It's a common mistake with a heartbreaking result. The starting gun sounds and you take off-fast. Inevitably, the swift start takes its toll, and you slow down and miss your goal. Oops. A more effective way to nail a time is to run a negative split-that is, starting conservatively so that you run the second half of the race faster than the first. You'll clock a better time and feel stronger, says Mike McKeeman, assistant coach for the Mammoth Track Club in Mammoth Lakes, California. "It's the most efficient way to run," he says. "Instead of burning all your fuel early, you save energy for the end and gain confidence as you stride past everyone in those last few miles."
We Can Help You Get Faster With Expert Marathoning Tips
The rewards of a fast finish are not restricted to races. Learning how to pace yourself in workouts to finish strong reduces your risk of injury, boosts your fitness, and keeps your enthusiasm high, all of which supports a lifelong running routine, says coach Trent Sanderson, owner of Team Prep USA running program in Crested Butte, Colorado. Here's how to practice reining it in-before letting it out.
Video: Half-Marathong Training 101
Choose Your Workout
Generally, you can use any easy run for a strong-finish session, especially if you're a recreational runner, by starting slowly and concluding slightly faster. "It puts an exclamation point at the end of a run so you feel good about what you accomplished," says Blake Boldon, director of coaching for RunnersConnect in Indianapolis. On longer runs, gradually increasing speed builds confidence in your ability to pick up the pace when you're tired, he says. In interval sessions, starting conservatively is prudent: Go out too fast and you may not be able to complete the workout, says Boulder-based coach Brad Hudson, coauthor of Run Faster from the 5K to the Marathon.
Fuel Up: Find the Best Energy Bars
Set the Pace
Fitness runners should start at an easy pace, no matter the workout. "You should be able to talk easily," says McKeeman. Experienced runners should base speed on a recent 5-K pace, says Boldon. As a rough guideline, for a 20-minute fast-finish run, start 30 to 40 seconds per mile slower than 5-K pace; for a 40-minute run, start one minute to 90 seconds per mile slower; and for hour-plus runs, start up to two minutes per mile slower. For intervals, begin 10 to 30 seconds per mile slower than goal race pace. (Search: How do I know my best race pace?)
Strength Training: Moves That Make You Faster
Turn It Up
Running a negative split involves gradually gaining speed-not hitting the halfway point of a workout or race and then gunning it. Break the distance of your session into segments, and aim to run each one slightly faster. Divide a three-miler in half, a six- to nine-miler into three equal portions, and runs over 10 miles into roughly four parts. By the final segment, you should be running slightly faster than goal pace or at a pace where you can speak just a couple words at a time. If doing intervals, start picking up the pace after the first half of repeats until you're running the final effort 10 to 15 seconds faster per mile than goal pace.
Know Before You Go: How to Pace Yourself
Turn It Up More