If you’re anything like myself, running initially sounded appealing because of its simplicity. Hardly anything sounds easier than finding a pair of running shoes and simply stepping out your front door for a workout.
However, once I began running more regularly, I quickly realized how complicated running could be. Once I’d established my running groove, I learned about long runs, speed workouts, intervals, VO2 max, cadence, fartleks – and negative splits.
As I began to incorporate each of these elements into my regular training, I slowly became entranced with the idea of running negative splits.
What does it mean to run negative splits?
It simply means that each mile or interval you complete is slightly faster than the one before.
For example, a five mile run with negative splits might mean that your pace for each mile was as follows: 10:45, 10:39, 10:32, 10:30 and 10:25. Shaving just a few seconds off each mile time is all it takes to be considered a negative split.
Or maybe you really started out easy and wanted to build up throughout your run, with paces for each mile as follows: 11:50, 11:10, 10:35, 10:05 and 9:30.
Whatever paces you run, you can say that you’ve successfully completed a run with negative splits when your mile time decreases with each consecutive mile.
Running negative splits can be slightly confusing if you’re running on the treadmill or just keeping track of speed instead of pace. In order to complete a negative split run, you’ll need to increase your pace with each consecutive mile.
If you run a 10 minute mile pace, this might mean that you complete your first mile at a speed of 5.8 mph, the next at 5.9, then 6.0, 6.1 and 6.2.
So why should you try to run negative splits?
Many runners aim to complete their races with negative splits, usually to make sure they hold back at the beginning and still have plenty of energy left in the tank near the end of the race.
While the energy and excitement at the start of a race may make it feel awfully tempting to start out fast, holding yourself back in the beginning helps avoid fatigue (and the dreaded “wall” during long distance races) later on.
When you consciously make a choice to run slower at the beginning of a race, you’re saving your energy for those trying moments when your body starts to wear down at the end of the race.
Not only does aiming to run negative splits on race day set you up to feel your best physically, but it also provides a much-needed mental boost with each mile along the course.
There is nothing quite as satisfying as seeing that mile time decrease, especially as the distance and overall mileage increases.
However, completing a race or even a regular training run with consistent negative splits is much more challenging than it sounds. While the concept is relatively simple, it takes a great deal of both physical and mental endurance to successfully increase your speed as the distance drags on.
Fortunately, preparing your body and mind to race with negative splits involves very similar training as what you would complete when preparing for any lofty race goal. Focusing on improving physical endurance, mental strength and overall willpower is key to negative split any run.
Here are 5 tips to help you prepare for a successful race of any distance and get yourself to the finish line with negative splits.
5 Tips for Running Negative Splits at Your Next Race
Incorporate regular intervals at paces faster than your goal.
What you do during training is key for preparing to run negative splits for any distance. Determine the paces you’ll need to run each mile in order to hit your time goal and maintain negative splits, and then incorporate regular intervals and speed workouts at paces that are faster than your final mile goal.
For example, if your negative split plan involves you running the final mile of your race in 8:30, incorporate regular tempo runs at an 8:00 minute pace. Or, throw in some short intervals and sprints at a 7:30 pace.
Completing these paces for shorter distances helps boost your overall confidence, provides essential mental strength for race day, and increases your body’s overall threshold to help race day paces feel easier.
Practice running negative splits during training runs.
If you’re hoping to finish your next race with negative splits, you’ll want to get used to the feeling of increasing pace as distance increases. And after all, practice makes perfect.
Incorporate regular negative splits into your weekly training when preparing for race day. Try completing your intervals during a speed workout with negative splits, and practice negative splitting at least one long run during training.
Your body and mind will benefit from the practice of picking up the pace as you begin to fatigue, which will help you prepare for the challenges of race day.
Plan to start significantly slower than your final goal pace.
The biggest mistake runners make when attempting negative splits is starting out too fast. After all, if you start out at a pace that is already challenging to maintain, increasing your speed will feel exponentially more challenging.
Take the time to create a race day plan by mapping out the paces you’ll need to run for each mile. Plan to start significantly slower than your goal pace to allow for any congestion on the course. In addition, starting slower will help ease into the race and provide your body a bit of time to adjust.
Holding yourself back at the beginning of a race can feel challenging with all the excitement, especially if the pace feels much easier than what you are used to running. But holding back sets yourself up for success, and creates an easy base to build from when you begin increasing pace.
Create a fueling strategy and start fueling early.
One of the biggest obstacles runners face during distance races is fighting fatigue. No matter how hard you’ve trained and how physically prepared your body is for the distance, there’s one thing that can put a halt to all of your progress: improper fueling.
Even the most well-trained athletes will eventually taper out if their body runs out of energy. And the only way to ensure you maintain the energy level you need for negative splits is to make sure you are fueling properly.
Creating a proper fueling strategy means planning to start fueling early (even before you begin to need it), consistently, and with enough fuel to get you through the miles. Take the time to practice your fueling strategy on long runs during training to see how your body responds, and tweak and adjust until you come up with something that will keep you going when things start to get tough.
Create a mental strategy to overcome fatigue on race day.
Regardless of the training you have completed, it is likely that you will be pushing yourself harder and/or faster than what your body is used to on race day.
Part of the appeal of racing is overcoming a new distance, setting new PRs or just improving your results and conquering a challenge. But in order for us to accomplish these things, we must overcome the fatigue and pain along the way.
It is inevitable that you will experience some form or fatigue or pain on race day. Planning ahead with physical and mental strategies that you can use when the going gets tough on race day will help you avoid wasting time or losing speed when things get rough.
Running negative splits is an incredibly challenging feat, but this is what makes the accomplishment so sweet. It takes a great deal of willpower, grit and determination to increase your pace when things start to feel harder.
Overcoming these obstacles makes every challenge worth it. Plan ahead, practice, and prepare for these circumstances, and you just might surprise yourself with your capabilities.
More running race day tips:
- 7 Training Strategies to Achieve Your Next Race Goal
- 8 Race Day Tips for Running Your Best Race
- Pre-Race Countdown: What to Do the Week Before a Race