared to step off the road and into tall grass if need be in order to let a car pass by. If this isn't your cup of tea, don't attempt it. If you're still interested, you will be rewarded by a couple of BIG hills. Later on I will use Grey Road in some longer runs.
Route begins at the intersection of Davidson-Concord Rd. and Grey Rd. Take Grey Rd. all the way to the new Abersham development, stopping at Abersham Lane on the right. Turn around and head back for a run that's just over 4.5 miles.

P.S. Thanks to Kara for suggesting this topic!


  1. Thanks for this info. I also have a good location for hills that my brother Todd, Kathy Rink, Chris Jones and I do sometimes. Church street in Cornelius. It runs parallel to Hwy 115. Start by the Legion baseball field and run up towards Catawba Avenue. You will end at Catawba Ave. right beside Cornelius Presbyterian Church. This is a tough, but good hill. Its roughly a quarter mile but doing about 5 of these with about a 4 minute break in between will wear you out.


  2. Thanks, Chad. Here are a few additional options for hill work. These are all short, but they offer good opportunities to integrate hill work into a longer route.

    1) In the McConnell neighborhood, Fairview Road offers a steep, straight hill for easy repeats.

    Also in McConnell, you can make a loop that starts at the intersection of Ashby and Spencer St. Run up Spencer, continue uphill briefly on Lingle, then turn left onto N. Downing for a descent back to Ashby.

    2) The first mile of the Davidson College cross country trail provides a roller coaster of small hills. It starts (and ends) with a long, steep hill between the trailhead and the bridge that crosses the creek (if you've never run the trail, it splits in a Y just downhill from the trailhead. Bear to the left to follow the main trail). I know several strong runners who run repeats on this short but demanding bridge-to-trailhead section.

    A little more than a half mile in, just after a short wooded stretch by a small creek, the trail turns to the right. On your immediate left there is a very steep hill that drops down to intersect with the x-country trail. Take this steep trail for a short but tough trail that connects with Ridge Road near the intersection wtih Main Street/115.

    Chris Alexander


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