As a runner who lives in San Francisco, I have a love/hate relationship with the city's hilly terrain. While I dread happening upon a surprise climb midrun, training here does mean that every flat-course race I run seems like a (relative) piece of cake. But, as I know from participating in the San Francisco Nike Women's Half Marathon for the past three years, when the course actually incorporates those dreaded hills, I'm prepared to be challenged.
The 2014 course — the first new route in the race's 11-year history — was no exception; this past weekend, I and 25,000 other runners wound our way through Union Square, Golden Gate Park, and the Presidio District, dipping and climbing through some serious elevation changes. Luckily, I had some sound advice for crushing the hills, courtesy of Nike elite runner Jordan Hasay (who recently won the Tufts 10K with a jaw-dropping time of 31:38!). At a group premarathon shakeout run on Saturday, Jordan gave us advice that I put to use on race day: crest the hills. It can be tempting to start walking or slow down as soon as you reach the top of a difficult climb, but try to keep going a little more after you reach the top, Jordan says. You'll actually recover faster (and get a better time) if you keep running through to the downhill, easing up on your pace as you make your way down instead of right at the top. It sounds hard, but I took her advice during the race and was surprised at how quickly I could catch my breath, even as I was still running on the descent. My result? I finished with my best half marathon time yet, even though the course was one of the hillier routes I've raced on. Consider this a tip I'll always keep in my back pocket when it's time to tackle the next set of race-day hills. For more advice on running hills, check out our how to run uphill video.