Training for a Negative Split

A runner giving high fives with a big smile
December 14, 2016

Mike Ricci


If you want to go faster, feel stronger, and pass more people at the end of a race then you need to race negatively. I know it sounds a little, errrr, negative, but it is the key to a personal record. Let me explain. Racing negatively or negatively splitting your races has been around for decades. Most all world records from 5k to the marathon are run with a negative split, as are most swimming world records. All negative split means is to run the second half faster than the first half of a race. For example, if you can run a 45:00 minute 10k; a negative split would be running the first 5k in 23:00 and then running the second half in 22:00. It sounds easy doesn't it? Then how come almost everyone does just the opposite? You out with a blazing first half only to fade badly in the closing miles. Doesn't it just make you angry as someone passes you in the last mile? Well, put an end to it. Learn how to negatively split your races. Here is how you do it:

Tempo runs: Run this on an out and back course that is fairly flat to rolling. After a ten to fifteen warm-up, run the first 1/2 of your course at a pace slightly less than race pace. Then at the turnaround, really pour it on! Run at a pace slightly faster than race pace and try to run the second half faster. Learning to do this may take some practice, so have patience.

Intervals on the Track: I like to use 800m repeats or mile repeats for this type of training. After a thorough warm-up, proceed to run 6-8, 800m repeats (or 3-5, one-mile repeats). I try to negative split the 800 itself and the workout too. Let's say you run your 800s in 4:00 or 8:00/mile pace. You would try to run the first 400m in 2:02 and then the second 400m in 1:58. The key is to negative split the whole workout. Try to run the first 800m in 4:10 and take a few seconds off of each one. For example, our goal would be to run 4:10, 4:08, 4:06, 4:04, 4:02, and 4:00. You can do the same thing with the mile repeats too. Start out at a pace you can handle. As you get more tired, then keep increasing the effort.

These types of workouts can also be used in the pool, or on the roads when you are on your bike. You can use a 1,000-yard time trial in the pool. Swim the second 500 faster than the first. You can pick the same type of out-and-back course for biking. Try to bike faster on the way back in. There are many ways to improve your training and ultimately your racing. Learn to negatively split your workouts and you won't be the one getting passed at the end of the races anymore. Now, wouldn't that be a great feeling? Good luck and train smart.

Coach Mike Ricci is the Founder and Head Coach for D3 Multisport.  His coaching style is ‘process-focused’ vs. ‘results-focused.’ When working with an athlete, their understanding of how and why they are improving is always going to take precedence over any race result. Yes, there is an end goal, but in over 2 decades of coaching, experience has shown him that if you do the right work, and for the right reasons, the results will follow.

Coach Mike is a USAT Level III Elite Certified Coach, Ironman University Certified Coach, and Training Peaks Level II Certified Coach. He was honored as the USAT Coach of the Year.

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