Whatcha Talkin Bout Willis?

Have you ever felt like someone was speaking a foreign language to you… except they weren’t? It’s how I occasionally feel when my husband uses complicated financial terms while talking about his work. Or how some of my ‘newer to church’ friends feel when people there use unfamiliar language, often called “Christianese.” It’s how we sometimes feel when a doctor is describing a prognosis or treatment plan that scientifically goes over our head. And, it’s also how I felt when I started running and had no idea what the heck people were talking about when they used terms like fartlek, pronate, PR, BQ, toe box, and negative split.

I was pretty sure I wanted nothing to do with a fartlek (and still don’t, even though I now know it doesn’t mean anything like the word sounds!). I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to be doing any kind of split at my age. And a toe box? Well that sounded either weird or painful. Because I felt like this, I think it would be fun on My Journey to Boston to talk about some of these words. PS – If you have a running question or topic you’d like me to discuss, let me know!

For this blog: What is a negative split?

Technically, a negative split run means that your splits (min./mile) progressively get faster over the course of your run. A perfect negative split run is when each mile is faster than the last. But, most runners consider their run to be a negative split run if overall, they start with a slower pace and finish with a faster pace.

The key to running a negative split is to start the first mile slower than your desired overall pace. If your first miles are too quick, you would have to hit an unrealistic pace during the last miles in order to have a negative split. 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.

Training to run a negative split is very important! You truly have to practice increasing your effort gradually. This technique teaches you patience, which is an essential part of marathon training and racing. It helps build discipline, because everyone’s natural tendency is to go out fast. It takes a lot of self-restraint in a race to allow others to run ahead and not be pulled along with them. To run a negative split you really have to run your own race.

Here are a couple recent examples of my negative split training runs:

Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 3.08.35 PM          Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 4.04.56 PM

The majority of runners believe that in order to run a PR (Personal Record) pace, in a marathon especially, you have to start slower and finish faster. A negative split works in other distances as well but is often the most apparent in the marathon, where many people are accustomed to ‘hitting the wall’ (we can talk about that term in another post, because I have hit it… and hard). In a marathon for example: Let’s say you’re planning on 10-minute miles for the race. For the first 8-10 miles, you’d go a little slower than this, maybe 15-20 seconds per mile slower. This would give you plenty of time to get into the groove of the long race. Between miles 8 and 20, you’d cruise at your goal pace of 10-minute miles. For the last six miles, you’d pick up the pace and finish strong.

The reason negative splits work 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 often find yourself running faster without feeling any more effort. Starting slow also allows the runner’s body to compensate for the lactic acid that is produced as a by-product of exerting oneself and the low oxygen levels from the exertion. The runners that start out too fast build up more lactic acid faster and that causes them to slow down, even though they don’t want to, because their bodies can’t process the lactic acid fast enough.

Typically, runners who set out too fast, are trying to ‘bank’ time—a strategy many use to give themselves a cushion at the end of a race. It’s risky business, and one that positions you to crash and burn in later miles, having used up all of your available energy stores.

I have run races with no pace goal nor strategy whatsoever. I have run races by starting quicker than I trained for, trying to bank time, only to peter out in the second half (Philly 2013), causing a ‘positive split’ run. And, last year, my BQ and PR (Boston Qualifying and Personal Record) marathon, I stayed a bit ahead of a pacer (a person running the marathon at a certain pace to help runners finish within a specific time) and I did a negative split run. As you can see in the pictures below, my first half for both years 2013 and 2014 were 1:52:37 and 1:52:35 respectively. My second halves are where you find the difference. In 2013 my second half was significantly slower at 2:04:19. In 2014, my second half was two minutes quicker than my first, at 1:50:34. This has a good bit to do with pacing, but also with hydration and nutrition (which we’ll talk about in a future blog).

          Philly 2013 – Positive split                             Philly 2014 – BQ – Negative split

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 5.37.34 PMScreen Shot 2015-11-19 at 5.38.36 PM

Where I do NOT want a negative split is in my fundraising :)!!! And, because you have all been so supportive and generous, I won’t! With $8,865 already raised in just 29 days and 57 days left until my birthday deadline of Jan. 16th to raise the remaining $1,135, I see a positive split in this fundraising race’s future! Thank you!!

Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 3.09.47 PM

Please make a donation in support of my efforts to run the Boston Marathon with Team In Training and help get us all closer to a world without blood cancers, http://pages.teamintraining.org/ma/boston16/adourte