HillRunner.com https://www.hillrunner.com The site for everyone who loves running. Thu, 12 Dec 2019 15:34:25 -0600 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.3 https://www.hillrunner.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/hr-icon-100x100.png HillRunner.com https://www.hillrunner.com 32 32 SMART goals for the runner https://www.hillrunner.com/smart-goals-runner/ https://www.hillrunner.com/smart-goals-runner/#respond Thu, 12 Dec 2019 16:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=938 Continue reading "SMART goals for the runner"


It’s the time of the year where we’re planning out our racing seasons for next year and setting our goals. How do you go about setting a good goal, though? You want a goal that will challenge you without feeling overwhelming.

In other fields, you may have heard of SMART goals. I think the SMART goal concept works very well for runners. But how does it apply to runners?

There are five aspects to a SMART goal. A smart goal is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results focused, and Time bound. Some of these aspects have a very clear application to runners, others don’t. Here’s how I recommend you think of these aspects:


For the runner, what does a specific goal look like? Well, it’s not “I want to run a fast 5K”. That’s a very vague goal. What’s fast?

A specific goal needs to be more clear. “I want to run a 5K PR” or “I want to break 20 minutes in the 5K” is a much more specific goal. You know without question what you’re trying to do.

A specific goal doesn’t need to be a time goal, though. Maybe you’ve finished just outside of the age group awards several times at a race you do every year. Your goal can be to win an age group prize. Or you can go for the win in a race where you’ve come close but not quite made it. Just realize that these goals can be tricky because they aren’t all within your control.

So let’s say your goal is “I want to break 20 minutes in the 5K”.


What does it mean for a goal to be measurable? Well, it means you have a way to measure whether you’ve made it or not.

As a runner, this is likely accomplished by making it specific. In our example, you have a specific time at a specific distance. You can measure whether you’ve run a 5K in 19:59 or faster.


This is a tricky one. We want to set a goal that is challenging but it should also be attainable.

If you ran 25:30 in 2016 and improved to 20:01 in 2017, how challenging does breaking 20:00 really look? You should probably be looking for a harder goal.

If, on the other hand, you ran 25:30 in 2016 and improved to 25:25 in 2017, how attainable is sub-20? Unless you can clearly see a path to huge improvements, something a little less ambitious might be a good idea.

Results focused

What is a results focused goal? It’s essentially outcome based, not process based.

This means you’re not setting a goal for your training. That’s the process. You should set plans for training but your training is the means to the end. Your goal should revolve around that end, the race result or other result you’re striving for.

Time bound

This is probably the easiest part for many runners. When specifically do you want to accomplish your goal? Unlike some pursuits, we as runners have a clear deadline in most cases: race day.

If you’re not targeting a specific race, just make sure you set some deadline for this goal. Don’t say “I want to break 20 minutes in the 5K some day”. Say “I want to break 20 minutes in the 5K in 2018”.

Why does this matter? If you don’t set a deadline, it can be too easy to put it off. “So I didn’t get under 20 minutes this year. I’ll get there next year or the year after or…”

Eventually, it just doesn’t happen.

It’s good to have long term goals but it’s important to have incremental short term goals with clear deadlines that will lead you toward those longer term goals. Your long term goal may be to break 18 minutes in the 5K but your 2018 goal is to get under 20 minutes, an important step on the way to going under 18 minutes.

It’s OK if you don’t get all of your goals. Things happen. But make sure you’re not leaving open ended time frames on your goals. Do that and things can slip too easily.

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Ask me anything https://www.hillrunner.com/ask-me-anything-2019-12/ https://www.hillrunner.com/ask-me-anything-2019-12/#comments Thu, 05 Dec 2019 16:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=67961 Continue reading "Ask me anything"


It’s that time again! Your opportunity to ask me anything you would like. As I’ve mentioned before, this is always one of my favorite things to do.

Almost nothing is off limits. Feel free to ask me about training, racing, my thoughts on the news in and around the sport, what’s going on at HillRunner.com. This is my invitation to you to ask whatever you would like.

