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When Ronaldo da Costa broke the marathon world record at Berlin
in September 1998, he justified a racing tactic I've promoted for
a long time. Da Costa ran negative splits, which means he finished
the second half of the race faster than the first half - a full
3 minutes faster, in fact.
You don't have to be an elite athlete to run like da Costa. Anyone
can and should run negative splits. Unfortunately, most runners
don't. Instead, they start in a near sprint, hang on through the
middle and resort to a survivor's shuffle at the end. In contrast,
those who opt for negative splits patiently run a bit slower for
the first third of a run, pick up the pace in the middle and finish
with strength and speed.
The reason this works is because it can take your body several
miles to get warmed up. After that, your muscles are charged, your
joints lubricated, and mood-boosting endorphins flood your system.
You'll find yourself running faster without feeling any more effort.
While even 5K racers can benefit from this negative-split technique,
marathoners will find it even more beneficial.
Trust the method. Many people are so used to charging
out and then gradually slowing down that they don't trust their
bodies will ever speed up during a run. Trust me. It works. If you
conserve your resources during the early part of a run, they'll
be available to you at the end.
Train negative. To build confidence in the method,
practice negative splits during your training runs. Instead of starting
your fartlek or interval sessions at the pace you want to average,
run the first portion of the workout 10 to 15 seconds per mile slower.
By the end of the session, you'll be running faster than planned
and will probably be feeling better than you've ever felt during
a speed session.
Practice during 5Ks. Running numerous short races
will help you predict your starting pace for a longer race. Think
of these races as miniature marathons., where you're honing your
negative-splitting abilities. Just as in your practice runs, start
out conservatively and gradually build speed.
Predict your pace accurately. One of the most
important keys to running negative splits is pinpointing an accurate
race pace. To do so, use the chart below. The table equates your
5K performance to a 10K, half-marathon or marathon.
The table doesn't take hills, wind, heat and other race conditions
into account. So stay on the safe side by adding 5 percent to the
time predicted in the table. Remember: you can always speed up at
the end if you're feeling good.
Start slow. Begin your race 10 to 20 seconds per
mile slower than the race pace you've predicted. Don't be tempted
to speed up when you notice all those other runners flying by. Instead,
hold back by imagining yourself comfortably passing them later in
Gradually build speed. As you near the middle
of the race - 8 to 10 miles into a marathon, for example - you want
to hit your race pace. Then, toward the end, use those fresh legs
to pass as many tired runners as you can.
This chart will help you predict your 10K, half marathon and marathon
times, based on your best 5K time. Remember to factor in an additional
five percent to your total time to account for wind, hills and temperature.
5K time * 10KPrediction * Half-marathon Prediction * Marathon Prediction
16:00 * 33:35 * 1:14:40 * 2:36:47
18:00 * 37:47 * 1:24:00 * 2:56:23
20:00 * 41:59 * 1:33:20 * 3:15:58
22:00 * 46:11 * 1:42:41 * 3:35:34
24:00 * 50:23 * 1:52:01 * 3:55:10
26:00 * 54:35 * 2:01:21 * 4:14:46
28:00 * 58:47 * 2:10:41 * 4:34:22
30:00 * 1:02:58 * 2:20:01 * 4:53:58
32:00 * 1:07:10 * 2:29:21 * 5:13:34
34:00 * 1:11:22 * 2:38:41 * 5:33:10
*based on a formula devised by Pete Riegel
World, February 1999
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