THE POWER OF THE NEGATIVE SPLIT Finish your next run faster than you started, and you'll be stronger when you're done.


No one likes to start a race out slowly. The gun goes off and you feel an urge to run as hard as you can for as long as you can. It's only natural. But if your goal is to finish strong (or in some cases, at all), then it's way better to rein it in, ease your way out of the gates at a steady pace, and then gradually pick up your speed so that you don't end up crashing before you reach the finish line. One way to improve your mental and physical ability to do just that is to practice running negative splits (where the second half of your run is faster than the first) throughout your training.
"If you train with that principle in mind and tune your body to different paces, you will experience one of the best feelings in the sport—the feeling of getting stronger and more powerful in the second half of a race," says Nike+ Run Club (NRC) San Francisco Coach Jason Rexing. "There is no greater motivator than watching runner after runner grow bigger and bigger in your view until you fly past them on your way to a PR."
Here's a quick primer on where (and how) to successfully work negative splits into your routine.


Within the NRC Weekly Workouts, both the Recovery Run and the Long Run should be performed as progressions, in which you go from slowest to fastest miles and naturally produce a negative split.
HOW: These workouts should be performed at a relaxed, comfortable pace that allows your body to recover for more strenuous training sessions during the week.
"Over the course of the run you'll progress from slower than projected average pace to average pace to faster than projected average pace. [For example, if you want to run 5 miles at 8:00 pace, run your first mile at 8:20 and increase the pace by about 10 seconds every mile. So you'll run 8:20-8:10-8:00-7:50-7:40.] In the end, your average speed will still be exactly what you set out to run. Plus, you will have taught your body a good lesson: The longer it goes, the better it runs," notes NRC Global Head Coach Chris Bennett.
For your Long Run progression, try breaking the distance up into thirds, recommends NRC Chicago Coach Robyn LaLonde. Run your first third 15 seconds/mile slower than goal pace, the second one at goal pace and your last third 15 seconds/mile faster than goal pace.


"During tempo runs, the goal is normally to try and run even splits (where all miles are performed at the same pace), but increasing your speed at the end every now and then is actually great preparation for the last few miles of a race when you need to push yourself beyond your comfort zone," says Rexing.
HOW: Bump up your speed for the last two miles of your next tempo run. So if you're planning to run 6 miles at 7:30 pace, hold that pace for the first four miles. Then try to drop your pace down to 7:20, then 7:10 for miles 5 and 6.


These speed workouts involve running fast for multiple brief periods, allowing time for your body to quickly recover after each. Since they're normally performed at varying paces, intervals are the perfect type of workout to practice negative splits, notes Rexing.
HOW: Do progression mile repeats. Try 4 x 1 mile, with a 2-minute recovery interval between each. Mile 1 should be hard, yet comfortable, miles 2 and 3 at 10K pace and for mile 4, push it at 5K pace.


"Pick a shorter race before your goal race and run it progressively as a way to simulate what you'll need to do come race day," says LaLonde.
HOW: If you're training for a half marathon, run a 10K about six weeks beforehand. Perform the first 2.5 miles calmly, pacing yourself comfortably below your goal half-marathon pace. For the next 2.5 miles, gradually increase your pace until you reach goal half-marathon pace, and then hold it confidently. In the final 1.2 miles, push yourself up to about 10K pace and finish strong.
"Running negative splits in a race takes patience, discipline and toughness. You need the patience to stick to your race plan even when you see people who you know you can beat darting ahead of you in the opening miles. You need the discipline to increase your pace steadily, even if your legs feel like they can handle a more ballistic surge. And you need the toughness to continue increasing your speed at the end of the race when your body's natural response to the lactic acid in your legs is to slow down." —NRC San Francisco Coach Jason Rexing.







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