When I started running initially, I used to be very excited. I was all set to finish the run and lose all my weight in one day. As the run use to progress, my stamina and enthusiasm would diminish. For a very long time, I used to finish my run with heavy feet and exhausted body literally dragging myself till the end of the session. One of my long-time runner friends suggested to try out negative splits and after that, there was no looking back for me.
What is running negative splits?
A negative split is a running strategy where the runner runs faster in the second half of the race. The negative split is practiced by many athletes who have set various records. It is used in sprints, 5K runs and even running marathons. This technique is also quite popular in swimming, cycling, and triathlon. The other popular strategies are positive split, even split and sit and kick.
So what makes it a winning strategy? How can you benefit from this?
How will negative splits make you a faster runner?
A negative split is a running strategy undertaken by many runners as a winning strategy.
Well, here you run the second half of the race faster than the first half.
So, in the first half of the race, you are at a speed the same or perhaps lesser than the lactate threshold.
The lactate threshold is a pace where the lactic acid generation is the same as its utilization.
So there is no deposit of lactic acid in the bloodstream.
It is the lactic acid deposition which causes soreness of muscle and makes you sluggish.
Since in the first half of your race your muscles are not sore and tired, you can run harder in the second half.
Also, you would have saved your energy for the second half of the race and run faster.
The other reason is that if you are initially running at a slower pace, you get sufficient time to warm up.
Your muscles are charged and joints are lubricated and it makes you run faster without realizing the effort you are spending.
The end result is a better and faster performance.
How to run negative splits?
A perfect negative split is the one where you run each mile a little faster than the previous mile, the last mile being fastest.
However, in most cases, a negative split is when you start slow and end fast even if you run a mile or two in between with positive split.
Most newbies start running brimming up with enthusiasm and energy.
Fast, strong and confident.
Very soon the energy is drained off and the enthusiasm is gone 🙁
Sad but true (telling from my own experience).
Well if you think of trying the negative split on the race day, you would either end up lagging behind or couldn’t attempt it at all.
So, how do you practice it?
Whatever you do, never experiment on the race day. I repeat, don’t experiment on the race day.
The best way to do it is to practice during your training. For exact training plans for negative splits check below.
Here is what you can do.
- Prepare yourself for negative split – Running is not just about your body, its also a mind game. You need to make up your mind and make a conscious effort to start slow and increase your pace eventually across the run. Sometimes you may end up doing the math in your head and that is absolutely fine.
- Fast, Faster, Fastest – What I am trying to say is that your pace should be fast in the first one-third part of the race. Fast enough, but it should be a little less as compared to your fastest. For example, if you are planning to run at a pace 7 min/mile, in your first part you should try to run at 9 min/mile, taking a little longer time. You should build up the pace in the second part of the race. In the last segment, you should run at your best speed and finish with a bang.
- Fitness Band – If you want to save yourself from all the mental math, you may also use any fitness tracker of your choice. The most advanced ones come with a lot of features and you can set your tempo accordingly. Easy and accurate! Also, fitness trackers like SIKADEER Fitness Tracker will cost you less than your lunch and will fit your purpose extremely well. Also, they are very durable and waterproof. So will last you for a long time.
- Practice sprint – Sprint running helps you in finishing off the race strongly.
How to run negative splits on a treadmill?
The timer and the speed control on the treadmill help you in controlling your pace.
Also, if you are worried that these runs will be boring, here are some ways to make treadmill running fun.
You can plan your 40-45 min run on the treadmill as below:
- Start with a 5 min warm-up run. Here you will be running at a conversational pace.
- You can start will a moderate speed and run with that speed for the first 20 mins.
- Then you can gradually build up the speed for another 10 mins.
- Try to run really hard and fast for the last 5-7 mins.
- You can finish off with a 5 min cool down walk.
How to run a negative split in a half marathon?
By now you must have a fair idea about the benefits of negative splits.
But how to incorporate it half marathons. Is it even good to run in a half marathon?
Is there a set pattern or protocol to follow?
No, it’s a mind game.
Here is a way in which you can implement:
- A half marathon is 13.1 miles.
- So, if you have to implement a negative split, that means the first half of the race should be slower than the second half.
- You can divide your 13 miles into the three intervals – 0-6 miles, 7-10 miles, and 11-13 miles.
- Let’s say your usual running speed is 8 mins per mile.
- So in the first phase try to run a little relaxed, that is a bit slower.
- Try to run a mile in 8:30-8:45 mins a mile.
- Till the 6th mile maintain this speed.
- Once you enter the 7th mile you should start your running at your regular speed.
- So you run the second phase i.e 7th to 10th mile at 8 min per mile.
- When you reach the 11th mile that’s where you need to raise the bar.
- Try to run faster maybe 7:30-7:45 min a mile.
- It is the last phase of the run which will actually make the difference.
You need to practice running with this strategy well in advance in your long run.
How to train for Negative Splits?
Theoretically speaking, the negative splits states that you run slow in the first half and faster in the second half.
However, some running coaches state that it need not be a complete 15-20 min of slow running.
They say that even if you run negative for few mins in between its sufficient and will build your endurance.
You should be able to relax in between the long stretches.
This is very important if you are running a half marathon, marathon or any other long-distance run.
Here are some of the running technique to can use to achieve it.
A Progressive run is one that starts slow and ends fast.
You gradually increase your pace distributed over the entire race duration.
For a 30-40 min Progression Run
- 5-10 min warm-up
- 5 min marathon pace
- 5 min half marathon pace
- 5 min 10k pace
- 5 min 5k pace
- 5-10 min cooldown walk
Another progressive run plan for 8 miles
- 2 miles at 10k pace + 60 secs
- 2 miles at 10K pace + 45 secs
- 2 miles at 10k pace + 15 secs
- 1 mile at 10k pace
- 1 mile at pace more than 10k pace
The interval run is based on breaking the entire stretch into segments.
Each segment consists of a fast run, intense run and recovery period.
This cycle is repeated for the next segment and so on.
If you are running negative, it is possible that you may run too fast in the initial intervals.
You can divide your run into shorter segments and implement the negative split in each.
In shorter cycles, it is easier to overcome the pace mismatch and regulate them.
A sample Interval Run may have 4-6 lapses of 800m.
In fact, running 800 m as preparation is one of the best ways to build running endurance.
Considering you run at 9 min pace, here is how you can break the 800m run
- 200 m at 9:10 min pace
- 200m at 9 min pace
- 200 m at 8:50 min pace
- 200 m at 8:40 min pace
- 2 min cooldown between each interval
Interval + Regular run
This kind of run, consist of two regular run cycle with and an interval run in between.
The regular run is done at a moderate speed.
The goal of this kind of run teaches you to alternate between slower and faster runs.
A sample plan :
- 20 min of a regular run at a moderate speed
- 6 * 800 m Interval run (plan shown as above) with 2 min jog-walk for recovery between each lapse.
- 20 min of a regular run at a moderate speed.
“Slow and steady wins the race” this may not be always true. Sometimes to be a winner you need to tweak this or try something else altogether. That’s how the various running plans came into the picture. The negative splint is an effective race-winning technique and suggested by different coaches. Do give a try and see how it impacts your running performance.
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