As usual, you can reach out to me however you feel most comfortable. If you want to ask something publicly, you can do so in the comments, on Facebook, you can tweet at HillRunner.com or my personal account. If you want to ask in a more private setting, you can use the contact form or, if you are friends with me on Facebook or know my email, you can reach me through those methods.

As I’ve done in the past, I’d like to ask you something in return. I hope to get some feedback on this as I always want to build the HillRunner.com that you want. This is one of my chances to get the feedback on what I should be working on based on what you would like to see.

What I would like to see is more activity on the forums. A long time ago, this was a great place for the community to gather and there were some great conversations there. I know the internet landscape has changed with blog comments, social media, and so much more for communities to participate in.

However, it seems like the HillRunner.com community has to some extent gone silent. What would it take for me to get you to open up? What can I do to get that community going again? Honestly, I look to the forums but I’d be open to it happening on the Facebook page or anywhere else. I just miss the friendly community feel we had at the forums and want to do all I can to encourage that to rebuild itself.

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Is extreme exercise bad for your heart? https://www.hillrunner.com/is-extreme-exercise-bad-for-your-heart/ https://www.hillrunner.com/is-extreme-exercise-bad-for-your-heart/#respond Thu, 28 Nov 2019 16:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=67947 Continue reading "Is extreme exercise bad for your heart?"

The eternal debate is back, if it ever went away. Is too much running bad for your heart? I’ve faced a number of people who have tried telling me it is so. Chances are you also have.

But is it true? The “evidence” given to support this idea is usually anecdotal or flat out false. How many times have you been told about Jim Fixx? While his death was tragic, when you look at the big picture with him specifically or with runners overall, things look much different.

Well, now we have more evidence that even extreme exercise doesn’t appear to be a health risk. It appears going beyond a certain extent of exercise doesn’t help your health but it also doesn’t harm your health. So, if you enjoy doing more, don’t worry about it.

Read on for more of what I’ve been reading about recently…

Ketones have been getting a lot of attention lately. Is it hype or real? Well, this study suggests that, at least for the 10K, it might be hype. Note: One study is suggestive but not conclusive and not helping for the 10K doesn’t mean it won’t help for other distances. But it is an interesting data point and hopefully more studies, including ones at other distances, will be coming.

Ketones aren’t the only heavily hyped fueling method being brought up. What about the high tech sports drink Eliud Kipchoge was using in his sub-2 hour run? Well, it turns out there has been a study done on this. Again, initial research doesn’t paint a very positive picture. This isn’t the end of the story. One study isn’t conclusive. However, maybe it’s a reason to be a little more hesitant when hearing amazing claims being made.

This fall, the debate surrounding Nike’s high tech shoes heated up in a big way. I tend to have some complicated views on them that makes it hard to write about them. In short, I can see the validity in a lot of different, sometimes conflicting, viewpoints. Here’s an interesting discussion on the shoes. Here’s another interesting discussion. I kind of like the solution given there. Limit the height of the midsoles of race day shoes, then let shoe companies do whatever they want within that height.

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Thank you https://www.hillrunner.com/thank-you-2019/ https://www.hillrunner.com/thank-you-2019/#respond Thu, 21 Nov 2019 16:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=67905 Continue reading "Thank you"

Enjoy your turkey trots next week!

I know Thanksgiving is still a week away but I’ll be posting the usual monthly recap on Thanksgiving this year. Besides, if I thank you this week while you’re not off enjoying time with the family, you’re more likely to see it.

I’ve done this several times before but I do it because I mean it. The community at HillRunner.com is so special and means so much to me. I just wanted to thank you for the opportunity to share my experiences and the knowledge of the many great teachers I’ve learned from with you.

It means a lot that you put your trust in me and I strive to earn it every day.

Once again, thank you for being such a wonderful community. It means the world to me and I’ll continue to do all I can to earn your trust and keep this a place where this kind of community can thrive.

