How to Run Negative Splits for a 5K PR
Negative splits can actually be a pretty positive thing. Negative splitting is a racing strategy in which you run the latter part of the race faster than the first. Many elite runners have broken world records using this tactic!
While most of us are chasing personal records rather than world records, running negative splits is an effective way to plan your race. Many runners make the mistake of going out too hard right from the gun. They get physically overworked, only to burn out and slow down during the later miles.
Negative splitting is an effective strategy because it allows your body to warm up, ease into goal race pace and finish strong without burning out. Plus, seeing your pace quicken over the duration of the race can give you a much needed mental boost during that final mile.
In this video, we focus on negative splitting during a 5K ,or 3.1-mile, race. Coach Nate guides us through two workouts to help nail down your negative split pacing strategy and PR your next 5K race.
1. Progression Run
For this run, you’re going to purposefully run really slow at first—one to two minutes slower per mile than what you’re used to running. It may feel weird, but the goal is to finish the run faster than you started it. Once you get toward the middle stages of the run, focus on picking up the pace a little bit to bring yourself back to your typical easy run pace. Hold it steady, and once you’re approaching the last portion of your run, really push the pace to bring yourself to a quicker pace than what you’re used to running.
For example, let’s say you have an eight mile run on the schedule. Run the first three miles at a very easy pace. For the next three miles, run at a pace that’s quicker but still feels comfortable and sustainable. Once you hit the last two miles of your run, push the pace to a tempo effort or what we like to call “comfortably hard.” It’s not necessarily a conversational space, but you can mutter a few phrases.
The goal for this run is to get your body used to negative splitting in an everyday environment. After a bit of practice, this pacing strategy will feel more natural when you race.
While intervals will be run at a faster pace than the previous workout, you still want to apply the same patience you practiced during your progression run. A great way to practice negative splitting your interval workout is by running distance-based intervals.
For example, start by performing three reps of one half mile at your goal 5K race pace. Once you’re comfortable with that, work your way up to three reps of one mile at your goal 5K pace. But here’s the clincher—you’re not going to run these intervals at the same pace.
Perform the first rep at slightly slower than your overall goal race pace, which should be exactly how you run the first mile of your 5K race. Let’s say your goal 5K race pace is 8 minutes per mile. Perform your first rep at 8:10 per mile, your second rep at 8:00 per mile and your third rep at 7:50 per mile. In terms of effort, the first rep should be run at a medium effort, feeling hard but controlled. The second rep will feel like a medium-to-hard effort, with the last rep being a very hard effort.
Keep in mind that, when you’re new to the negative split strategy, your pacing may be more varied, with a greater difference between your first mile or rep and your last. As you become more experienced, there will likely be a smaller variation between those paces as you hone in on your goal race pace.
As with any new skill, repetition and patience will go a long way. Don’t be discouraged if you have trouble running negative splits at first. It will take time for this pacing strategy to feel natural. With a little bit of time and effort, you’ll be cruising your way to a new PR!