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A trail race may have hills that are too steep to run up easily. Or, one may choose a strategy to hike all significant climbs early on in a long distance race.

When choosing to hike up a hill in a running race, is there a specific form or technique that is optimal? For example, what sort of posture should one have? Is there a specific stride length/cadence to aim for? Should you brace your hands on your knees to "push" uphill? etc.

Is there a simple rule to determine when it is better to hike rather than run up a given hill (in terms of energy conservation/recovery/not wasting time)? Or if there are multiple hiking techniques or speeds that apply to different situations, is there a strategy for knowing which to use in a given situation?

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  • Personally I don't like breaking my stride. Especially when I'm near the end of a race or in the nasty last quarter of a distance run I'm really trying to focus on pacing myself and pushing harder. Running competitively the only times I've resorted to "hiking" is when doing off-road cross country events when footing and the need to ascend scree or boulders shows up. – Eric Oct 2 '14 at 23:00
  • Sure, I generally agree. My question is more about the first half of long distance events—especially trail marathons or ultramarathons—for which I've often heard advice to hike up steep climbs early on in the interest of conserving for later in the race. – Mike Mertsock Oct 3 '14 at 0:35
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Many trail races have un-runnable hills (except for elites - and even for them. Ellie Greenwood (WS100 course record holder, current Comrades champ, etc.) is known for a spectactularly fast speed hiking style.

Like most things in running it's down to what works for you. I would consider keeping upright so that your lungs get maximum air. You lean into the hill from your ankles. I try and keep the cadence fairly high and take small steps where I can. However, I avoid too much zig-zagging; I prefer going straight up the hill and will take a big step if I have to. I have to gain that elevation anyway.

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