It is not easy to maintain a constant pace from start to finish, ask any middle or long distance runner. The Marathon is a testament to this as athletes are required to maintain at 19.32kmph pace during their 42.195km run. This is hard enough on a flat surface with little wind resistance but add in a couple hills and a headwind and it is a completely different event.
In order to properly handle a hilly course athletes are required to train for both uphill and downhill runs as they require different muscles. When athletes are exposed to inclines they tend to develop muscle fatigue quickly. To overcome this fatigue, athletes employ speed play or ‘fartlek’ during their training program as well as steady ascending hill raining. Training is also required for downhill running, as it puts much more stress on the athlete’s knees and calves. This is where stride length training and back strength training is further employed. During the downhill runs athletes need to adjust their strides so as not to tire quickly but also so that they may increase speed.
In order to prevent the creation of Marathon Courses deemed ‘too easy,’ designers must make sure that the height of the finish is not lower than 42 metres of the original start height.
The Daegu 2011 modified loop course is measured between 41 and 48 metres. The highest point is near the Suseong Lake Intersection (48.1m) and the lowest height (41.3) is in front of the Jung-Gu Office. Athletes are expected to run quickly as the course is mostly flat except for the uphill entrance of Suseong Lake. However this course is not deemed easy as Daegu’s high temperatures and humidity will certainly play a decisive role in the event’s outcome.
There are two very famous Marathon Hills. The first of which is the ‘Heartbreak Hill’ from the Boston Marathon. In 1936 defending Marathon Champion John A. Kelly (USA) finally caught up to the front runner Ellison “Tarzan” Brown (USA) at the base of this hill. While passing Brown, Kelly gave him a congratulatory pat on the shoulder. This sparked Brown’s competitive drive causing him to surpass Kelly for the win on the infamous “Heartbreak Hill.”
Another well known hill is the Montjuic Hill leading to the Host Venue of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. On 10 Aug. 1992 Young-Cho Hwang (KOR) was running for history as he competed against Koichi Morishita (JPN) in the final three miles of the Olympic Marathon. Up until this point the two runners had been running side-by-side throughout the race. The two athletes ran their race in a very unique way as they pushed on the hills to break down the other runners. Morishita was able to keep up until the final spurt where Hwang pushed harder and slowly pulled away to eventually take the gold. As soon as Hwang crossed the finish he collapsed and was taken away on a stretcher only to return minutes later to watch his country’s flag be raised on the 56th anniversary of Kee-Chung Sohn’s Marathon victory.