The largest 15k race in the U.S. is the Gate River Run, and it happens yearly here in Jacksonville, Florida, on the second Saturday in March. Eagerly anticipated by serious and recreational runners alike, mile seven or so consists of running across a bridge that on a normal day is not accessible to runners at all, a truss bridge spanning the St. Johns River that on race day has earned the nickname, “Green Monster.”
The inaccessibility of the Hart Bridge, the “Green Monster,” makes it elusive and prevents runners from training by running on it beforehand. However, this doesn’t mean participants can’t prepare. It just means we have to train in advance for running up and down a hill, in this case, a monstrous one.
Hills – The Ups and Downs
What goes up must come down, but gravity is not the only factor when it comes to hill running. To avoid overexerting or potentially injuring yourself when running hills, having proper form is essential. We tend to lean forward when running up an incline and lean back and put on the brakes when running downhill, but this should be avoided as it diminishes efficiency.
Maintain good posture and correct running form when running hills or the hill that is the Hart Bridge. Keep your back straight and look ahead of you. Don’t strain your neck or look from side to side. Don’t hunch over on the way up or lean back on the way down. Consistently move your arms forward and back instead of side to side, and short and quick should be your stride.
Runners view hills or bridges and want to get that part of the race over with, but running hills that way risks expending too much energy with too little return. Tackle the hill or bridge by maintaining the same level of effort. When it comes to running over the “Green Monster,” going all out will lead to burnout, so pace yourself.
Hills and bridges present a unique challenge, especially to Florida runners who are accustomed to a flatter landscape. To tackle the Hart Bridge, you will need strong muscles. The following exercises can help you strengthen the muscles you need to have in tip-top shape:
- Sideways lunge
- Forward lunge
Hit the Slopes
If you can find some hills or sloping terrain, you can train by doing hill repeats. You can also use the incline feature on a treadmill for running up hills and the decline feature (if available) for running downhill. This training consists of:
- Practice running at your normal pace uphill and recover on the downhill
- Focus on your form
- Repeat this process two to three times when you begin training and six to eight once you progress
The “Green Monster” doesn’t have to be a monster from your worst nightmare. Instead, think of the bright green Hart Bridge as the green light to keep going until you finish. With some extra training, focus on form, and proper pacing, you can conquer the Hart Bridge and finish faster than you thought you could at this year’s Gate River Run.
About the Author
Paul McRae began PRS – Personal Running Solutions in 2007 in Jacksonville, Florida to promote the sport he is incredibly passionate about in the city he loves. Alongside his wife and PRS Coach, Lydia, Paul races often and coaches many in the running community to reach their running goals. If you need help with proper form or training, don’t hesitate to reach out to the coaches at Personal Running Solutions.