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2023-02-23 10:52 AM

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Subject: Negative Splits

I am preparing for an open half marathon in a week and over and over and over again see tips on pacing strategies that say a negative splits race (running the second half faster than the first half) is always the best pacing plan.  That may be a good plan for phycological reasons but it is not the best plan for physiological reason.  The closer you are to an even split (with the allowance for a slight positive split) is what the people who have the best race on the day are going to have in their race data.

 

It is true that the biggest mistake that people make is to go out too fast and being forced to slow down rather than being able to finish strong.  You have to slow down at the beginning of the run.  For a two loop run at the end of a triathlon ask your self at every step of the way if you will be able to faster at that point on the 2nd loop.  If not slow down.  The first loop should feel like you doing an easy long run.  The second loop should feel like you are doing enough plus some to beat the time from the first loop.  Loop #2 will feel like racing. My experience is that if you run well you will see a slight positive split on the second loop even though you feel like you are flying.  My experience also is that you will pass 3-4 people on the 2nd loop for every one person who passed you on the first loop.

 

The strategy is about the same for a Duathlon.  May of those races have the same opening and closing course/distance (i.e. 5K run-25k bile-5k run).  Again pay attention to how the course feel on run #1 because you will see it again after the bike.  On the opening run don't do anything that will limit you on the bike leg.  You should get off the opening run feeling 100%.  Coming off the bike will vary depending on what type of a bike leg you had.  I do NOT come off the bike feeling 100%, I come off feeling like I have had a hard ride but not so hard that I can run faster on the closing run than I did on the very relaxed and easy opening run.  My legs do not feel really fresh, but I remember what every step of the run leg felt like the first time through (and how easy it felt the first time through) and try to match that speed and feel as much as I can.  Again, the 2nd run will feel like racing.  Again you will feel like you are flying and again you will be passing people who beat you through run #1.  Again you will likely see a slight positive split.  I usually see about a 10 second positive split for a race with opening and closing 5k's.  When I look up the results the next closest splits are usually 30-40s positive splits with others finish near me being about 1-1/2 minute positive splits. 

 

The closer I get to an even split the better I complete.  Even splits are better than negative splits for most people.  I have been doing similar strategies for open running races.  Since they are typically out & backs or single loops I just find someone who is going slower that I feel I should be going and make a goal to not pass them for the first half.  It feels too slow at the beginning and like you are defiantly going faster at the end but you are just slowing down a lot less than others and are going near even splits while other are are posting bigger positive splits.



Edited by BlueBoy26 2023-02-23 10:54 AM


2023-02-23 11:02 AM
in reply to: BlueBoy26

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Subject: RE: Negative Splits

Good thoughts, Curtis.  I typically try to hold an even pace the entire race, whether tri run or open run, and my best results were achieved using that strategy.  My tendency is to go out fast and blow up later, so the key is to know that exact pace that leaves you juuuust enough for a kick at the end but otherwise you've emptied the tank. 

A "perfect" race results in a slightly negative split with the ending kick considered (though that might be zeroed out by the natural starting burst), but the overall pacing is consistent vs. X first half and X-Y second.

2023-02-23 3:03 PM
in reply to: jmhpsu93

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Cypress, Texas
Subject: RE: Negative Splits

I read a very persuasive article on negative splits before a half marathon around 2012-2013 (year) and was so fired up that I committed do the negative split at my upcoming race.

My previous strategy had been to run the opening 5K at no faster than 10% over my open 5K pace, to run what felt maintainable after that until I hit the 10 mile marker, and to then run the last 5K in less that 10% over my open 5K pace.  I always came through the 5K under my goal time and I was never able to hit the last 5K under my goal time, but I had some very solid races with amazing results.  

For the 2012-2013 half marathon I went out much slower.  Like 20 sec/mile slower.  I came across the 5K over previous goal time for the first time ever, but when I tried to settle into a faster pace for miles 3.1-10 I could get the legs to change gears.  I had gone out at a sluggish pace and my body had got into that rhythm to where I couldn't speed things up.  So, I had a sluggish start, fought with the pace to mile 10 without ever being able to hit my stride, and then the last 5K was even slower than the opening 5K.  So...I was pretty disheartened with the negative split thing. 

I tried a similar pace plan at a 5K last year.  My goal was to not go under 6:00 for the first mile and then to not go over 6:00 min/mi for the last two miles.  I hit the first mile at 6:01 but failed to speed up for the last 2.1 miles.  It was my first 5K in about 5 years to not break 18:00 minutes.   So, I am not a fan of trying to force negative splits.  You have to let the race come to you.  Your body sets it metronome in the fist 2-3 minutes of the run.  It sets the rate that it metabolizes calories and fuels your muscles at the start of the race, it sets it cadence and stride length, etc.  If you go out too slow you are not in your most efficient zone.  I do like the idea of trying to negative split, but in practice feel an even pace is a better indication of good pacing and that anything more than about a 1% negative split is leaving too much. 

