Hoping to run your best race this year? Looking for an ideal race day strategy? Think about negative splits.
Running a long distance race at negative splits means that you begin the race at a slower pace and then finish faster. There are numerous psychological and scientific benefits to running negative splits.
Avoiding the Bonk: In the anxiety and excitement of race day it is a common practice for runners to surge away from the starting line in an adrenaline rush. This often results in the athlete running the first portion of the race at a pace slightly faster than his or her ideal race pace. Running faster than ideal race pace results in the athlete burning through glycogen stores early on in the race. Later in the race the athlete will likely "bonk". He or she may be unable to hold this faster pace, but will also be unable to hold his or her target race pace. Instead the runner will finish at a much slower pace than targeted. It is often said that 30 seconds per mile TOO fast early on will cost minutes per mile later in the race.
Finishing Strong: Starting a long race slightly slower than your target race pace enables your body to gradually acclimate to racing. The human body is much like a diesel engine: It can take some time to warm up, but when given the appropriate amount of time it can run efficiently for long periods of time. Starting slower to allow this warm up will enable you to run efficiently at race pace for the majority of the race, and then work to finish a slightly FASTER pace.
Practice Makes Perfect: The best way to race negative splits is to practice negative splits. Each week try to target one of your workouts as a "negative split day". Whether you head to the track, run hill repeats or out on a tempo run, design the workout to finish faster than you started.
Mistletoe 5K and Half Marathon: Anyone running the Mistletoe 5K or Half Marathon has a perfect opportunity to work on running negative splits. The beautiful and scenic Mistletoe course is designed with a long and gradual uphill climb early in the race. Both the 5K and the Half Marathon finish with a long and gradual descent. Runners in the half marathon should work to hold their targeted race pace throughout the hills of Wake Forest's campus, and then settle into a slightly faster finish at the 10 mile mark in Graylyn Estate.
Wherever your training may take you this year we will be cheering you on and hoping you have a fabulous race experience!