By Marcia Scott
Runners often ask how to keep the same pace during a race or how to pace themselves to perform at their highest potential. The best advice, in a nutshell, is to start slow and finish fast, or, in technical terms, negative splits.
To some this doesn’t make sense. Why not go out at a sprint and give it your all to gain distance on your competition? Keep reading, and I’ll explain.
WHAT ARE NEGATIVE SPLITS?
Negative splits mean that your pace gets quicker throughout a race or run. For instance, if your first mile is 10 minutes, your second mile 9:30, and your third mile 9:00, you’ve successfully run negative splits. It doesn’t matter your experience level or speed — everyone can run negative splits.
WHAT’S THE BENEFIT?
Have you ever started full blast at a race only to feel like you’re barely hanging on at the halfway point? By starting out more conservatively and slowly quickening the pace throughout the race, you can conserve some energy and finish stronger and faster than you began, rather than slower and more tired than you should be.
HOW DO I DO IT?
First, you want to practice this method in your training. Try to run negative splits in your training runs to get in the mentality of starting slower and finishing faster. You also want to be able to accurately predict your race pace and finish time so that you have a baseline of what pace you should run at the beginning of the race. Sites like McMillanRunning.com give you an estimate race pace predictor based on a training run or other recent race.
BEGINNING OF THE RACE: Start the race about 20-30 seconds slower than the race predictor gives you. For instance, if McMillan says you should be able to run a 5K at a 9:00 pace, start the race at 9:30.
DURING THE MIDDLE OF THE RACE, say mile two of a 5K or mile 8-10 of a half marathon, pick up the pace and run your estimate race pace.
FOR THE LAST PORTION OF THE RACE, give it everything you have left, running below your estimated race pace and finishing faster than you began.
A successful race isn’t just about completing the distance, but completing it feeling strong and energized. Running negative splits and being aware of your effort level throughout a race will help you conserve your energy and run smarter and, hopefully, faster.
Marcia Scott is the Sports Training Program Coordinator and Coach at Fleet Feet Sports. For more information call (901) 761-0078 or visit fleetfeetmemphis.com.