2023-02-23 10:09 PM
in reply to: BlueBoy26

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Subject: RE: Negative Splits
It's been a while since I run half marathon, but I used that strategy and loved it. I agree it sucks at the beginning, because everyone around is rushing and passing you... but it is satisfying when you pass all of them on mile 7
My negative splits strategy, however, was to run very slow for the first 2-3 miles, then much faster the next 7-8 miles, and sprint the last 2-3 as if to puke was your ultimate goal at the finish line. Somehow I always managed to have lots of energy at the very end, especially the last 0.2 mile once I saw the finish line.

For the longer races I try to start very slow - again, intimidating, because absolutely everyone passes me and I am almost the last one... and then at about half a race I pick up the pace a bit and go steady - and pass almost half of the pack (well, a quarter for the trail races).

My goals, however, are not to get any spectacular time - mostly because my training sucks within the last few years, but when I was in a great training system and shape, I used the negative splits and they worked for the overall performance and feeling the accomplishment.
2023-02-24 12:21 PM
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Cypress, Texas
Subject: RE: Negative Splits

Originally posted by marysia83 It's been a while since I run half marathon, but I used that strategy and loved it. I agree it sucks at the beginning, because everyone around is rushing and passing you... but it is satisfying when you pass all of them on mile 7 My negative splits strategy, however, was to run very slow for the first 2-3 miles, then much faster the next 7-8 miles, and sprint the last 2-3 as if to puke was your ultimate goal at the finish line. Somehow I always managed to have lots of energy at the very end, especially the last 0.2 mile once I saw the finish line. For the longer races I try to start very slow - again, intimidating, because absolutely everyone passes me and I am almost the last one... and then at about half a race I pick up the pace a bit and go steady - and pass almost half of the pack (well, a quarter for the trail races). My goals, however, are not to get any spectacular time - mostly because my training sucks within the last few years, but when I was in a great training system and shape, I used the negative splits and they worked for the overall performance and feeling the accomplishment.

Nice!  How big were your negative splits when you were in peak shape?  I ask because my races sound like the effort is the same as yours (yes I have puked at the finish line of a half dozen races) but when I look back at the splits my easy miles at the beginning of the race, when that lady in the pink leg warmers and matching sweat band on her head passes me, end up being nearly the same pace as when I am running down the ripped guy with the elite running singlet and IM tattoo at the end of the race.   

 

 

Okay...no elite singlet or IM tat on this guy, but you get the idea.



Edited by BlueBoy26 2023-02-24 12:33 PM
2023-02-27 2:11 PM
in reply to: BlueBoy26

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Cypress, Texas
Subject: RE: Negative Splits

So...I found a study over the weekend that was done on the negative split for sub-elite marathoners (defined as 2:30-3:40 finish times). 

The group study used Strava Data from 280 runners in the sub-elite finish times.  The results were....0% negative split, 23% near even splits, 77% positive splits.   

What I read is HERE 



2023-02-28 9:43 AM
in reply to: BlueBoy26

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Subject: RE: Negative Splits
Originally posted by BlueBoy26

So...I found a study over the weekend that was done on the negative split for sub-elite marathoners (defined as 2:30-3:40 finish times). 

The group study used Strava Data from 280 runners in the sub-elite finish times.  The results were....0% negative split, 23% near even splits, 77% positive splits.   

What I read is HERE 




Very interesting link. In their words, the increase of shared performance data through websites(Strava) is giving proof of the correlation in positive/negative splits to race outcome. Seems intuitive but it's not; many, many people(me) have a 'go out fast and try to hang on' strategy and in marathons, anyway, it's a mistake. I've done four marathons in the last two years, all with a BQ goal; the race that made the goal was the one I did with even splits. The three mis-fires I attributed to the usual excuses: poor nutrition/weather/failure to run my own race. Probably two of the three times I didn't have the outcome I'd trained for it was a pacing issue, if I'm being honest with myself.

I wish I could say lesson learned and I'll never go out too fast again but it is really hard letting people go past - see pic above of folks dressed for the circus.
2023-02-28 10:42 AM
in reply to: BlueBoy26

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Denver, Colorado
Subject: RE: Negative Splits
Originally posted by BlueBoy26

So...I found a study over the weekend that was done on the negative split for sub-elite marathoners (defined as 2:30-3:40 finish times). 

The group study used Strava Data from 280 runners in the sub-elite finish times.  The results were....0% negative split, 23% near even splits, 77% positive splits.   

