Your race is about to start, music blasting away; so much energy the event seems to come alive. You proceed to the corral, awaiting the horn to sound. People huddled close. Beeeeeeep!!! Out of the gates, you take off like a bat out of hell…
Sound familiar? It should; we’ve all been there. The environment, the anticipation, the anxiety, all contribute to the human stampede found at the beginning of nearly every race. Often, our finishing pace does not reflect the blazing speed with which we started. We try to maintain speed, but feel completely winded with competitors passing left and right. How do others have the energy to be sprinting-in when you’re barely able to jog one more step?!
Let me let you in on a little secret: negative splitting! Arguably the most effective racing strategy, from 5k to marathon, this tactic helps to conserve energy throughout the race, and put forth hard effort in the final stretch.
In simplest terms, negative splitting involves running the second half of a race faster than the first. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but with training and focus, this strategy can be implemented by runners of all abilities.
Scientifically speaking, going out too fast from the start will cause you to hit your lactate threshold too early, forcing your body to stop or slow down. (Your Lactate Threshold is the point where you’re working so hard your body cannot keep up with the workload. As a result, waste [lactate acid] is being made faster than it can be metabolized). Negative splitting can be an efficient solution, teach yourself to hold back, and push your threshold back to the final stretch of the race.
How do you train for negative splitting, so come race day, you will be the finishing strong instead of the struggling to finish? PRACTICE! PRACTICE! PRACTICE! It really is the best, and only way, to perfect this strategy. Try some of the workouts below in your own training.
Easy Runs – Negative split them! Start off slow to warm up and safely transition into running. Slowly increase the pace each mile until you settle into your normal pace. If you are more advanced, run the last couple miles at a bit above moderate effort. This helps your muscle memory remember how to push through fatigue come race day!
Strides – Putting strides at the end of your long run help you move at a faster pace through fatigue. You’re moving at a faster pace than race pace which prepares the body for hard exertion come race day!
Mile Repeats – Try 4×1 mile repeats w/ 2 min recoveries. Pick up the pace 30 second each mile repeat.
Chopped Miles – Run 1200 meters of your mile at 5k pace, then run the last 400 10-15 seconds faster than your 5k pace. Repeat this 3 times with 2-4 minute recoveries between miles
There are many ways to practice negative splitting as there are many variations of fitness and race goals! Try some of the workouts above and make sure to find your paces using Jack Daniel’s Calculator!
Takeaway: If you continue doing what you have always done, you are going to stay where you are! If you are stuck in a plateau and need some help digging out of it, follow this link and I will reach out and help you!
Below are a few examples of my negative split runs. It took me awhile to learn this, but now I never look at my watch when I run, I just go by feel and I negative split 85% of the time! More importantly, I feel great at the end of the run; not overworked, not super fatigued, not in pain, but like I could give it another mile if I had to. It is a great strategy, helpful to runners of all abilities. When it comes to pace, focus on the negative; for all other aspects of life, stay positive!