In my experience, most runners have a love-hate relationship with hill running. A necessary part of any solid training regimen, it is tough and gritty, often leaving us gasping for air. But, as with most things in life, the more we do it, the easier it becomes, building strength, power, and confidence in a way that few other workouts can. Ask any runner and he or she will be sure to regale you with mighty tales of hill conquering following hours of intense training, sweat, and yes, possibly even tears. And probably some vomit, too.
I am no different in my love-hate relationship with hill running, and though I have searched high and low throughout Riga for a sizable hill on which to train, I have found not a single one. Most cities have some kind of high point – a hilltop or a mountain top overlooking the city, and often, getting to the high point can become a hiking or cycling adventure, but not in Riga. No, in Riga, one can observe the city below more or less exclusively by elevator, either from the 26th floor of the Radisson Hotel Latvija, or from the spire of St. Peter’s Church. Neither option involves climbing a hill, and of course, neither is runnable.
I can’t say I’ve ever lived in a city lacking any hills, but I suppose there is a first time for everything. Riga’s network of runnable trails, albeit wonderful, is nothing but flat, flat, and more flat. This is a great feature when it comes time to run the Riga Marathon, but otherwise, it leaves me longing for the days of anaerobic workouts involving burning lungs and legs… those workouts that I love to hate.
Although it’s been a while since I’ve written, and especially since I’ve written about running, mostly due to moving into our permanent housing (finally!) and getting unpacked in the last couple of weeks, I have indeed been running in an attempt to keep up with something that resembles a training plan for the Vilnius Marathon in Lithuania, coming up on September 13. Vilnius. A city full of hills.
Between the trails on either side of the Daugava River and the loop that circles the small river island on which we live, I have plenty of space for long runs, tempo workouts, and interval training… just no hills.
Except for this:
This little bit of path heading onto the Vanšu Bridge, measuring about 50 meters and rising about 10 meters from start to finish, is the steepest hill in Riga, from what I can tell. Barely noticeable as an incline, it was by far the only hint of rise in elevation on the Riga Marathon course last May. Not that I would ever complain about a fast and flat marathon course… but a little bit of up and down never hurt anyone.
Meanwhile, I will continue to log my miles throughout this beautiful city, blissfully ignorant of what may await me in Vilnius in September. Frieda certainly likes exploring the trails, and, in the absence of a track, they do make for convenient and consistent speed workouts.
Finally, I suppose that if I am truly in need of a new running challenge, there is always plenty of this in Riga:
Fellow runners, have you been to Riga? Do you know where I might find a good-sized hill in the city on which to run?
Thank you for reading!