What I read is HERE 




Well, I cannot speak for elite-level runners, but I can imagine their training and nutrition is completely different than mine, and the second pack of the race. I once did a 10K when I started really fast, but I was only able to keep that pace for less than two miles. I was miserable for the rest of the race and had a huge amount of walking. I was the most successful with starting slow for the first couple of miles, then speed it up to be fast, but comofrtable for the next ~10 miles, and sprint the last mile. But my training (and ambitions) are nowhere near elite-level folks.
As for the marathons, the even pace was the key for me. Well, i admit I start the first mile slower, and the last mile super fast, even for the marathons. But I also don't warm up properly before my races, so I count that first mile as a warm up, and the last mile for any race for me is just using all the reserves and anything i have in me, because there is nothing else left after that last mile.
I also like the negative splits for the mental aspect. I absolutely hated that 10K race when I felt so strong the first 2 miles, and completely done for the rest of the race. I don't want to feel that way ever again. I like feeling that I still have the energy.

Right now I do more trail races, so that is a different beast and negative/even/positive splits is not a strategy anymore - since often times I start (or end!) with a huge uphil. I strategize based on the terrain.

To answr your other question about my peak performance - I honestly don't remember... it was so long ago! But also, I was younger and had a bit less on my plate, and I only trained for triathlons, with running races being just a side effect of triathlon training. Right now I do multiple sports at the same time, which affects my training and progress in a specific sport. I enjoy it all, but i just don't have any crazy expectations from my races thus, the negative splits strategy is perfect for me
2023-03-01 4:23 PM
in reply to: marysia83

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Subject: RE: Negative Splits

I find it interesting that they were about to see the heart rate drift before people actually slowed down in the marathon.  I have races three (3) marathons and ran a 4th one as a pacer.  The first two that I did I bonked.  Needless to say they were positive splits.  When I looked back at the data of my second race that I bonked I defiantly saw the HR drift a few miles before the bonk which means that even though I felt like I was crushing it I was running at a pace that was not sustainable.  I assume that if I had slowed down 4 miles sooner I could have completed the race without a bonk and even with a Positive split might have had as good of a race as if I started out slower and stayed even.  I won't be trying that on purpose in any races though. 

I think all my triathlons before Scott KubInski coached me in 2018 had fading run legs with large positive splits. Scott moved me from running 3 days a week to running 6 days a week and my race plans always prescribed a negative split run leg.  At first I slowed down a little at the start of the run, but it wasn't enough.  I might cut 5-10 minutes off my fasted 13.1 run leg and feel really good about my run but Scott was not impressed.  He didn't want to hear that I had PR'd on the run, that I posted the top run time in my AG, or that I posted a top three over-all run time at the event.  All he wanted to hear is if I have run a negative split or not.   So...even after good runs, PR's, and podiums I would have to evaluate what I did wrong and why I wasn't able to negative split and then I would have work to improve my pacing to get my negative split in the next race.  I never did get a negative split, but when my goal was a negative split over a PR and a negative split over beating someone in head-to-head racing, and a negative split over everything else my splits started got really close to even.  

The 3rd marathon I raced was 10+ years after the first two that I bonked and it was after doing triathlons for 6 years and learning how it feels to pace for even splits.  I don't know if I will ever hit a negative split race and have tried enough that I know that isn't an all bad thing.  As long as my splits are closer to even than everyone else it means that I am passing people at the end and finishing strong.  That is what make a good race in my book.

2023-03-06 4:59 PM
in reply to: BlueBoy26

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Subject: RE: Negative Splits
Nice! Thanks for sharing, interesting read
2023-03-07 9:04 AM
in reply to: marysia83

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Cypress, Texas
Subject: RE: Negative Splits

So...after deciding that I was NOT got to try to run negative splits at my half marathon over the weekend I may have hit a negative split.

The course was a loop with net elevation gain in the first 5 miles and net elevation drop in the last 8.1.  So with my even effort strategy of easing up going up hill, pushing it going down hills, and taking it even on the flats my paces from Strava got me at a 5:59 min/mi first half and a 5:54 second half.  The race splits from the timing company however had me at a 5:56 first half and a 6:00 second half.  So...either the GPS distanced were off or the timing pads on the course were off (we will go with the GPS being off).  My fastest split on the GPs was a 5:50 and my slowest a 6:09.  With the grade adjusted paces (GAP) the fastest was a 5:51 and the slowest a 6:02.  I possibly had the most even GAP splits of the 2694 participants in the half marathon.  :-)  

The race results had me at 31st place at the 10K, 23rd at the 10mi, and 17th at the finish.  So, I was passing people in the back half.  No one passed me after about mile 4 (and I caught 2/3rds of the people who passed me in the back half).  

 



2023-03-07 9:19 AM
in reply to: BlueBoy26

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Subject: RE: Negative Splits
Originally posted by BlueBoy26

So...after deciding that I was NOT got to try to run negative splits at my half marathon over the weekend I may have hit a negative split.