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Winter running https://www.hillrunner.com/winter-running/ https://www.hillrunner.com/winter-running/#respond Thu, 14 Nov 2019 16:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/2016/11/17/winter-running/ Continue reading "Winter running"


You CAN run through the winter!

Winter is here! At least in this part of Wisconsin, it seemed to arrive on Halloween this year and hasn’t let up since!

That means it’s time, if not a little late, for your annual reminder: winter running can be safe and, dare I say, even enjoyable with a few precautions.

Frozen lungs?

First, let’s put to rest one of the most popular but most inaccurate myths about running in the winter, the idea that you can freeze your lungs. This is a completely false myth.

The fact is that you can’t freeze your lungs in any climate found in any populated parts of this planet. By the time the air you breathe in reaches your throat, just passing through your mouth warms it up to near your body temperature. By the time it passes through your windpipe and into your lungs, it is up to your body temperature.

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t some side effects to breathing in this cold air but it is important to stress that there is no evidence that the side effects are long term dangers.

Handling the cold, dry air

The main side effect is that the cold air is very dry. As your body warms it, your body also has to humidify it. This can lead to a dry, raw throat and at times a dry cough after running.

Some people claim that running in cold weather makes their lungs cold. The best explanation I can come up with is that the air they are breathing in is still dry when it gets to their lungs and their lung tissue may be drying out as it humidifies the air. This is not a long term problem, though, as your body tissues will recover with no long term damage once they are not being subjected to the dry air.

So what can we do about this dry air issue? The best advice I can offer is to look into a balaclava or ski mask. Cover your mouth and possibly nose and more of the warmth and humidity will be held in. This can be a significant help if you experience a sore throat or dry cough after your cold weather runs.

Cold air and exercise induced asthma

Another popular myth about breathing in the cold air is that this will give you exercise induced asthma (EIA). While there is minimal evidence that this won’t happen, there is no evidence that this will happen. The question simply hasn’t been given much attention by researchers.

The most likely explanation is that breathing in the cold air increases the symptoms of mild cases of EIA enough to make themselves known, while running in warmer temperatures might not be enough for the symptoms to be noticeable or a bother.

The best solution I’m aware of would be the same as for the dry air issue. Cover your mouth with a balaclava or ski mask.

Dressing for the cold

The next big question is always how to dress. This has gotten much easier in the past decade or so with all the great tech fabrics available to us now. Wicking, thermal fabrics may not be cheap but, if you run in tough weather, they are worth every cent.

Of course, if you don’t have the budget, you can work with the methods we used in the 1990s. One good wicking layer against the skin to get your sweat away from your body, then layers of whatever material you have available.

There is one rule that applies no matter what you’re wearing: layer. Instead of one bulky layer, go for two or more lighter layers. This will greatly help in the case that the temperature warms up as you’re out running or you go from running into the wind to running with the wind (more on that later). You can just take off a layer or two and aren’t left either over dressed or under dressed.

Running in the dark

Make yourself visible

With the winter weather come short days and long nights. That means running in the dark.

For running in the dark, the rule is pretty simple. If you are around traffic, make sure drivers can see you.

There are a lot of wonderful products on the market that are bright, reflective, have lights in them, and probably have other ways to make you visible. Take a look around at your local or online running store and you will find plenty of gear designed to make you very visible on dark mornings and evenings.

Depending on where you live, you may want to take other safety precautions. Ideally, having a running partner would be perfect but it’s not realistic for everyone. Other precautions involve running on well lit routes, carrying personal safety products such as pepper spray, and running in areas where there are other people or that are well patrolled by police. Of course, your needs and options would depend on where you live.

Make sure you can see

Depending on the ambient light available, you may also find that you need a source of light to see with. There are a lot of head lamps available these days. I picked up a cheap one a few years ago and, for approximately $10, it gives me all the light I need to see the road in front of me and, as a bonus, makes me much more visible to drivers.

