Effect of hills on times

I live in a hilly area in the north of scotland. Like it or not I have no choice but to include some whopping hills on my circular road routes of 5 to 10 miles. I am training for a half marathon which is coastal so relatively flat. I currently run 7 min 30 a mile over a 7 mile course but this includes over 100m of ascent. Anyone know of a rule of thumb to take time off for height gained so I know roughly what I could achieve on a flat course?


  • Sorry DJ but if a cicular route it also has over 100m of descent which if run correctly would cancel out the ascent. Therefore the same as flat.
  • Erm.........!
  • I am not sure I agree with Ranger, it certainly is alot harder to run up hills and I don't think you make it up going down hill.

    Which Half Marathon are you doing, is it in Scotland?
  • DJ,

    Dr. Mervyn Davies (I wonder if he was the greatest No.8 the world has ever seen?) did some work on this in the 70's. For each 1% of incline you lose 0.65kmph if you maintain the same input effort as on the flat. For each 1% of decline you only gain 0.35kmph.

    It can be seen from this that ups & downs don't cancel out. If you run them to try and cancel them out the input effort would have to be significantly increased on the ups and decreased on the downs. Significant variances in input effort will lead to a slower overall time that more consistent input effort. Having said that, I find it difficult to fully back off uphill ;-)

    Of course there must be limits to these formula, but I've found them reasonable if they are limited to say 3mph minimum and around my 5K speed as a maximum.

    The more gentle the inclines/declines the less impact they will have with respect to equivalent flat times. So trying to draw a rule of thumb is difficult - depends on the steepness of hills and the input effort(speed).

    If you draw a topo from a 1:25000 OS map, apply these formulae to each incline and decline in a spreadsheet, you'll get a good approximation.

    Sorry - that's the propeller heads answer. But as a map-aholic, this sort of stuff is a pleasure for me (How sad can you get).

  • I train in a hilly area and have found that running one of my usual undulating/hilly routes (on road) adds about 0.5 min/mile (my usual pace is around 8-9.5 min/miling) compared with totally flat routes.
    Nothing like as scientific as Ye Hippos approach obviously! There's something called Naysmith's rule which I'll have to look up before qouting how it works, but is a formula for calculating speed over hilly terrain, taking into account ascent and descent.
    Using a heart rate monitor is one way of making sure you run at your planned effort, and hills are great for leg strength so you should find a pleasing increase in speed on a flat route. Also you'll have a psychological advantage against other runners who rarely run on hills, should you enter a hillier race. Overtaking on the uphill stretches does wonders for your morale!
  • Theres an easy rule of thumb which fell runners often use which is each 100m of ascent is equivalent to running an extra 1km. I find this factor of 10 is often too much on hilly road roads though and is nearer 6 i.e. 100m of ascent is equivalent to 600m extra on the flat. Naismiths famous walking formula uses 7.92 as this factor.
  • Another reason uphills and downhills don't cancel out is that most runners don't speed up on downhill sections but instead use the easier going to get their breath back from the previous uphill. I notice in fell races that the biggest gains over competitors are made on downhills, the winners are often suicidally fast on downhills whereas people like me are more cautious and just glad of the rest.
  • Jane M - yes it is in Scotland, Kinloss to Lossiemouth in February. I can relate to andrews rule of thumb which is useful - I reckon my times would work out quite close to that extra 600m distance for a 100m height gain compared to a flat route. The other factor is tiredness - a long uphill of 2 miles and by the time I'm at the top I'm nearly out of energy. I don't reckon I would lose as much as 1/2 min per mile though, perhaps between 10-20 secs. Ranger - do you live in Holland?!
  • Good luck with the Kinloss to Lossiemouth half marathon, I am thinking of doing it myself but am waiting to see how I get on with the Lossiemouth 10 miler Turkey Trot on Dec 8th before entering.

    Don't forget that hill training is a form of speed work in disguise.
  • not sure if al the above apply if you're as slow as me! I do a hilly out and back with a bit of a loop, I can't slow down much on the ups, as I'd be walking if I did, but on the way home I can really fly down the same hill,so long as my legs haven;'t gone wobbly, I'm sure it more that cancels!!!!
    Poss the one advntage of being v.slow!
  • why dont you train your normal distance, in the hilly areas, then when you go to flat ground you'll absolutley murder your pb. thats what i do, i train in hills, then when i run flat ground i can run for hours.

    just a thought.

  • That sound s awful, id have to walk most of it
    guess im just unfit:(
  • We have to train on hills. Finding a flat course in Cornwall is virtually impossible. To me though running is more than just times. I get as much satisfaction with getting up a particular hill running as I ever do with getting a PB.

    I am presently working on a particular hill in one of my 8 mile routes. It 16% for about 300m and then its not quite as steep for the remaining 500m. I can now run 150m and 20steps run/20steps walk the rest. The day I get up it running will be a PB for me.

    Also, when faced with a flatter run times are so much better.
  • good point keswick1uk, now why did I think you were in cumbria??? where are you in kernow??

    I've got a hilly run which i think of as m standard, so I'll do shorter, flatter, longer etc from that.
    On a good day i can sprint up the last bit of the last-but-one and steepest hill, and this feels better than any race, not least of all because I'm out there on my own, coming first, not 6th last!!! - just realised from your post that this is just as valid as PB wow!!!! breakthrough!!!
  • benzie, hello darlin,

    it's all relative surely, not sure which bit makes you feel bad, but I for one couldn't do the distance you can on the treadmill, and it's NOT just about boredom, it's bloody hard....
  • Almost 11 years on so sorry for being late to the partyimage

    I (think) I live in a hill area and do like the 'beating' the hill approach. A regular 5k route I run has an incline/decline of about 475ft with about 440ft of that on the out section. 

    I'm slow and another thread today prompted me to look at the run from 12 months ago. Back then I had to stop for 10 walk breaks and today ran it 19 seconds/mile faster, no walk breaks and with an AHR of 71.81% comapred to 81.01% back then image

Sign In or Register to comment.