This Runner's Trials

My secret to negative-splitting

Whenever someone asks me to give them words of wisdom before a race, I always say the same thing: Don’t go out too fast.


Starting out too quickly usually means you’ll blow up in the later miles, and have a less than ideal race. Theoretically, negative-splitting a race (running the second half of the race faster than the first half) means you’ll have a positive race experience.

It sounds so simple. But with the festivities at the start line and your adrenaline pumping, starting out slowly is anything but easy. Especially if you never practice negative splitting…

Yup, you heard it here first, folks. You have to negative split on your training runs if you also want to do so during a race. Novel idea, right?

But here’s the thing: Who likes calculating their pace and staring at their Garmin during a training run? Certainly not me. So, how can you learn how to negative split without becoming a slave to your watch?

Simple: Run you first mile uphill and your last mile downhill on training runs.


I’m not joking. This is how my neighborhood is set up. When we moved here 2.5 years ago, I never, ever negative-splitted. Now, I do it on almost every training run without thinking about it (I haven’t really raced since December 2010, so I can’t say if I still do this in races). Even when I’m not in my neighborhood, I’m used to going slow the first mile and fast the last mile that I naturally do this.

Of course, you all don’t live in my neighborhood. You could always move here... Or, run on the treadmill and adopt the downhill- uphill approach, but that would be insanely boring. Instead, try to run your first mile and last mile by perceived exertion. Start out ridiculously slow, and pick up the pace for the last mile no matter how tired your legs are (yes, I even do this on long runs). Running hard on fatigued legs is not easy, but you may wish you practiced this once race day rolls around. After all, practice may not make perfect, but it will better prepare you.

Happy racing!


I’m not a running expert by any means. I’m just a girl who likes to run, and this approach has helped me. But I have no idea if it really works or not. If you want to learn how to negative split correctly, check out Runner’s World, ask a running coach, or at least consult someone smarter than me.

Comments (11) Trackbacks (2)
  1. Your neighborhood really is perfect! Another thing I do is start in a corral behind my expected pace, so I start with slower people (and you get a mental boost from passing people!).

  2. makes so much sense, why have I not thought of this? I HAVE gotten a LOT better about not starting a race too fast. I always say to myself “but I feel so good right now!” BUT I know later I will be kicking myself when I start to feel like crap!

  3. Nice post. Personally I found that running while pregnant taught me how to consistently run negative splits. I would start out slooow with the intention of ‘seeing how I felt’, and was fortunate to invariably feel good so would be flying (relatively speaking) by the end. You’re right – it makes for a much more positive and enjoyable race experience.

  4. I really need to start working on negative-splitting. I can’t believe you do it without even trying anymore!

  5. I’m actually really good about negative splitting in training…usually because I start out fairly slowly and work my way up to a pretty good pace to finish strong. But then in a race, I always succumb to the energy and adrenaline and start off fast. I’m not sure what to do about it though, because my entire life that I’ve run, I’ve always raced faster times this way, and when I try to negative split I end up going slower overall.

  6. First off- love your blog. Stumbled across it a few weeks ago while trying to find some motivation to keep running into trimester three with my 2nd. Went back and read your pregnancy posts and they have definitely been inspirational! Anyway, I also found that doing your long runs super slow, like 15% slower than goal half marathon or marathon pace, really helps with negative splitting. When I hit my post-marriage, post-baby PR (that’s how I judge my PR’s now) of 3:42 at the Kiawah marathon, I did my training runs at about a 9:05-9:10 pace but kicked it down to 8:30 or so for the second half of my training runs. I didn’t exaggerate the pace differential that much come race day, but still negative split. Just a suggestion for those who don’t have the hills like you do! Keep up the great work!

  7. Great tip! It seems so obvious, but I never would have thought of it!*

  8. I did this when I ran a 4-mile race 30 weeks pregnant and didn’t know how I would feel. I started slower and ended faster. Um, the whole time I was thinking, “why have I never done this before?!” It was such a huge boost to pass so many people in the end.

  9. I just came here from Caitlin`s blog and this is a great tip! I live at the top of the hill and it`s so annoying that I have to go downhill first (which, I think is harder anyways because you automatically speed up, and it`s worse for my legs) and then when I come back I HAVE to go up. The only way to change this would have around a 0.2 mile downhill in the end. But I think I will just try and go with it, try running ridiculously easy, learn how to run on tired legs (that`s my mental blockade anyways) and become a negative-splitter. Thank you for sharing!

  10. Thank you,
    Tomorrow i will run Paris. My First Marathon. And i will try the negative Split ;-)
    Greetings bernd

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