Love it or hate it, Gainesville is, for the most part, F-L-A-T flat.
After all, we live and play in The Swamp. Not Rocky Top. Not Mountaineer Field.
But that doesn’t mean runners can’t get their hill workouts on in the ‘Ville.
And don’t tell me your hill workout is running a treadmill on incline. It’s Fall. It’s cooling down. Get outside!
Despite its overall flatness, there are a number of spots in Gainesville with enough elevation change to get your legs and lungs burning. I promise you. And if you still don’t believe me, here are six of my favorite running hills in Gainesville:
Northwest 14th Avenue (Northwest 18th Terrace – Northwest 20th Street) (Map)
Shaped like a skateboarder’s half-pipe, this shorter hill is steep on both sides. You’ll want to run it slowly the first couple of times. Make sure your shoes have treading, and avoid this bad boy if conditions are slippery.
- Great for high interval training and speed work.
- Encourages, if not demands, proper running form.
- Low-traffic, peaceful neighborhood.
- Convenient street parking.
- Very steep.
- Dangerous, especially in wet/slippery conditions.
Here’s a video I shot of myself at and running this hill:
(Warning: middle portion of this video may cause dizziness. Watch it anyway.)
Southeast 4th Avenue (Southeast 4th Street – Southeast 6th Street)
You could call this the beginner’s version of the 14th Avenue hill. This hill is longer than that one and features a much more gradual incline and decline. I enjoy running this hill because of its versatility; you can run it quickly, slowly, once or ten times. In short, it is what you make of it. It’s also really close for those of us that live downtown.
- Moderate-traffic area.
- Poor parking access.
Northwest 16th Avenue
Those familiar with Northwest 16th Avenue know that this is a hill to be reckoned with. Long and steep on both sides, it can challenge even the fittest runners. It’s not the most scenic of Gainesville’s hills, but it does have sidewalks on both sides, so you don’t have to fret about crossing four lanes of heavy traffic.
- Convenient access to Loblolly trails (which you can read about here).
- Sidewalks on both sides of the road.
- Long and steep enough to challenge most any runner.
- Heavy traffic.
- Not very scenic.
Northwest 23rd Street
It might not look it from the photo, but this hill is a beast. It’s very steep and longer than it seems, probably close to 80 yards. There’s also a beautiful road, Northwest 7th Road, just before the hill (to the right of the photo above) that’s perfect for a warm-up jog. One word of caution: ONLY RUN IN THE RIGHT LANE! You can’t see what’s coming over the hill while running up it, so err on the cautious side and get off the road if at all unsure.
- Low-traffic neighborhood.
- Convenient warm-up area.
- Close (half mile) to UF campus.
- Blind ascent up the hill.
The Sweetwater Preserve
The surface of every other hill on this list is asphalt or concrete. That’s not a bad thing, but whenever possible I prefer to run on softer surfaces like grass or pine straw. Enter the Sweetwater Preserve hill. This hill is long, windy and gradual, allowing a runner to pickup speed on his/her way down. Running this hill is a great way to work on your running form; if you can keep good form and relax while running, you’ll pickup speed without even trying to.
- No vehicles allowed.
- Scenic and usually empty.
- Convenient parking.
- Versatile enough for both beginning and expert runners.
- Well removed from parking (in case of an injury).
- Slippery gravel in spots.
- Possible ticks (though I’ve never had an encounter).
Center Drive at the University of Florida
Center Drive is a nightmare for students lugging heavy backpacks to class but a dream for runners looking for an on-campus challenge. During the school day it’s pretty packed with students, but at night Center Drive is ideal for hill training. Long and steep, this one’s a toughie.
- Easy access to water and bathrooms.
- Close to emergency-safety poles.
- Sidewalks on both sides of road.
- Many students/pedestrians during school hours.
- Parking practically non-existent during school hours.
Here’s a slideshow I put together of the six hills, with a number of different angles for each hill:
Good luck tackling your next hill!
All photos by Benjamin Markus.