Snow and ice

For many of us, winter weather means snow and ice. Running on snow and ice. That’s a recipe for disaster, right? Well, there are precautions that can be taken to minimize or possibly even eliminate the risk of these potential dangers.

When running on snow and ice, there are two factors to consider: equipment and strategy.


For running on snow, the best solution I have found is to run with a shoe that has good tread. Trail shoes are great. The lugs are big enough to dig into the snow and give you traction and there is enough space between the lugs to allow the snow to fall out between steps. Road flats can be very poor on snow.

For running on ice, you want something that will cut into the ice to get traction. There are a lot of devices that are designed for this. Check out an outdoor sporting goods store and you’ll see various products that slip over your shoes and have metal spikes or coils to cut into the ice. You can also give the screw shoe a try.


As for running on questionable surfaces, that’s something that is best figured out with experience. The best advice is to be too cautious at first. After you gain some experience, you will learn how to run on slippery surfaces and what is slippery and what isn’t.

If I could offer a few quick tips, here they are:

  1. Take it very easy on corners if you aren’t positive they are clear.
  2. Every route has its trouble spots. Get to know those spots and be extra careful at those places.
  3. Sometimes it’s better to have a planned slide than an unplanned one. In other words, the best way to get past some slick spots is to actually purposely slide across them so you don’t unexpectedly lose footing and go for a tumble.


During the summer months, a nice breeze can feel great. During the winter months, even a gentle breeze could be dangerous if you’re not prepared for it.

The first rule of the wind is simple. Always start by running into the wind and return with the wind.

Sometimes I modify this to start for a short period with the wind, then turn into the wind after 5-10 minutes.

The idea is simple. You don’t want to warm up, work up a sweat, then turn into the wind and have that sweat freeze on you. Also, if you get in trouble, it’s better to walk back to shelter with the wind at your back than with the wind in your face.

If you absolutely can’t start into the wind, try to change direction frequently so you don’t spend too much time all at once running into the wind after working up a sweat.

Be safe!

Finally, there will always be some times when it’s just not safe to run outside. Running in the middle of a blizzard, unless you have a very controlled area where you can be certain a car won’t slide into you, is a bad idea. No traction device helps on a half inch of glare ice and, even if you have good traction, dodging sliding cars isn’t my idea of fun.

Don’t be afraid to take the occasional day off or use indoor options (the treadmill of course being the most convenient for most of us). It’s not the end of the world and it’s far better than getting hit by an out of control car.

So get out there and run this winter! I’ve been running through the Wisconsin winter for over 20 years now and have survived to tell my story. If you just take a few precautions and give it a try, you might decide you like winter running as much as I do.

Note: This is my annual winter running post, updated and resurfaced every November. If you have read it before, I hope the updates and reminders have been helpful.

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Did it work? Does it matter? https://www.hillrunner.com/did-it-work-does-it-matter/ https://www.hillrunner.com/did-it-work-does-it-matter/#respond Thu, 07 Nov 2019 16:00:28 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=64970 Continue reading "Did it work? Does it matter?"


It’s the most simple question that can be asked to assess the usefulness of a training concept: did it work?

However, is that always the right question to ask? What if it appears that it did work but for the wrong reasons? What if it appears to not have worked but some other variable was the problem?

There is so much going on in our training at any one time. Not to mention all that is going on in our lives that might affect our running.

While we should absolutely always be reviewing the things we did and trying to decide whether they worked or not, it can be difficult to know if any one single thing worked or not, just because the final result did or did not work.

We need to dig a little deeper. We also need to look at the bigger picture. Maybe something was a good idea but just didn’t combine with other variables of our training in a good way. Maybe something that was a bad idea didn’t cause major issues that derailed your running but didn’t help you as much as another method would have.

I know this makes it very hard to figure out how to look back over a season. If we can’t count on looking at the results to decide how something worked, what do we do?

We look at the big picture. Don’t dismiss something that seems on all levels to be a good idea simply because you had a bad season. Consider whether it was a good idea that just didn’t mesh with something else you were doing or something completely different resulted in the problems.

