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Background : Amateur/hobby runner, done 4 10k runs with personal best: 56 min.

I'm practising for my first half-marathon (due in 6 months), and am mainly looking to finish without stopping; no time goals for this one. I fractured my fibula 4 years back- it has healed, I still have the plate inside. Despite full recovery I am cautious and preventing injury is a prime concern.

The route is mostly road, with some flyovers in a coastal city, typical temperatures are ~ 30C. I ran a 10k on the same route and got pretty exhausted on the flyover. I'd like to practice for the slope, but there are no hills/flyovers near me. Can I run up and down stairs instead, will that help in a 21k run?

The possibilities of joint damage have been discussed here and the fact that it may simulate humidity is discussed here, but neither of these are targetted at distance-running, so I believe this question is not a duplicate.

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To answer the title question literally, no -- the best way to practice running is to run. That's not to say that step training can't be helpful -- it's just that running up and down stairs is not a substitute for running hills, because it's not the same motion, and it won't help you as much as actual running. Also step running would lend itself more easily to being a high intensity activity especially if it doesn't come easy to you, so it should be at most 20% of total exercise time (I would say a lot less than 20% to start). So it's better to think of it as a supplement than a replacement.

Even if you can't find physical hills around you, having the aerobic capacity from hours of flat running will help you get up the hills more than any learned "technique," see Pose running reduces economy for some fascinating science if you're interested in that.

If you have access to a treadmill with an incline feature, that might be a good compromise as treadmill running is similar, though of course not exactly the same, as your race environment. Road running would still be better. Running favors pure volume more than any other sport -- the good thing about this for injuries is that you can (and should) decrease your intensity to increase your volume.

In sum, most people feel tired when running up a hill because we're not aerobically developed enough to climb it, not because we haven't had enough experience on hills. Running more "standard" (and most importantly, low-intensity) volume will increase your aerobic capacity, so it should be the first priority in preparing for the race. You can, and sometimes should, add supplemental exercises like the stair running or core activities or strengthening, but they supplement and don't replace running.

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  • Thanks, the answer is on-point, and the attached article is fantastic! Jun 13 '18 at 8:31

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