- This was printed in December of 2014 in The Madera Tribune, a newspaper in Madera, California. This was the 82nd installment of my weekly column, Mind Over Miles.
I am so excited to see plenty of local runners trying out the trail for the first time. The San
Joaquin River Trail is so close, it’s a shame more people don’t go out there to run, bike or
It’s also inspiring to see local runners sprinting over the Ellis overpass on the north end of
the city — they’re challenging themselves to run on something other than the flat-as-a-
pancake landscape of Madera.
Hills should most definitely be incorporated into any training program, even if the race
you plan to run is flat. Running uphill increases your heart rate, and running downhill
allows your heart rate to return to its normal aerobic rate. These shifts in heart rate help
burn an increased amount of calories.
Hills also boost your endurance and speed by working your cardiovascular system and
building up your leg muscles more than flat ground does. If you train on hills, flatlands
will be easy!
Form and technique is important to running hills, however, to avoid injury and to
maximize speed and performance.
To run uphill, lean forward — at the ankles, not at the waist — and shorten your stride
into quick, choppy steps. Your feet should land underneath you, not ahead of you. The
quicker you swing your arms, the faster your feet will go. Relax your shoulders, but
pump your arms. Keep your head looking forward; if you tuck your chin down, you’ll
decrease your oxygen intake.
Downhill running is similar, in that you should continue to lean forward. Too often I see
people lean back, allowing their legs to land way ahead of them, which is jarring on the
joints. Relax your legs and allow your stride to lengthen behind you, not in front of you,
and let your hips sway naturally.
Letting your feet land in front of you on a technical trail can be especially disastrous. If
the ground you are landing on is rocky, gravelly, slick — or really anything other than
flat, smooth and dry — you should take special care to shorten your stride and pick up
If you’ve already fallen in love with the trail or your itching to try it, there are a couple of
local trail races coming up. They are soon enough to motivate you begin training now,
but still far enough away to give you plenty of time to build up to the distance and
amount of hills.
There is a 10K trail race that will be held Feb. 8 at Hensley Lake in Raymond. The
Hensley Lake Buck Ridge Trail race begins at 7 a.m., followed by a mountain bike race
at 9 a.m. Runners and riders will receive a short sleeve race shirt. The top three male and
female runners will get awards. The 10K race is $35, youth and adult mountain biking
events range from $25 to $40, and the duathlon is $60. Proceeds benefit Tri-This!, a
nonprofit that trains youth from high poverty areas in the Central Valley to compete in
Race director Nate Moore says the single-track, non-technical trail at Hensley Lake is
less hilly than the San Joaquin River Trail. There is about 550 feet of elevation gain,
consisting of short and rolling hills on the 6.2-mile course.
In other words, this race is perfect for beginning trail runners. Sign up at
Following that, the San Joaquin River Trail half marathon and 10K will be held March 7.
Registration is limited to 200 runners and it’s filling up fast. Check out
sanjoaquinrunning.com for information and registration. The course is difficult but
beautiful, as any good trail race should be.