How Realistic is a Marathon Negative Split?

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How Realistic is a Marathon Negative Split?

Postby Jwolf » Wed May 29, 2013 8:08 pm

mas_runner wrote:This is a very interesting discussion and pertinent to me. 9 minute positive split on Sunday (1:47/1:56). I have only run 2 marathons so don't have very much experience at all and earmarked 3:45 to be my goal (calculators for my HM put me at 3:35). I decided to test just how good my endurance was by going out at 3:35 pace and see how long I could hold it. The answer was roughly 30 kilometers.

I don't really have enough experience to say whether if I had gone out more conservatively that I would have fared better or whether I would have struggled at the same point. It did feel like what was slowing me down was less muscular and more in the joints (knees/ankles), I didn't get the burning quads until much later in the race and my groin/hip muscles didn't hurt at all this time (they were very sore in my first marathon).

I guess I just need more data to see whether it was a good strategy or not, as to whether I would have got sore and slowed down as a function of distance rather than speed.

How did your mileage compare to last time? And what was the positive split last time?
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Re: How Realistic is a Marathon Negative Split?

Postby mas_runner » Wed May 29, 2013 8:13 pm

Jwolf wrote:
mas_runner wrote:This is a very interesting discussion and pertinent to me. 9 minute positive split on Sunday (1:47/1:56). I have only run 2 marathons so don't have very much experience at all and earmarked 3:45 to be my goal (calculators for my HM put me at 3:35). I decided to test just how good my endurance was by going out at 3:35 pace and see how long I could hold it. The answer was roughly 30 kilometers.

I don't really have enough experience to say whether if I had gone out more conservatively that I would have fared better or whether I would have struggled at the same point. It did feel like what was slowing me down was less muscular and more in the joints (knees/ankles), I didn't get the burning quads until much later in the race and my groin/hip muscles didn't hurt at all this time (they were very sore in my first marathon).

I guess I just need more data to see whether it was a good strategy or not, as to whether I would have got sore and slowed down as a function of distance rather than speed.

How did your mileage compare to last time? And what was the positive split last time?


Mileage was less due to illness (about 150kms less).

Last time out positive split was 1:53/2:02 :lol: 9 minutes. However I dropped off pace at 24kms in that race...
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Re: How Realistic is a Marathon Negative Split?

Postby mas_runner » Wed May 29, 2013 8:39 pm

My plan at the moment for my crack at sub-1:40 in the HM is to incorporate a gentle ramping up of speed towards the end of my longer runs (maintaining good form) to simulate faster running on tired legs...
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Re: How Realistic is a Marathon Negative Split?

Postby Joe Dwarf » Thu May 30, 2013 12:03 am

I note Michael walked the walk recently in Calgary with a 1 sec negative split, PB, AG win and 7th overall... for a sample of 1, he's pretty convincing.

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Re: How Realistic is a Marathon Negative Split?

Postby RobW » Thu May 30, 2013 12:36 am

Joe Dwarf wrote:I note Michael walked the walk recently in Calgary with a 1 sec negative split, PB, AG win and 7th overall... for a sample of 1, he's pretty convincing.

Totally agree!

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Re: How Realistic is a Marathon Negative Split?

Postby Dstew » Fri May 31, 2013 12:00 am

I will throw in my two cents.

There a ton of factors:

With a grain of salt and if you believe the conversion tables, I ran Victoria in the fall at the 3:48 mark and Calgary in 3:50 that roughly translates into a 3:42 or so. My training for Calgary had 1,000 less kilometers in the 16 weeks leading up to the race and quite a significantly more cross training - spinner twice a week and weights twice a week for the first 8 weeks and then once a week for the next eight weeks.

Ignore the conversions and at the end of the analysis, I ran roughly the same time despite having 1,000 less kilometers in the 16 weeks leading up to each race - roughly 1,700 v 700. Very little if any speed work versus fast intervals on Tuesday and hard tempos on Thursday and after long runs.

Three days after Calgary I managed a nice tempo run, could barely jog a week or so after Victoria.

But to finally get to the topic at hand, another massive difference was pacing.

Victoria - I was going to run 3:40. Everything was directed to that goal. I was conservative for the first kilometer but picked up the pace so to give myself a shot. I realized I was going too fast but slowed down what I thought was enough to allow for a negative split. I hit the half way mark in 1:52:48 and tried to pick up the pace. That worked until the first hill of any significance and then I slowed down significantly. I would push hard and maybe surge a little but then I would slow down significantly. Even though my last mile was significantly faster than any other mile, I ended up with a 3 minute positive split.

