Taper Thoughts: Negative Splitting the Marathon

Blog, Sue Cloutier

So remember yesterday when I posted in detail about how I determined my marathon pacing splits, and all the cool websites I used for that? Well, 24 hours later, I am tempted to throw my entire predetermined strategy out the window. Have I mentioned that I’m your typically indecisive Libra? I change my mind constantly.

Today I was listening to The Runners World Show, and they mentioned a neat challenge put up by the run-logging website, Strava, called The Back Half Challenge. Based on the premise that most marathoners run the first half of their marathons faster than the second half (known as a positive split), Strava is offering a brand new pair of New Balance running shoes to anyone who runs a marathon this fall with a negative split. That’s right. Just run the second half of your marathon faster than the first half, and they will give you free running shoes. I mean, how could I not go for that? I love running shoes. And I haven’t yet run a negative split marathon, so that would be a great challenge. I’m also not tied to any specific goal time either, as I’m not sure that I am fit enough this fall to beat my current PR.

But why should this new challenge prevent me from executing my splits as previously planned? I did plan to start out conservatively, and progressively speed up over the race, hopefully resulting in a negative split, and possibly getting close to my PR. Surely, if I followed that strategy, I would qualify for the Back Half Challenge, right? Absolutely. I guess the issue is that I’m not entirely confident in my ability to execute it as planned. In going for this challenge, I feel I have a better chance of running a negative split if I run a bit slower for more of the first half of the race than I have planned. Say, running 11-11:30 minutes miles for the first 13 miles, and then picking up to 10:40-10:30 pace for the last 13. This would give me a much better chance at that elusive negative split than if I was running closer to my goal pace of 10:35 for most of the race. I do feel confident that I can run a negative split though if I’m really serious about reigning myself in during the first half.

I haven’t decided yet if that’s what I’m going to do. I’m actually kind of scared about starting out so much slower than my race pace. What if I get too comfortable at that pace, and I can’t pick it up later? What if I bonk anyway, and run a far slower time than I expected? Whenever I have doubts like these though, it helps to remember my training. I did the work. I have the fitness. I know I can do it. So all that’s left to do now is to decide which pair of New Balance shoes I will be requesting!

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