Below is a blog post I wrote for Cape Cod Rehab’s Cape Cod Marathon Training Tips. To see the original, visit the Mashpee Fitness blog.
What are negative splits?
It’s pretty simple. Negative splits are when you complete the second half of your run faster than your first!
Why should you run negative splits?
Every runner—whether you are a beginner or an experienced runner—should practice running negative splits on a weekly basis. Practicing negative splits in your normal training runs will translate into racing negative splits.
Why does this matter? Ok, here’s a common scenario. You are at a road race. The gun goes off. All the excitement and the adrenaline at the start of the race leads to a super speedy first mile or two. Even though you know it’s too fast, you feel good so you try to maintain the pace but totally bonk and have to practically shuffle your way to the finish line. Has this ever happened to you?
In an ideal race situation, you start out at a comfortable pace. In fact, you can use the first few miles of your run as a warm up—just don’t skip the pre-race dynamic warm up and form running drills! By starting out slow you are conserving energy for the end of the race and hopefully avoid hitting that infamous wall everyone talks about. After the first few miles, gradually increase your pace and finish strong, giving it all you got in the final miles.
You may think that starting out at a slower pace will effect your ability to run overall fast times but this is not true at all. In fact, Runner’s World wrote at article a few years back about the last five men’s marathon world record runs. Going out too fast and “time in the bank” rarely works out in favor of distance runners. Spoiler alert! 3 of the last 5 were run at negative splits. You can view the full article here: http://www.runnersworld.com/newswire/what-world-records-teach-about-marathon-pacing
Patience is a hard trait to teach. There is such thing as starting out TOO slow and not being able to make up for the time but that’s why training runs are so important. The more you practice running negative splits, the more comfortable and confident you will become with your own pacing strategies. As always, you need to trust the process and work on your ability to hold back, build on your speed and cross that finish line with a new PR.
How can you practice running negative splits during your training?
One way to practice running negative splits during your training is with the progression run.
Now there are a few different ways to approach progression runs.
The first way is to take it one mile at a time. Run each mile faster than the last. There may only be a few seconds difference between each mile but the key point is that you are getting faster.
You can also break up your progression run into thirds or quarters. For example, if you have 9 miles on the schedule, focus on 3 miles at a time. The difference in average pace from the first 3 miles to the second and third set of 3 miles may be a little more drastic.
One more type of progression run is the fast finish. Focus on a nice steady state run but increase your pace in the last few miles. This, along with the other types of progression runs help build endurance and mental strength while teaching your body to run fast when you’re already tired!
Good luck out there! Happy running!