Attack the Hill

I ran cross country in high school. My reasons were unconventional.

I had to play a sport. School policy. I had to work a part-time job. Monetary necessity. The only fall coach who was cool with me missing practice twice a week to go to work was the cross country coach. Plus, my friends were runners.

I was a runner in that I ran. I certainly wasn’t fast. At my best, I could finish toward the back of the pack. But I don’t think I could have done even that well without my coach.

One of his tricks was hill training. He’d take us out to some ungodly slope, something steep and at least 200 meters long, and have us sprint up it 8-12 times, jogging back down only to hustle right back up.

That may not sound hard, but it’s brutal. Someone always threw up.

Coach’s advice was simple. Attack the hill. Lean into it. Keep a wide stride, even though the slope will force you to work harder.

I saw the benefit of hill training in the middle of my first season. Hills became my opportunity to pass. Other runners struggled up them, but I kept a quick pace simply because I was used to it.

Well, quick for me.

But that’s all that matters in running. Not some stupid comparison. Not how the next runner is doing. Just how you run your race.

Hills became a very important part of my race.

I hated them. God, I hated them. They made me sick (sometimes literally), and they hurt, but that was where I excelled.

The symbolism is obvious, right? I don’t even need to say it.

But I will.

Sometimes life is like that. Hills. Gut-wrenching hills. Steep and merciless and oh-so-hard to climb.

I’m running one right now.

But I’m trying to remember my coach’s advice. Lean into it. Attack it. Make it the place where I pass others.

Own this fucking hill.

It’s not an easy mindset to maintain, but it’s worth it. If you can flip that switch, start seeing life’s most challenging moments as chances to get ahead, then you’ll keep moving as others slow to a crawl, clutching their stomachs and puking up breakfast.

It sounds noble. I’ll tell you right now, it doesn’t feel that way. It feels hard, and I’m tired. But that only reminds me of rule number one for runners.

Take the next step. Just don’t stop.

Here’s to the top of the hill. I will fucking get there. Period.