How to Train for the Mount Washington Road Race

Mount Washington Road Race - How do you train for 'only' one hill

To answer the question – I have no idea!

When I learned last week that I was chosen from the lottery to run the Mount Washington Road Race in June, my first thought was – Holy Sh!t!!! And my second thought was – how do I train for this?

Obviously, hills, hills, hills and then some more marvelous hills. But since I don’t have the luxury of having a hill that is 7.6 miles long to do training runs on regularly, what are my options? After asking friends who have run it in previous years and searching for training tips online, here’s what my plan for the next 11 weeks is going to involve.


I don’t absolutely hate the treadmill but I don’t love it either. With the really nice spring weather here and more coming, I was looking forward to running outside all the time. But according to friends (like Jen who will be running it again this year!), the treadmill is your best bet to mimic the continuous uphill training you need. With a gain of 4,727 feet in elevation (average elevation of 12% and the last portion at the summit 22%), doing short hill repeats will do nothing for you. You want specificity with training and the treadmill is my best bet.

Last week I did 2 x 1600 @6%/7% at easy pace as part of my 6 mile run. It kicked my butt. It definitely was eye opening that I need to not only work on total leg strength but my back as well.

Trail Running

I’m fortunate to live within a 45 minute drive or less of some trails with upness. Since I’m not the most sure-footed person, I don’t want anything super technical but I need the elevation. According to my friend Tony, there’s an awesome 1 mile stretch of road near Gunstock Mountain that leads to a trail that is an average 15.8% grade. Sounds like just the torturous fun I’m looking for! Mt. Aggie in Maine is another option.

How to train for the Mount Washington Road Race? Good question! Here's what I'm hoping works. |

Run Easy

Of course I won’t (or can’t) run hill specific workouts every single run. I’ll have easy paced runs mixed in. However, I’ll make it a point to not shy away from hillier routes. Like my friend Sarah says, #EmbraceTheHill. As someone who really isn’t a fan of hills, this should change my perspective, right?

Strength Training/PT Exercises/Core

Now is definitely NOT the time to slack on my strengthening exercises. A strong core is essential. And continue to condition my lower legs with eccentric calf raises and balance exercises.

Other tips that I have learned:

  • Expect to finish around your half marathon time.
  • You will walk. Lots. Get comfortable with a run/walk method.
  • Practice walking backwards to give your back and the front of your legs a break. And you can take in the view!
  • The temperature will change over the course of the race (average 30 degrees difference from base to summit). Tuck gloves in your shorts and over pack your bag at the summit. You will want ALL of the warm gear.
  • Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the wind and the dust during the gravel sections.

I’m nervous and excited all at the same time. This is going to hurt. A LOT. But it’s such a unique race that it’s going to be all worth it.

11 weeks to go!

Hills – love ’em or hate ’em?

What’s the highest incline you’ve ever run on the treadmill?

27 comments on “How to Train for the Mount Washington Road Race

  1. Holy hills mama!! It is SUCH a unique race and, I think you will find your overall training much improved afterward – I mean running all those hills and staying with really good strength training workouts is going to pay off huge!! Not to mention the FUN you will have with this “one hill” race!!
    So cool and so happy to follow along 🙂
    Allie recently posted..The Rundown – Numbers GameMy Profile

  2. That’s surely an incredible challenge!
    Yeah, the back… So many runners overlook it, mainly the beginners.
    Go conquer those mountains. I cannot wait to read more on your progress.

  3. You’ll be fabulous! I’m doing one dedicated treadmill run per week that is only incline…. The rest will be strength, endurance, speed!

  4. In all of my years of living in New England, I never made it to Mount Washington, never mind ran the road race. I’m ashamed, lol! I did run one of the races in the mountain series that Mt. Washington is a part of, but for the life of me I can’t remember the name right now. It was near Monadnock. Mom brain.

    Anyway, can’t wait to hear about your race! It seems like you’ve got the right ideas for training. Good luck!
    RFC recently posted..Cairn – March 2016 Box ReviewMy Profile

  5. That sounds so challenging! I’m fortunate to live in a moderately hilly area and can easily find challenging hills of up to 2 ot 3 miles long. We also have a mountain basically in our back yard, so that’s a good challenge. There is a trail called the Palms to Pines, so you can guess what that entails. You climb from the desert floor to about 8,500 elevation. Most people hike it but some of my crazier friends have been known to try the running version.
    Debbie @ Coach Debbie Runs recently posted..Illumin8: #EnlightenedNutrition from SunwarriorMy Profile

  6. I can’t even imagine! Is this an UP only race or do you go down as well? I know the view at the top will certainly be worth it. Good luck!

  7. I’ve heard about the Mount Washington race. It looks BRUTAL. It’s amazing that God Almighty made us with bodies that can accomplish challenges like that.

  8. That is one intense race!! Good for you for thinking through your training so carefully. I’m sure there are many people who show up unprepared and suffer through… although it sounds like it will be intense no matter what! I’m excited for you!

  9. 4200+ feet elevation gain? WOW. After you conquer Mt. Washington (which you totally will) you should come out here and dominate Seattle’s trail races, they’ll be like child’s play after that! You’re going to be so strong after training on so many hills!

  10. It’s so cool that you got into the race! I’ve lived in Gorham, NH almost my whole life and each year I’m in awe of the runners/bikers that take on the auto road. It’s definitely on my bucket list but won’t happen for a long time. I can’t wait to follow your training!

  11. Wow it’s really exciting! I never can’t do that. I walk and run (slow speed) regularly in the morning outside of my house. But climb mountain, I can’t imagine! Just joking. Actually, I’m excited about Mount Washington race.

  12. Yours thoughts mirror mine upon hearing I’d “won” the lottery to run up a mountain.

    Thanks for the tips. I’m training for a half right now and then am shifting in to mountain mode.

    One thing I’m planning is to run up the Mt Kearsarge Auto Road. It’s paved, not as long or steep, but I’m hoping it will mimic the real thing a bit.

  13. I can’t believe I’m doing this as well. Mt. Aggie is only a 30 minute drive from my home in Maine, so maybe I’ll see you there…

  14. I too am running Mount Washington this year! I’m struggling to find suitable hills locally. I’ve tried Mount Agamenticus and Carter Hill in my town but believe the treadmill may be the best trainer. I did 2 miles at 15% and I was done, exhausted… My goal is to make to at least 4 miles before the race. 😳 Best of luck!

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