Calgary - I thought it would be nice if I could run faster than 4 hours. Thought I was going to fade in the second half as my training lacked the normal number of long runs and so found the 1:55 half pace bunny. That lasted for 10 k but I was locked into that pace. Changed to goal to have a gun time of faster than 4 hours and so I knew if I could keep that nice even pace or close to it, not a problem. Without that firm time goal and instead a flexible target, although I was fairly consistent, some parts of the race I was a little faster and others a little slower. There was never any panic or dread that I "had' run a certain pace. I ended up running a 16 second negative split but the legs were feeling strong as I crossed the finish line there is no doubt I could have run a much more significant negative split as I could have easily pushed harder the last few kilometers at least.


I wish I could find the article but I recall reading something that supports what happened to me. That is if someone is pushing for an aggressive goal is that they are going to go out too fast. What happens is that at around the half way mark, the body and central governor evaluate how things are going. If one is just a fraction too fast, the body decides that as they still have to go just as far, it slows the person down to conserve energy and make sure that they finish. However, if one has a much more conservative goal, then the pace will be less hectic and the body may allow one to run harder near the end or at least keep the same pace for the entire race.

I believe it is very likely that many people either set unrealistic or arbitrary goals and thus doom themselves to positive splits and a lot of unnecessary pain. Arbitrary is a BQ or set a PB or break 4 hours or 4:30 or ... Unrealistic is that they base race pace on long runs or some plan and their overall fitness and training does not actually support that. I would guess most marathoners do not chase their dreams, they track them, hunt them and kill them so they are use to setting goals just beyond their grasp. In a 10 K or even a half marathon, one can recover but not so in a marathon. For the much slower, it could be a lack of genes that allow for the proper adaptions from training. For many others, the miles and paces in training my translate into a 4:45 marathon but for some unlucky ones, it only will get them a 5 hour marathon. So they start off aiming for 4:45 and end up with terrible positive splits.

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How Realistic is a Marathon Negative Split?

Postby Jwolf » Tue Jul 02, 2013 9:56 am

A good article related to this topic:

http://www.coachcaleb.com/training/tips ... e-marathon
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Re: How Realistic is a Marathon Negative Split?

Postby La » Tue Jul 02, 2013 10:32 am

I was just looking at my last two marathons (within 6 months of each other): NYC 2011 (a 6-min PB, 5th marathon) and London 2012 (a 90-sec PB, 6th marathon). NYC was a bit hillier, both had similar weather conditions, though London "felt" hotter (because race day was warmer than it had been during training, wheras it was the opposite with NYC - hot training, cold race day).

NYC: Almost even half splits, started out slower than planned by doing 5:1s, not being 100% trained due an injury sustained during training, but went in well-rested. Had a 6-min PB over my previous marathon (Vegas '09).
London: About a 20-min positive split, under the same training conditions (i.e., injured during training, well-rested on race day), but I KNOW I went out too fast (had way too many sub-6 kms in the first half when my goal pace was 6:10 for a 4:20 goal finishing time). My pace actually started to fade long before I hit the half-way mark. I still managed to squeek out a 90-sec PB over NYC.

Although there are many factors at play (in my case, race day weight being one of them), I really do feel that NYC was my "better" race because I started off slower, and therefore was able to maintain that pace throughout. I went into NYC without a goal time (due to injury), whereas for London I was hoping for sub-4:30 (and as a result, went out too fast, I think).
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Re: How Realistic is a Marathon Negative Split?

Postby Jwolf » Tue Jul 02, 2013 10:40 am

La wrote:...I went into NYC without a goal time (due to injury), whereas for London I was hoping for sub-4:30 (and as a result, went out too fast, I think).


But if you were hoping for a sub-4:30, then your pacing at the beginning didn't match that. So how do you think that having the sub-4:30 goal caused you to go out too fast?
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Re: How Realistic is a Marathon Negative Split?

Postby turd ferguson » Tue Jul 02, 2013 10:45 am

La wrote:I was just looking at my last two marathons (within 6 months of each other): NYC 2011 (a 6-min PB, 5th marathon) and London 2012 (a 90-sec PB, 6th marathon). NYC was a bit hillier, both had similar weather conditions, though London "felt" hotter (because race day was warmer than it had been during training, wheras it was the opposite with NYC - hot training, cold race day).

NYC: Almost even half splits, started out slower than planned by doing 5:1s, not being 100% trained due an injury sustained during training, but went in well-rested. Had a 6-min PB over my previous marathon (Vegas '09).
London: About a 20-min positive split, under the same training conditions (i.e., injured during training, well-rested on race day), but I KNOW I went out too fast (had way too many sub-6 kms in the first half when my goal pace was 6:10 for a 4:20 goal finishing time). My pace actually started to fade long before I hit the half-way mark. I still managed to squeek out a 90-sec PB over NYC.

Although there are many factors at play (in my case, race day weight being one of them), I really do feel that NYC was my "better" race because I started off slower, and therefore was able to maintain that pace throughout. I went into NYC without a goal time (due to injury), whereas for London I was hoping for sub-4:30 (and as a result, went out too fast, I think).


