How to run negative splits is a skill I have learnt, and I learnt the hard way.
When I first started running, I very much relied on my natural ability, went out fast and held on for grim death at the end of the race.
However, as my race distances increased, and so did my age, the pain became an ardent teacher for me, and I started looking at racing strategies that suited me as I aged.
I found that I could use even splits and negative splits in tandem to control my running and produce better results.
Also, what are negative splits exactly?
Negative splits are when you run the second half of a race faster than the first half.
That sounds pretty simple; however, there is more subtly attached to running negative splits than might first meet the eye, and that’s what I want to discuss in this article.
Are Negative Splits Good In Running?
The broad reply is a resounding yes because they assist you in controlling your running and enable you as a runner to feel great because, let’s face it, who doesn’t love finishing fast.
There are benefits to running negative splits in all kinds of distances; however, for me personally, the real benefits have appeared when running longer distances, such as half marathons and marathons.
Why You Can’t Always Run A Negative Split.
It has to be said I have not run many marathons as a negative split; my best marathons have been more evenly split, however as I will outline, if you have kept your running pretty well evenly split over a marathon and feel great in the last 5 miles and can pick up the pace you have just achieved a negative split run!
I think the reason for this is what I mentioned earlier. For many runners, shorter distances, you might be able to go off fast and hang in there for the last part of the run; however, the longer the distance, the less likely this strategy is likely to work.
However, negative splits can be effective over any distance from 5k, 10k and upwards.
Negative Splits A Way Not The Way.
Like all things, there are no absolutes; there may be runs you do where a negative split might not be possible or desirable, for example, if a race you are running is very hilly on the second part of the race.
Personally, I am a great fan of even splits which I will come to in a moment; I will explain how you can combine even splits and negative splits to really set yourself up for future PBs
Why Use Negative Splits In Your Races.
For me, it’s about controlling your running.
Too many runners go off too fast, especially in half marathons and marathons. They feel good, and they are running on adrenaline, and later on, in the race, they are flagging and, in some cases, really struggling.
It also builds massive amounts of confidence in your ability as a runner versus what I have often experienced hanging on in the last 20% of a run.
How To Train To Run Negative Splits
Like most aspects of running, you don’t leave it to race day to practice negative splits.
That’s what your training is for. Use your training to develop an effective pacing strategy that you feel confident and in control of.
The other factor about running negative splits in training is it’s great for your confidence and mental toughness that you will require when running longer distances.
Progression runs are a great way to get your body used to the varied pace of running.
As the name implies, you progress your pace of the duration of a training run.
So, for example.
Example Of A Progression Run.
Start with a nice easy warm-up for 10 minutes, for this is what I would call Zone 1.
Then move up into a steady pace, for example, a marathon pace, then to a half marathon pace, then to half marathon pace and 5 k pace, and then warm down for 10 minutes.
I use the steady long runs I do on Sundays as a chance to practice negative splits.
An Example Of Negative Splits On A Long Run.
I recently ran 13 miles on a Sunday; now, this could have been 8 miles or 10 miles the principles would have been the same.
So I began my first mile at an effortless pace, what I would call Zone 1 pace, and just got into my run, let my body ease into my running.
I just picked up the pace very slightly into a steady run, more into what I would call a Zone 2 endurance run pace, and I just relaxed into that.
I picked up the pace, so I could feel it but was not pushing too hard.
The whole point of this run was not running fast but controlling my running and getting my body and mind to run faster as you get more tired in the latter parts of a run.
Use Mini Progressions On Your Long Runs.
Another activity you can do on your long runs is mini progressions nestled into your long run.
So, for example, if you are running 10 miles, you could warm up for a mile, then go into an easy run pace and then at mile 6 pick the pace up to half marathon pace for a mile, then drop down back to an easy pace for two miles and then back up to half marathon pace.
My coach Liam uses this a lot in some of my training sessions.
Here’s an example in my present plan that I am using as I train for upcoming half marathons and marathons…
5 mins Z1
12 mins Z3
As you can see, it’s only 12 minutes of a planned 52-minute session that Iam running faster; however, it’s being done at the end of a session when you are going to be feeling more tired than at the beginning.
