Training for the Comrades Marathon demands a holistic approach that encompasses various aspects of running, including endurance, speed, and strength. 

Among these components, hill training holds a special place due to the race’s challenging terrain. 

In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the intricacies of hill training for the Comrades Marathon, exploring the optimal degree of inclination, treadmill simulation, outdoor adaptation, and practical tips to maximize performance on race day.

Understanding Hill Training

Hill training is a cornerstone of preparing for the Comrades Marathon, a race renowned for its undulating course. 

Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned runner, incorporating hill workouts into your training regimen is essential for building strength, improving endurance, and mastering the demands of uphill and downhill running.

One common question among Comrades Marathon aspirants revolves around the degree of inclination suitable for hill training. 

I suggest aiming for an inclination between 3 and 4 per cent, mirroring the average incline experienced during the race itself. This range provides a realistic simulation of race conditions while avoiding excessive strain on the body.

Practical Guidelines for Treadmill Simulation

For many runners, treadmills serve as a convenient and controlled environment for hill training. To simulate Comrades Marathon hills effectively, start by setting the treadmill incline at 4 per cent. Gradually increase the inclination to 5 per cent over several weeks to progressively challenge your muscles and cardiovascular system.

Translating Treadmill Inclination to Outdoor Terrain

While treadmill training offers valuable insights, translating incline settings to outdoor terrain requires careful consideration. Outdoor hills vary in gradient and surface conditions, making it challenging to directly correlate treadmill inclines with real-world scenarios. However, by familiarizing yourself with treadmill settings and experiencing the sensations firsthand, you gain a practical reference point for outdoor hill running.

Running Hill Repeats: How to Calculate The Gradient

Navigating Outdoor Challenges

Outdoor hill training presents a myriad of challenges, from steep inclines to uneven surfaces. To optimize outdoor hill workouts, scout routes that mimic the gradients encountered during the Comrades Marathon. Look for hills with moderate inclines ranging from 3 to 4 per cent, similar to treadmill settings, to ensure a balanced training experience.

Strategies for Uphill and Downhill Running

Mastering uphill and downhill running is essential for success in the Comrades Marathon. During uphill segments, maintain a steady pace, focusing on shortening your stride and engaging your core and glutes to power through the ascent.

On downhill sections, control your descent by leaning slightly forward, landing softly on your midfoot, and using your arms for balance and stability.

Incorporating Hill Repeats

Hill repeats are a valuable addition to any Comrades Marathon training plan, offering a potent combination of physical and mental benefits. By repeatedly ascending and descending hills at varying intensities, you enhance muscular strength, cardiovascular fitness, and mental resilience. Start with shorter repeats and gradually increase the duration and intensity as your fitness improves.

Nutritional Considerations for Hill Training

Proper nutrition plays a crucial role in supporting your body’s demands during hill training sessions. Ensure you consume a balanced diet rich in carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats to fuel your workouts and aid recovery. 

Hydration is also paramount, especially when training in hot or humid conditions, so drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after your runs.

Injury Prevention Strategies

As you ramp up your hill training efforts, prioritizing injury prevention is paramount to sustaining long-term progress. 

Incorporate dynamic warm-up exercises, such as leg swings and hip circles, to prepare your muscles and joints for the demands of hill running. 

Additionally, listen to your body and address any signs of discomfort or fatigue promptly to prevent overuse injuries.

Every runner is unique, and tailoring your training plan to suit your individual needs and goals is key to success. 

Monitor your progress closely, adjust your training intensity and volume as necessary, and seek guidance from coaches.

Mastering hill training is a pivotal aspect of preparing for the Comrades Marathon, enabling you to conquer the race’s challenging terrain with confidence and resilience.


With a passion for high performance sport – Lindsey Parry is one of South Africa’s most widely recognised coaches. Having led a team to the London, Rio and Tokyo Olympic Games as well as the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, the Gold Coast & Birmingham, and coached both triathletes and runners onto podiums of some of the world’s most illustrious races, Lindsey has a unique ability to understand what it takes to succeed at any level and thrives on coaching, motivating and inspiring others to do the same – whether it’s on the track, on stage or behind a mic.

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