This is my exact question above - by the one and only objective standard that matters, London was a better race because you finished with a smaller number on the clock. Isn't the rest just an academic exercise?
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Re: How Realistic is a Marathon Negative Split?

Postby La » Tue Jul 02, 2013 11:04 am

Jwolf wrote:
La wrote:...I went into NYC without a goal time (due to injury), whereas for London I was hoping for sub-4:30 (and as a result, went out too fast, I think).


But if you were hoping for a sub-4:30, then your pacing at the beginning didn't match that. So how do you think that having the sub-4:30 goal caused you to go out too fast?

Because I got greedy and thought I could run FASTER than 4:30 (4:20) and if I wasn't able to hold that pace would "settle" for 4:30. I ran by feel in the first half instead of sticking to the pace I'd planned on.
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Re: How Realistic is a Marathon Negative Split?

Postby La » Tue Jul 02, 2013 11:06 am

turd ferguson wrote:This is my exact question above - by the one and only objective standard that matters, London was a better race because you finished with a smaller number on the clock. Isn't the rest just an academic exercise?

I guess because I wonder if I could have been even faster in London had I paced myself better. I don't think I raced to my (on-the-day) potential in London, whereas I did in NYC.
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Re: How Realistic is a Marathon Negative Split?

Postby Double Bellybuster » Wed Oct 01, 2014 1:46 pm

erinmcd wrote:...The other thing is that I ran a pretty controlled pace for the first 27K...


This is key.

I cringe whenever I hear or read that a marathon starts at 20 Miles. In fact the opposite is true in my opinion, your potential in that last 10K depends much more on how well you paced yourself for the first 20 Miles than it does on anythin beyond that point.
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Re: How Realistic is a Marathon Negative Split?

Postby Robinandamelia » Wed Oct 01, 2014 6:57 pm

I'm one of those people that says the marathon starts at 20 miles...I believe that. That's when your body has to start generating energy from fat vs. carb stores and physically, things just change. It could be an easier 6 depending on how you paced or a harder 6 if you didn't pace well, but the last 6 are miles unto themselves.... I do everything I can in the front end, to be prepared for those last 6 miles :)

Edited to add: this is assuming I'm racing a marathon vs. running a marathon/ultra at a comfortable pace

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Re: How Realistic is a Marathon Negative Split?

Postby Dstew » Thu Oct 02, 2014 10:17 pm

Double Bellybuster wrote:
erinmcd wrote:...The other thing is that I ran a pretty controlled pace for the first 27K...


This is key.

I cringe whenever I hear or read that a marathon starts at 20 Miles. In fact the opposite is true in my opinion, your potential in that last 10K depends much more on how well you paced yourself for the first 20 Miles than it does on anythin beyond that point.



For me, the marathon would start somewhere in the 25 K mark. That is when my mind would start to really question what the hell I was doing. Because of the way I trained, the last 5 K was on auto pilot and because of the pacing I had done in the other 37 K, I could finish strong to take off some seconds or with some time to spare. So the universal the marathon starts at 20 miles did not apply to me. But the reason for my reply is that I agree that for me in any event and regardless of the distance of race whether it be a 7 K trail or a marathon, go out too fast and the last part of the course is survival and not racing.

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Re: How Realistic is a Marathon Negative Split?

Postby daddy_runner » Mon Jul 27, 2015 3:05 pm

I've got a sample size of 1, and it was a trail race. And it was 50k, so not exactly a marathon (but close enough)... My 50k PB had even splits between the first half and second half (out & back race course). I definitely believe in the negative split. At the very least, it feels great to be speeding up just as everybody else is slowing down.
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Re: How Realistic is a Marathon Negative Split?

Postby jonovision_man » Tue May 03, 2016 10:31 am

Did another marathon. Shot for a PB. Wasn't there, Cracked like an egg by the end... huge positive split (over 11 minutes). :help:

Some of that split is to be expected as Toronto is net downhill, all of which is in the first half...

.. but 11 minutes is pretty huge, 5:03/km first half, 5:25/km next 14k (despite helpful tailwind), 5:56/km last 7km (brutal headwind).

The crazy part? My placing at the half was 448th. At the finish? 449th. I dropped just one place despite that massive positive split... and actually picked up gender placings (+8) & category placings (+7).

That tells me that a heck of a lot of people are positive splitting... many very very badly. And there may be a pretty strong skew toward men being the worst for it! Too much testosterone, perhaps? ;)

I can roughly figure out what I did wrong - didn't lose the weight I needed to, loosely followed the Furhman FIRST plan, did the long runs and tempos but not nearly enough run mileage. Legs stopped wanting to turn over nicely and be fluid - became like running through concrete too early in the race.