The course was a loop with net elevation gain in the first 5 miles and net elevation drop in the last 8.1.  So with my even effort strategy of easing up going up hill, pushing it going down hills, and taking it even on the flats my paces from Strava got me at a 5:59 min/mi first half and a 5:54 second half.  The race splits from the timing company however had me at a 5:56 first half and a 6:00 second half.  So...either the GPS distanced were off or the timing pads on the course were off (we will go with the GPS being off).  My fastest split on the GPs was a 5:50 and my slowest a 6:09.  With the grade adjusted paces (GAP) the fastest was a 5:51 and the slowest a 6:02.  I possibly had the most even GAP splits of the 2694 participants in the half marathon.  :-)  

The race results had me at 31st place at the 10K, 23rd at the 10mi, and 17th at the finish.  So, I was passing people in the back half.  No one passed me after about mile 4 (and I caught 2/3rds of the people who passed me in the back half).  

 




Oh wow, these are impressive results! regardles of the strategy How did you feel after the race?

Since I started doing trail races I had to remind myself of staying flexible on my strategy. On flat terrain for longer distances I did a minute of walk every 10 or 20 minutes of run. But that's not the case with trail runs when there is a lot of steep uphills. So I speed walk uphills and run everything else. Sometimes it matches the 1/20 ratio, sometimes it doesn't. But I always pass the runners uphill when I am walking and it helps me conserve an energy, so it works
2023-03-07 12:16 PM
in reply to: marysia83

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Cypress, Texas
Subject: RE: Negative Splits

Originally posted by marysia83
Originally posted by BlueBoy26

So...after deciding that I was NOT got to try to run negative splits at my half marathon over the weekend I may have hit a negative split.

The course was a loop with net elevation gain in the first 5 miles and net elevation drop in the last 8.1.  So with my even effort strategy of easing up going up hill, pushing it going down hills, and taking it even on the flats my paces from Strava got me at a 5:59 min/mi first half and a 5:54 second half.  The race splits from the timing company however had me at a 5:56 first half and a 6:00 second half.  So...either the GPS distanced were off or the timing pads on the course were off (we will go with the GPS being off).  My fastest split on the GPs was a 5:50 and my slowest a 6:09.  With the grade adjusted paces (GAP) the fastest was a 5:51 and the slowest a 6:02.  I possibly had the most even GAP splits of the 2694 participants in the half marathon.  :-)  

The race results had me at 31st place at the 10K, 23rd at the 10mi, and 17th at the finish.  So, I was passing people in the back half.  No one passed me after about mile 4 (and I caught 2/3rds of the people who passed me in the back half).  

 

Oh wow, these are impressive results! regardles of the strategy How did you feel after the race? Since I started doing trail races I had to remind myself of staying flexible on my strategy. On flat terrain for longer distances I did a minute of walk every 10 or 20 minutes of run. But that's not the case with trail runs when there is a lot of steep uphills. So I speed walk uphills and run everything else. Sometimes it matches the 1/20 ratio, sometimes it doesn't. But I always pass the runners uphill when I am walking and it helps me conserve an energy, so it works

I felt great after the race and went and did a 90min bike ride with my 13-year-old daughter 4 hours after I crossed the finish line.  No feeling like I was going to throw-up, not finish line collapse, no need for wheel chair to get me back to the car.  I did wake up with sore quads the next morning though.  I went on an hour recovery run this morning and my quads felt like they were exploding for the first 20 minutes. After I got into a rhythm the pain was dulled.  The legs feel more like I did a full marathon than like I did a half marathon. 

 

I am happy though.  I had given up on all my running PR's when I crossed over to Triathlon 8 years ago.  Triathlon training was a game changer though. After 8 months of Triathlon training I was was breaking PR's again.  The Tri training got me from 6:17 min/mi pace down to 6:11 min/mi and the super shoes have now got me from 6:11 min/mi down to 5:56 min/mi pace.  I never though when I was slowing down 15 years ago and not able to hit the 6:17 pace anymore that I would be doing 5:56 pace as a masters. 

Yes, I have used the run-walk-run strategy in races.  I experimented with it on tempo run days.  One week I would do the tempo run at the prescribed pace without walk breaks and the next week I would do the same workout on the same course and do the prescribed run-walk-run ratios.  I was slightly faster with the same average HR with out the walking breaks but if I go too hard on the bike I bonk on the run if I don't take walk breaks so the Run-Walk-Run has saved me in several races.  I did walk for a few second through aid stations at the half marathon.  I didn't take the full walk time that I would for a Run-walk-Run, but the few seconds I did take we enough to reset the fatigue and feel fresher coming out of the aid station than going into it.    

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