Developing strategies for 'negative splits' pays off

Races are never easy, and developing a race strategy can be even harder. Running guru Jeff Galloway has long been a proponent for a racing strategy known as negative splits, and history has shown how this strategy is quite possibly the most effective one you can try.

The point to running negative splits is running the second half of your race, or training run, faster than the first half. Now, I know sometimes that sounds impossible, but I assure you, it pays in leaps and bounds. All it takes is the will to prepare and the guts to do it.

In 1998, when Ronaldo da Costa broke the long-standing world record at the Berlin Marathon, he didn't just run his second half faster, he ran it a lot faster -- more than three minutes faster. And Khalid Khannouchi did the same when he broke the record a year later. But you don't have to be an elite racer like da Costa to do this, but unfortunately, most people go by the motto "Start slow and taper off" instead of attacking the second half of races.

So, here are a couple tips that will get you running those faster second splits and feeling great about yourself at the finish line.

Trust the method

The problem with racing is that lots of people get caught up in the "whoosh effect." This is when you get all charged up when the gun fires, and you take off like you're running the 100-meter dash. Work on staying relaxed during the beginning of a race. If you can just keep your mind and body relaxed, you'll stay fresh for the second-half surge that you are planning. Trust me, your body will be ready for it if you believe in what you are doing.

Train negative

You can't expect to race negative splits if you don't train that way. Get out and have fun with it. On your long runs, speed workouts, anything, work on running that second half a little bit faster than the first. Then, start making time goals for how much faster you want to go. If your train like it, you will race like it.

Start slow

Especially in longer races. If you're running 5-kilometers, it's good to hit your goal times, but if it's a marathon, it's a good idea to find your pace and back off a little bit. Don't be tempted to speed up because you think you're going to be too slow. Trust your race plan and your training. It is important to know your pace and really work it, not just going off unplanned. And remember that in those longer races, seconds gained early are minutes shaved later.

Practice during races

Running numerous shorter races or time trials will help you predict your pace and mental state. Think of these races/trials as a miniature version of your goal race and work at it. In your training runs, just start off conservatively and gradually build speed. Learning to push yourself when you're exhausted will make the races seem easy when you get the adrenaline rush.

Stay mentally tough

Probably the hardest and most important factor in running negative splits is keeping your mind on task. When you start feeling bad early, it's easy for your mind to tell your body that it can't do what you want it to. But, it is important to stay focused on your goal. With time and training, your mind and body will come to expect what you're trying to do. Next thing you know, you'll be surpassing those time goals you've been shooting for.

"The greatest improvement is made by the man who works most intelligently." -- Bill Bowerman, legendary University of Oregon coach and co-founder of Nike.

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