Why did everyone else get it so wrong, though?? Are we all just bad at this? :) If negative splitting is right, almost everyone out there is getting it wrong...

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Re: How Realistic is a Marathon Negative Split?

Postby La » Tue May 03, 2016 10:44 am

The two big contributing factors are:
1) The course
2) The weather

Toronto & Mississauga are perfect examples of courses that have completely different profiles in the first half and the second half. And we know that on Sunday the wind was a factor in both of them as runners had a strong headwind in the final 7-10K. In other races, it could be that it was much hotter in the second half of the race than the first half (e.g., Vancouver this year).
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Re: How Realistic is a Marathon Negative Split?

Postby purdy65 » Tue May 03, 2016 10:53 am

I was astonished by my somewhat negative split last weekend. I did really feel strong the whole way. I have not come close that before.
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Re: How Realistic is a Marathon Negative Split?

Postby alexk » Tue May 03, 2016 5:53 pm

I'm getting better w/ the negative/even splitting. I think it has a lot to do w/ experience, or marathon maturity, setting a realistic goal, and practicing MP in training. Of course, factors beyond our control (like weather) also play a part.

I've run TO twice - 2013, 2014. There was only a 1 minute difference in my finishing time but my 2nd (and faster) attempt was a much stronger race. In race # 1, I went out too fast & suffered in the last 10k (6 min positive split). It was hot that day but the heat didn't get me that split. It was all me! Race #2, I had near even splits (less than a minute) and I battled a strong headwind in the 2nd half (for about 13km along the lakeshore). That race was magical :).

The last marathon I raced (PEI 2014), I ran a 3 min negative split. And the 2nd half of that course is tougher. Now that I know how good it feels to finish a marathon strong, I never want to go through the slog again. That means I'll always have to set a goal based on my fitness not necessarily my dreams.
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Re: How Realistic is a Marathon Negative Split?

Postby Jwolf » Tue May 03, 2016 10:29 pm

alexk wrote:The last marathon I raced (PEI 2014), I ran a 3 min negative split. And the 2nd half of that course is tougher. Now that I know how good it feels to finish a marathon strong, I never want to go through the slog again. That means I'll always have to set a goal based on my fitness not necessarily my dreams.

This is perfect.
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Re: How Realistic is a Marathon Negative Split?

Postby La » Wed May 04, 2016 7:45 am

Jwolf wrote:
alexk wrote:The last marathon I raced (PEI 2014), I ran a 3 min negative split. And the 2nd half of that course is tougher. Now that I know how good it feels to finish a marathon strong, I never want to go through the slog again. That means I'll always have to set a goal based on my fitness not necessarily my dreams.

This is perfect.

Yeah, I love that. So very true.
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Re: How Realistic is a Marathon Negative Split?

Postby purdy65 » Wed May 04, 2016 8:36 am

Jwolf wrote:
alexk wrote:The last marathon I raced (PEI 2014), I ran a 3 min negative split. And the 2nd half of that course is tougher. Now that I know how good it feels to finish a marathon strong, I never want to go through the slog again. That means I'll always have to set a goal based on my fitness not necessarily my dreams.

This is perfect.


Think this is why last Sunday was good. A realistic time goal based on fitness. I really did feel strong at the end
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Re: How Realistic is a Marathon Negative Split?

Postby jonovision_man » Thu May 05, 2016 9:24 am

La wrote:The two big contributing factors are:
1) The course
2) The weather

Toronto & Mississauga are perfect examples of courses that have completely different profiles in the first half and the second half. And we know that on Sunday the wind was a factor in both of them as runners had a strong headwind in the final 7-10K. In other races, it could be that it was much hotter in the second half of the race than the first half (e.g., Vancouver this year).


Course definitely was a factor - but ....

5:03/km first half... then 5:25/km on relatively flat ground with a tailwind. And in just that part I picked up 5 placings?? I was feeling like hell :)

Misery loves company, so it's nice to know I'm not alone. :)

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Re: How Realistic is a Marathon Negative Split?

Postby Jwolf » Thu May 05, 2016 9:39 am

jonovision_man wrote:I can roughly figure out what I did wrong - didn't lose the weight I needed to, loosely followed the Furhman FIRST plan, did the long runs and tempos but not nearly enough run mileage. Legs stopped wanting to turn over nicely and be fluid - became like running through concrete too early in the race.

Why did everyone else get it so wrong, though?? Are we all just bad at this? :) If negative splitting is right, almost everyone out there is getting it wrong...


Yes, I think everyone is just bad at this. :) Well, not everyone-- some people do get it right.

I think you nailed why you slowed down so much. In my best marathon I slowed down by 1 min/mile in the last 10K-- and I know it was because I didn't make the endurance adaptations I needed in my training. And I trained more than many for that marathon. Most people simply underestimate what it takes, and then set unrealistic goals based on race times of races that are half the distance.
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