Gonzo Hill Workouts

By Rick Morris

Gonzo are unusual training runs that are higher in difficulty, intensity and distance than most training runs. Many runners might consider all hill runs to be a gonzo session. Running any hill can be a challenging training run, but these gonzo hill runs are characterized by eye popping difficulty and unusually long length.

Hill Progression

This gonzo hill workout combines a brutal 6 mile hill climb with 6 mile tempo pace descent.

  • Description – You will need to find hill at least 6 miles long to do this workout. You can also do it on your treadmill. This gonzo workout is simple in design but brutally difficult to carry out. Run 6 miles or 10K up a steep hill or on a treadmill elevated to 8% at an increasing pace. Then run back down the hill at tempo pace.
  • Pace – Run the first 1 mile at your easy endurance pace. Speed up to tempo pace for the next three miles. Now speed up to 10K pace for one mile and finish the climb with 1 mile at 5K pace. Turn around and run down the hill at a relaxed tempo pace.
  • Recovery – None

The Climb

Most hill training session are short but intense. This gonzo hill climb is a bit different. Your pace is moderate but the very long length of this workout makes this one of the hardest and most stressful workouts in your running arsenal. Make sure you have fresh legs before you begin this gonzo run and allow a few days for recovery.

  • Description – Run between 8 and 15 miles up a hill with a moderate to steep incline. For runs on the shorter side you should be able to handle an easy paced descent. If you do longer climbs of 12 to 15 miles you may want to arrange for a ride back down the hill. You can also do this one on your treadmill.
  • Pace – Slower than marathon pace for most runners. Highly experienced marathon runners can turn this into a very effective marathon training workout by doing the entire climb at marathon pace.
  • Recovery – None, other than brief hydration or refueling stops.

One Mile Hill Blasters

One mile repeats is standard track workout. Those interval training sessions are difficult even on a flat track. This gonzo hill workout takes one mile repeats to the hills.

  • Description – Run 3 to 6 one mile repeats up a hill of moderate to steep incline or on a treadmill elevated to between 5% and 8%. Recover between each repeat by jogging down the hill.
  • Pace – Run at a hard pace. Your actual pace will vary according to the incline of the hill, but keep your effort level hard and steady.
  • Recovery – Recover between each repeat by jogging down the hill.

Gonzo Hill Combo

Hill running is difficult in its own right. How about starting your hill run when you are already fatigued. That takes it to the gonzo level. This gonzo hill run is also a very race specific workout since you usually hit hills in your races after you have already begun to feel the effects of running fatigue.

  • Description – This training run starts with 3 miles on the road at tempo pace. Then you hit the hills for 3 more miles. You can tweak this workout to meet your specific goals. For shorter 800 meter to 1 mile race goals do 6 x 400 meter hill repeats at a hard pace and jog down for recovery. For 2 mile to 10K goal distance, try 3 x 800 meter repeats at a hard pace with a downhill jog for recovery. If you’re training for a marathon do a 2500 meter or 1.5 mile hill climb at a hard pace and jog down for recovery. Take no recovery between your road run and the hill runs.
  • Pace – Three miles on the road at tempo pace followed by 3 miles of hill running at a hard pace.
  • Recovery – No recovery between the road run and the hill running. Jog down the hill for recovery between hill repeats.