Paceperformance Vertical Mile Training, by Greg Pace

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Three to four times per year we head out to do the Vertical Mile – don’t be fooled by the name – it isn’t quite a mile vertical but it is 10 miles horizontal!  We run up and down 7 sets of stairs on the Hamilton Mountain, with some flat sections in between.

Everyone who is reasonably fit does well with few complaints or concerns until the DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) sets in. Calves, Quads, Gluts all feel like wood 24 to 48 hours post VM.  So how does one train for the vertical mile?

Here is the wisdom of 25 Vm’s over 6 years.  

Make sure the horizontal 10 miles is doable – it can be a bit of a stretch (from a distance perspective) but not too much.  Saying that, it is fine to cut the run and climbs short.  Maybe you only do 4 sets of stairs – there are no rules, no finisher medals or photos, therefore go as you feel.

Specificity – this is a fancy fitness word for the fact that your body adapts very pointedly to the stresses you put on it.  If you do a leg press to strengthen your quads and gluts and then change to doing walking lung (which uses the same muscles but in a different range) you will be sore – this is specificity.  So you may be a great runner but if you don’t climb stairs your calves and quads will be talking to you the next day. Here are a few training tips that you can do as part of your workout to get you ready for the VM.


VM Training tips

Strength training suggestions:

Calves – standing calf raises on a stair – do 20 reps with toes straight, 20 with toes pointed out and 20 with toes pointed in. Have your legs almost straight (not locked) let your heels drop just below the level of the stair then press up to your toes.  Start this program at least 2-3 weeks prior to the VM 3-4 times per week (do these after your run never ever before or on their own)

Quads – try my favorite “House of Pain” leg strengthener –  my  NASTY LEG BIAS.  Do 10 reps of each of the following 4 exercises with no rest between.  Work up to 20 reps then work up to 2 sets of 20 with no rest  – tough tough tough!!!

  1. no weight squats
  2. lunges (each leg counts as one)
  3. jump lunges – the same as above just jump to switch legs
  4. jump squats
  5. say OOOUUUUCH!

Cardio  training suggestions:

As usual to get running fit and fast you have to do 3 things:

  1. run consistently – typically 3 times per week
  2. Run faster – this can be by virtue of interval runs, tempo runs or Fartlek runs
  3. Run easier and longer – base building is vital.  These changes take months and years to develop so go long, go easy but do it smartly.

Hill trianing suggestions:

Set up one of the above runs as your “hill repeat day”.  You don’t need to go hard (but your “A” type personality won’t let you go slow – this is your jockular conundrum – deal with it!).  Actually the vital piece here is the running down the hill. This “eccentric” running is vital in building leg strength (and DOMS) and vital in doing the downward stairs on VM day.


3 runs per week as outlined above – including one hill workout

Calf raises 3 times per week – start NOW

Nasty Leg Bias 2 times per week – beware of DOMS – and please send me a thank you e-mail when you have to walk down stair backward 24-48 hours after your first Nasty jump up!!!!!

Any questions – please let me drop me a line.

Sincerely Greg

Always looking for innovative ways to help you, hurt you a little and make you better.  Remember WE LOVE TO CLIMB!