Use Interval Training For Negative Splits.
Interval training is a great way to train your body to get used to having variations of pace.
The goal with the intervals is to build up each interval, getting faster as you go. So the obvious point is not to start too fast.
This really teaches you to control your running not your running controlling you.
So start the intervals at 15% slower and build incrementally as you go.
The type and intensity of intervals you do will be defined by the event you are training for.
Combine Even Splits And Negative Splits In Your Running.
Now I really feel that quite often, running negative splits can mislead many people.
So what do I mean by that?
I think logically; many runners think they have to run the race slower and faster into exact split halves.
Of course, you could do that, and for many shorter distances, this makes a lot of sense.
However, for longer distances, for me, at least, this is a less palatable way forward.
I Often Break A Negative Split Into 3 Races.
1.First of all, start slow. first 10% of a race (this might not apply to a super short run such as a 5k)
2.Second, get into a pace you can maintain evenly over the duration of the race- Target race pace.
3.Third. In the last 20 % of the race, decide if you can increase that pace or not.
By doing the above, you ease into your run and then start to run even splits.
You only decide to run a negative split near the end of the run.
For me, this takes away the pressure on longer runs of not being sure if I am capable of running an exact negative split; however, if I have kept an even split across my run and then apply a quicker pace for the last 20% or so, then I will have achieved a negative split.
If I don’t feel up to it or the conditions are not conducive to this, I can carry on with my even splits.
Both scenarios mean that you have not slowed down on the last part of the run.
How Do You Do A Negative Split-Run In A Race?
Have A Realistic Race Target.
This is a key area; if you don’t start right, you won’t finish right.
If your race pace goal is too quick, then you won’t have the ability or energy to pick up the pace later in the race.
A lot of this comes down to training and practice to clear what is an achievable race pace is for you.
I think it has become clear that you will have to start slowly to finish faster, as a rough thumb to rule start about 10 to 20 seconds slower per mile than your race pace.
Now, this can be really hard in race scenarios.
I have run so many marathons where I see runners coming past me, waving to the crowds, swept along by the excitement and adrenaline, only to see those very runners struggling at mile 16.
I know I was that runner on my first ever marathon!
I ran the first 13 miles as my life depended on it, and at 16 miles just felt awful and had over 10 miles to go of what can only be described as a living hell!!
Gradually Build Speed.
I like to think of myself as like a car with 5 gears, and when I start a longer race such as a half marathon or above, I am in gear 1, then I move up into gear 2, and well, you get the picture.
Now, as I have mentioned numerous times in this article, those gears, so to speak, are built up within your training schedule.
The ability to slow and speed up is key to running a negative split time in a race scenario.
Check-In With Yourself.
A plan is a plan until it ceases to be a plan.
Running especially running longer distances often throws up unforeseen situations, be it how you feel on the day or the weather conditions.
Back in early 2020, just before the Uk went into national lockdown, I ran a half marathon in Brighton.
I planned to run even splits until I got to the last 3 miles and pick it up by 10-15 seconds per miles for the last 3 and a bit miles.
However, the great British weather had other ideas.
The wind was so strong that the race was almost cancelled, and the race organisers could not construct the finishing line arch as it was feared it might blow away!
The first 6 miles went well; however, as I hit mile 7, the wind hit me. Now I had a decision to make. The plan was to run at a certain pace; could I maintain this pace while running into a mini hurricane.
I decided to reduce my pace, and as I turned into the last 3.1 miles, the wind went behind me, and I had enough energy to pick up the pace, plus I was now wind-assisted!
I want to say I finished with a PB. However, I finished within seconds of my present Pb of 1.34 and considered the conditions; I took it as a win.
So to finish whatever you decide to do in a race, be it negative splits or even splits, always be aware what you are broadly building up in training are flexibility and strength.
Because the two go hand in hand.
Of course, experience is also key. The more you do a thing, the more knowledge of certain situations and how to best react to them so that you get the best results possible.