How Important are Negative Splits?

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And What Are Negative Splits Anyway?

One of the things I learned when I began training for half marathons and marathons was about how to control my pacing in the most efficient way. I used my Garmin watch to keep myself within a certain pace threshold depending on what I was training for.

An important piece of advice I learned was about running negative splits. Today I’m going to teach you about what negative splits are and answer the question: How important are negative splits?

First of all, let’s talk about pacing when it comes to running.

Negative Splits

As you are completing your run, you gradually increase your speed during the run. You end the run at a faster pace than when you started it.

Even Splits

Even splits means you run the same pace for the entire run. You do not increase or decrease your pace.

Positive Splits

Running positive splits means running faster in the beginning of your run, and ending at a slower pace. This would mean you would gradually decrease your pace throughout the run.

So What’s the Big Deal about Negative Splits?

The reason it is typically recommended to run negative splits during training and races is because negative splits help you to conserve energy until the latter part of your run. This will lower your chance of running out of energy, or hitting “the wall”. You will have some extra energy built up which you can use to finish the run strong.

It can be hard to do this, especially during a race. It is very tempting to start out the race fast when the adrenaline is pumping and you’re excited. But if you start out too fast out the gate, you’re setting yourself to run out of steam too quick. I know I have seen my share of runners at races that sprint by me in the beginning and within a few miles they are walking and just trying to catch their breath.

How to Run Negative Splits

In order to plan for running negative splits, you will need to go into the run with a good idea of the pace that you are targeting for run. You will want to start out running 10-25 seconds slower than that pace goal.

Something that I usually tell myself when I start out a run is: Run slower than you feel like you should be. When I first start running, I usually am tempted to run fast. I consciously tell myself to go slower than what feels natural. This helps to set myself up for negative splits and conserving my energy to finish the run strong!

I also find that when I conserve my energy and start out slower, I naturally will speed up during the run without even realizing it. Suddenly I’m about to finish my long run and I am feeling amazing running at a fast pace because I conserved my energy to prepare for this! It’s a great feeling.

It can take a bit of time to feel comfortable with this new pacing skill, but one you get the hang of it, it can be a great tool to use to help you improve your runs!

What are Your Thoughts on Negative Splits?

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11 Comments

  1. It really is so hard to hold yourself back when you start. I still get that “money in the bank” feeling even though I know I’m going to pay for it later. The first half of my last marathon was downhill, then leveled out for the second half. That one was difficult to plan because you have to use that downhill, and you’re naturally going to run faster. I did crash and burn though. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. This is great advice, Lauren.
    I haven’t been paying attention to negative splits during my ultra training because all the hills interfere with the pace. But it is definitely something I will look at in my upcoming 10k training. Finishing a run stronger than starting it is a great feeling!

  3. Great advice but oh so difficult. I usually start out too fast because I think I am more capable of holding that pace than I am.

    The one race that I did have negative splits was one that I ran with someone else who kept telling me to slow down!! It was a great feeling to have energy for the last mile and not feel like dying.

  4. It’s strange. I’ve always been a slower runner, but often — although not always — I’m good at negative splits. Although sometimes it’s a bell shaped curve, LOL!

    I have actually had races I feel I started out too slowly. There’s only so much you can do to catch up on that in some races, especially shorter races!

    At the end of the day, though, as long as I feel I’ve done the best I could that day, under those circumstances, I’m mostly good.

  5. I’ve been consistently running (and racing) for almost 16 years. And, still, my pace perception is kind of jacked LOL Over all, I have gotten a little faster, so trying to start a race easier than what feels “normal” is very different than it used to be for me. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it adds to the “work” I have yet to do…

  6. I’ve been consistently running (and racing) for almost 16 years. And, still, my pace perception is kind of jacked LOL Over all, I have gotten a little faster, so trying to start a race easier than what feels “normal” is very different than it used to be for me. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it adds to the “work” I have yet to do…

  7. Yes, statistics show that negative splits are the most successful way to run, most of the time (barring circumstances like a hilly second half, etc.). Something to work on when races come back!

  8. I have a hard time doing negative splits at races but I can sometimes pull it off on a training run. It is hard to hold back!

  9. I’ve done much better in races when I start out conservatively. Some of my worst races are when I have gone out too fast! It can be tough to run negative splits but it pays off to learn to pace well.

  10. I love when I can hit negative splits, but I don’t worry too much about it. Right now, I have too many irons in my running fire, and I need to keep those burning before I can get caught up in the details.

  11. I use progression runs often to help athletes learn how to hold back at the start of a long run or race. Negative splits aren’t essential, but positive splits are seldom desired even if they are easier to run!

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