On the flip side, even the best season doesn’t mean there is no room for improvement. Not everything went as perfectly as possible, did it?

While it makes analysis of your season more difficult, it’s more true to life if you hold a critical eye to snap judgements. Yes, you do need to think about how things worked so you know what to keep and what to change going forward. However, don’t always fall for the first snap judgement. Dig a little deeper and really think about why things worked or didn’t. Maybe the thing that didn’t work is a good idea that shouldn’t be discounted too quickly and maybe the thing that did work isn’t the best way forward.

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Do you use ice? https://www.hillrunner.com/do-you-use-ice/ https://www.hillrunner.com/do-you-use-ice/#respond Thu, 31 Oct 2019 00:01:28 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=64964 Continue reading "Do you use ice?"

I’ve written a few times about icing and what we now know about it. Let me do it again.

While we used to think icing an injury or even icing sore legs in general was a good idea, we now have enough evidence to strongly believe exactly the opposite is true.

It appears that ice does not help. It might even hurt. The evidence of this is convincing and growing rapidly.

On the other hand, strength training is good. And, while we constantly hear about how it’s difficult for older individuals to maintain, much less gain, strength, it’s never too late.

What goes through your mind when running? What should go through your mind? As it turns out, depending on the type of activity, different types of self talk may have different benefits. For what it’s worth, for endurance activity, both motivational and instructional self talk improved performance.

What types of intervals are best? As is often the case, I agree with Alex Hutchinson’s bottom line: I favor a mix of types of workouts.

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Take some time off https://www.hillrunner.com/take-some-time-off/ https://www.hillrunner.com/take-some-time-off/#respond Thu, 24 Oct 2019 15:00:34 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=64889 Continue reading "Take some time off"

This doesn’t look fun to me but, if it looks fun to you, do it for a while. If it doesn’t, is there something else you haven’t been doing as much of as you’d like?

Many of us have wrapped up our racing seasons some time in the last month or so. Those of us who haven’t likely will be in the next month or so.

So the logical question to ask at this point is – what next? What do we do between now and spring?

While I would strongly encourage that you take advantage of the winter to build a solid base in order to make your spring goals more attainable, that’s not what I would recommend immediately after your last race of the year.

In the more short term, give yourself some down time. If you trained and raced hard, you are likely both physically and mentally/psychologically/motivationally drained. You may not be injured or burned out (and I hope you aren’t) but you probably at least feel a little worn down.

I prefer a period of at least 4 weeks to rest, recover and get yourself back in a good place to begin training for the next year. If you don’t feel physically and motivationally ready after 4 weeks, then take more time.

So what do we do during these 4 weeks? Well, here’s what I would recommend.

Week 1: Do whatever you want. I would recommend some activity but, if you want to be a complete couch potato for this week, do so. I would actually recommend not running but, if you’re like me and running is such an integral part of your life that you’re lost without it, go ahead and run. Just keep it short and easy. Don’t even think of it as training.

Week 2: If you kept some light activity around, then continue with that. If you didn’t, I’d encourage you to do something. If you don’t want to run yet, don’t. Go for some walks. Go for a bike ride. Whatever you want, just so you’re doing something. If there’s something you like doing but you’ve been neglecting while in deep training, this is a great time to enjoy that activity. You’re still not training, though. You’re just keeping a healthy routine and enjoying your activities.

Week 3: You can do a little more if you wish. No pressure to do more yet but make sure you’re at least minimally active. If you are feeling ambitious, this could be a good time to add in some light strength training. Focus on good form, you don’t need to be maxing out at this point.

Week 4: Much like week 3, do a little more if you wish. Keep it easy for one more week, though. The hope in this week is that you will finish this week feeling physically and mentally recharged and ready to get back into your training.

Once done with these 4 weeks, if you’re feeling ready, begin thinking about training again. Make sure you start up gradually. You have plenty of time before your important races next year.

