WHY SHOULD YOU USE A STRATEGY IN THE FIRST PLACE?
This article will probably be read by mostly intermediate runners. This is because beginners are happy with finishing a race and don’t think too much about their finish time or how they can improve because they feel accomplished about finishing a race. That’s perfectly normal and it’s a part of the process!
However, once you’ve ran the same distance a few times you’ll start getting curious about your stats (like your splits and your finish times) and you’ll likely want to improve! This is when you start to wonder if you could finish a 21K in a faster time (or any other distance you may prefer).
There are only a few ways to finish a race faster. You can do it by improving your aerobic endurance system, by using a clearly-defined strategy or by consuming some kind of energy-booster.
In order to improve your aerobic endurance system, you need to start doing different types of workouts. The fartlek’s, the tempo runs and the interval sessions. I’ve written one article about these different training techniques as well as a live session speaking about these techniques. Click here to view the article and click here to view the live session article. These workouts are essential for long term improvement and can take a few weeks to show results (but they are definitely worth it in the long term).
The other option, using a strategy, doesn’t require such hard work but it does require mental fortitude. What usually happens is that most runners start too fast too soon, with a near-sprint effort as soon as the gun goes off. They ‘follow the herd’ and get way too excited at the start line, causing them to utilize lots of energy at the start of a race, instead of conserving their energy to finish strong.
Most of us already use the third option (consuming energy boosters) in ways we probably don't even think about. The coffee you drink in the morning, for example, can boost your energy for 4-6 hours! However, coffee itself cannot help you reach the finish line faster. Caffeine will only help you stay alert and more aware of your surroundings! If you want a real performance booster for race day then you need consumables packed with carbohydrates, your bodies preferred form of fuel, or electrolytes.
Fortunately, there are plenty of products specifically made for runners which are easy to carry on race day like the Gatorade Endurance Chews, Extreme Energy Jelly Beans or Nuun Sport Tablets. The chews and jelly beans are small chewy sweets which you chew on halfway through your race. They're a great treat that will give you a physical and psychological boost during your race. The sports tablets are also very useful as you just drop a tab into your water bottle and you can refuel your body with electrolytes as you sip your water throughout the race!
Here’s a quick example of someone who doesn't use a strategy. Picture this –
Sound familiar? Now picture this example of a runner that has a strategy –
Doesn’t that sound better?
Instead of mindlessly running a race without a clear goal in mind, you will feel like you’re in charge of every mile because you know exactly what to do. Having a strategy, or plan, will get you through the tough miles. A plan helps you keep yourself together when times are tough and, as a bonus, overtaking runners during the second half of the race will give you the mental boost and adrenaline needed to reach the finish line faster.
Now that you know why using a strategy is important, let’s learn the negative split strategy so you can put it to use in your next race!
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WHAT IS THE NEGATIVE SPLIT STRATEGY
Let’s start with this – did you know many world records have been beaten using the negative split strategy? It’s a fact, many athletes use this technique.
The negative split technique consists of a runner starting a race at a relatively slow pace and increasing it by a few seconds at every mile. The goal is to start easy and to finish at a challenging pace. By doing this you will ensure you have plenty of energy at the halfway point of the race to speed up and finish strong – instead of starting out too fast and fighting sluggishly through the last half of the race.
This technique is especially useful in longer races such as the half-marathon and marathon.
HOW TO APPLY THE NEGATIVE SPLIT STRATEGY IN RACES
First you need to know what pace you’re comfortable running at for the full duration of the race you’ve completed. Running a negative split means that you spend the first half of the race at a more conservative pace and most of the second half increasing your speed at specific points until you’re running at a high effort during the last mile.
Therefore, there are limitations depending on your ability. The speed at which you start or finish will be different for every runner so it’s difficult to give a specific example, however, in order to help you visualize what you need to do, here is the strategy laid out in a simple way:
SLOWER > SLOW > FAST > FASTER
To further explain, at the beginning of the race you should be going so slow that you will be fighting the urge to go faster. Once you reach the second quarter of the race (around the 10KM mark for a marathon), you will speed up to the point where you feel comfortable as if you’re just cruising along. Around the third quarter (20KM) you can start to speed up in 5 second increments per mile, for example. You should start overtaking all the runners who started too fast at this point. At the last quarter you can speed up considerably.
Your plan doesn’t have to be split up into quarters, you can divide the race however it is best for you but it’s important to gauge your effort throughout the race and ‘take the temperature’ of your body. Assess how you feel at the current speed and slow down or speed up accordingly. The fundamental process here is to start slow and finish fast and strong!
That’s how you use the negative split strategy. At first it will feel weird, watching all the runners overtake you at the beginning of the race, but fear not! You’ll easily overtake them during the last half of the race!
If you found this article useful, head on over to the RunPage website and create your own Runner Profile – a runner profile will keep all your race results organised. After you're all set up, you can easily access and share your Finisher Poster! These posters look great and they're perfect for sharing on social media!
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