Practice downhills to reduce soreness
By Gary Droze
“Those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it”
Philosopher George Santayana’s observation resonated strongly with me a few months ago after I competed in the Hood To Coast Relay, a 200 mile affair that starts at Mount Hood, Oregon, and finishes at the Pacific Coast I cost my team a victory in the Master’s Co-ed division, because I failed to prepare properly for my
first leg of the race, a downhill 10 kilometer section. Basically, I forgot that successful downhill running in a long distance race requires specific training.
I first discovered this fact two decades ago, when I was attempting to qualify for the Olympic Trials at the 1984 Boston Marathon. The initial 10 miles of Boston flow gradually downhill. I hit 10 miles in under 51 minutes, and felt giddy with anticipation that I would easily achieve the Trials qualifying standard of 2 hours, 20
minutes. Alas, an hour later, I was reduced to a survival shuffle that put me over the qualifying standard by four minutes. I later learned that practicing downhill running on a weekly basis immunizes marathoners from the severe soreness that afflicts athletes who run a course with significant downhills.
At this year’s Hood To Coast Race, I was responsible for running three 10 kilometer segments, beginning with a 600 foot descent from Mount Hood. After passing the baton in just over 30 minutes, I realized that I had pounded my thighs into mush, and that I would be jogging my next two relay legs. My Boston
nightmare came back with a vengeance!
For those who wish to learn from my mistakes, the lesson is simple: practice running downhill once or twice a week for at least six weeks before your key race, and you will greatly reduce the soreness that accompanies downhill running in long races. Ideally, you should find stretches of one-half mile to two miles upon which to
practice. Locally, Miller Landing Road, Tharpe Street, and Tbomasville Road all offer opportunities for tempering your legs to the unique stress of running downhill.