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Know your danger zones https://www.hillrunner.com/know-your-danger-zones/ https://www.hillrunner.com/know-your-danger-zones/#respond Thu, 17 Oct 2019 15:00:35 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=64856 Continue reading "Know your danger zones"

Stress in your life outside running will affect your running

We all have them. Certain times when stress is higher, the schedule is busier, maybe things are so hectic that even your sleep suffers.

Maybe you have a deadline you need to meet at work. Maybe something is going on at home or in your extended family. During the holidays, there are simply so many things going on that we can feel overwhelmed.

When these things happen, what do you do with your running? Do you back off or “just plow through”?

So many runners think they are being “tough” by trying to just push through these periods. But they are not. Instead, they are playing with fire.

The problem is that your body can only take so much stress. When stress in one part of your life goes up, you need to lower your stress somewhere else or you risk burnout, extreme fatigue, or injury.

If you can balance your non-running stresses by lowering stress in one part of life when stress in another part of life increases, that’s wonderful. If you can’t, though, the only safe thing to do is to back off your running.

Make sure that, during those times when stress in your life outside of running increase, you’re giving yourself a little easier time with your running. Your body will thank you.

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Eliud Kipchoge: 1:59:40 https://www.hillrunner.com/eliud-kipchoge-15940/ https://www.hillrunner.com/eliud-kipchoge-15940/#respond Sat, 12 Oct 2019 14:33:10 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=64830 Continue reading "Eliud Kipchoge: 1:59:40"

Eliud Kipchoge did it! The first ever sub-2 hour marathon

Eliud Kipchoge, arguably the greatest marathoner of all time, did it! This morning in Vienna Austria, he ran a marathon in 1:59:40. Not the world record because this was not a record eligible event but an astounding performance regardless.

Before I go any further, I want to say this was an amazing run by an amazing runner. Kipchoge is a great runner and, by all reports, a great person. This run was astounding. Even if it doesn’t count as a record, who could have imagined 10 or even 5 years ago that this kind of run was even possible? Kipchoge just did the impossible.

I also want to point out that this event gained a lot of interest inside and outside the running world. Any interest in a positive light is good, right? When people who don’t follow running are asking me about the sport for something that doesn’t involve drugs or other questionable or downright bad behavior, I consider that a good thing. Maybe the sport would benefit from more of these exhibition events?

That said, I’m still a little disappointed that this event happened. Why? Because we missed a chance to see Kipchoge in his prime running head to head against Kenenisa Bekele in his prime, when both were healthy and ready for big things.

Bekele just ran 2:01:41 in the Berlin Marathon, just missing Kipchoge’s world record of 2:01:39 from last year’s Berlin Marathon. Imagine the race that could have been had Kipchoge, obviously primed and ready to go as he proved this morning, would have been in that race.

I don’t for one moment blame Kipchoge for running this event instead of Berlin. It’s a different challenge. It’s the opportunity to become the first person to break 2 hours in a marathon, record eligible or not. It’s a different challenge (finishing first every year in London and Berlin shouldn’t be getting boring but I suspect there’s a little “been there, done that” feeling to it for him by now). I have no doubt he was well compensated for this effort (even for Kipchoge, an elite runner’s career is relatively short and you need to make your money while you can).

However, to me, time trials are not exciting. I didn’t watch the event because I didn’t find the interest in watching a single runner with a rotating group of pacers on an optimized course run a consistent pace for 2 hours, no matter how fast it was. I might have lost a little sleep to see a Kipchoge/Bekele showdown in Berlin.

Hopefully we will see that Kipchoge/Bekele matchup in Tokyo next year. Hopefully both will be healthy and fit when they arrive there. Given Bekele’s recent history, though, I’m concerned that we may have just missed our best chance to see this matchup with both healthy and running well.

Again, I want to congratulate Kipchoge on the great run and I’m in no way going to blame him for doing this event. However, in the back of my mind, I’ll always question whether we missed one of the all time great races in order to have this event.

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