As the old Aesop fable states........"slow and steady wins the race"!

Most people in races do not follow this strategy however. Looking at splits in a lot of races for us "normal folk" the 2nd half is almost always slower than the 1st half.

 However, professional athletes remain even pace, and often do negative splits! The tortoise was also successful from using this strategy!

 If I stop tearing off over the first mile, often clocking 30 seconds per mle quicker than my average overall pace, will I get a PB or will I just be 30 seconds slower!!??

Interested to hear from anyone who has had similar pacing dilemma's?


  • I decide what pace I want to run at, then stick to it from the start.

    If I feel good in the last few miles then I might speed up a bit, and I usually have negative splits.

    I'd rather have a race where I feel good all the way round, than start too fast and then struggle in the last miles, which is what I used to do. 

  • Most if us "normal folk" arent actually racing - we are chasing a PB.

    we may end up in a race with those around us at some point, put pacing tactics dont really come into it against random strangers whose strengths and weaknesses over distance you dont know.

    Tearing off at 30 secs pm faster will cost you disproportionately more time over the course of a race. they say 10 seconds faster at the start of a marathon can translate into minutes of lost speed by the end.

    Ergo - setting off at race pace wont see you 30 seconds slower at the end of the race. If iy does - you were running slower than optimum average pace throughout!

  • I think if you do the correct training for the event you're running then doing it at even pace becomes easier because you're used to running at the right speed and have the stamina to keep it going. Experience also makes a big difference - you learn how to run races over time. The problem with running a marathon for instance is that when you start off it just seems so damn easy because you're running so comfortably inside yourself, and almost subconsciously you speed up, try to keep up with other people, catch the guy in front etc. This is where the experience and the self-control come in. I actually think that the ladies are often better at this than the men - certainly within my club the majority of the negative splits and evenly run races are run by the women.

  • What he said image

    An even pace is the best way to run a fast race but the longer the distance the harder it is to achieve.  I can run a very steady 10k, my half PB was quicker in the first half but not by much and my marathons are all over the place.

  • There are two types of negative split

    The one where the runner is an experienced regular racer who knows what form they are in and judges their race to perfection-not easy to do.

    The second type is someone who runs so well within themselves they rarely run to their potential and decide to actually put some effort in towards the end. The marathon can suit this type of runner but spot them reaching halfway in a 5k race and they still haven't broken sweat.

  • I think the fact most world records are broken on negative splits speaks for itself, ive noticed that even in local club races with relatively experienced runners the majority go off too fast and its costs them...i often feel im speeding up after the 1-2 miles overtaking people when basically im running the same pace...but the majority are slowing down ie from your 30 second per mile faster! I've learnt from painful mistakes that you always enjoy a race alot more if you're the one overtaking in the last 1/4 rather than having streams of people going past....so i try and save the aggressive running til towards the end, but admitedly it takes discipline when you see people you know you could/should be beating flying off ahead at the start. Finding the balance is trial and error, but i've found holding back 15-30 secs/pm in the early miles even in a 10km race helps you finish stronger and chase a time target with greater aggression at the business end of the race.
  • Would agree with that Chicatita. Sounds like you have a good racing brain. Some people never seem to get one and go on making the same mistakes again and again. Going off too fast and fading badly can cost you big time but if you never ever "go for it" then you will never learn what you are capable of. It's a fine line of being sensible and not having the balls to go for your target.

    A good point I read recently is that a good runner uses pain to gauge his race. If you never experience that pain then you will never recognise it.

    On the other hand there are people who whistle along have a good time and race just to enjoy themselves and be social. Good luck to them

  • Stevie  GStevie G ✭✭✭

    I was looking at my anorak notes the other day, and even though I've done 117 races now, that "gotta get going quickly" feeling when the gun goes is still hard to avoid.

    For a 5k I think you often need a fast start, as otherwise people will get away from you, and you can lose the desire to want to really push hard at such a fast pace.

    For longer distances a too fast first mile can really jeopardise your time.

    I suppose it's the confidence to trust your fitness and not try and get time "in the bank" too early

  • I've found my fastest 5ks have mostly come from going out a bit faster than felt totally comfortable. However, I recently paced a guy round a parkrun who wanted to get under 21 mins for the first time (I know, shame on me), and we kept pretty close to about 4.10 per km for the whole thing. He even came through halfway slower than normal and I could feel him itching to go, but we kept it all even and he got there by ten second in the end.
    Moral: everyone is different.
  • You're right about the 5k - if you go off too conservatively you simply won't get the time back because the race is too short and you're probably running not far below maximum speed anyway. I always think that if you get halfway in a 5k wondering how the heck you're going to keep going at that pace then you've got it about right. By comparison, I did a 10k in the USA a couple of weeks ago and did a 5:54 first mile when it should have been 6:15-6:20. I then just got slower and slower as the race went on and ended up about a minute slower than expected. Some of that was probably the heat, but I'm sure the first mile had a lot to do with it. Mind you, it wasn't helped by the fact that the two guys I was racing at the start turned round at the 2.5k point and went on to finish 1st & 2nd in the 5k race.

  • The only races I have ever regulary run are 5k and prettey much every time this happens.

    The race starts everyone shoots off and about half a km later I find myself passing those same people and they never pass me. Never not once. Am I fast? Not really 19:44 is my pb.

    My only advantage is I know two things;

    1. Most people cant run a 5k under 20 minutes, but a lot want to and will shoot off at a pace they cant keep.

    2.What the negative splits are for a 5 k if i want to finish under 20 minutes and as I run very negative i can start slow  save energy and beat people on any hills slopes etc.

    I want to even splits but I am not strong enough yet, so until then negative is the next best thing. I works plain and simple. You have to control your fear of others getting away from you. They will at the start but your betting that on the whole they will slow down and most will.

    I recall one occasion basically grinding some poor runner into the ground by staying just off his pace but within my split pace. I eventually took him on the hill and beat him. I did'nt win the race, but I did race and beat him and get a pb.

    Just because you may never win a race dont think you just have to chase PB's. short races are a great way of learning how to reign in desire to run off like a jack rabbit and actually think while your running.

    Imagine that?


  • Apologises for the stilted grammar. Running gets me excited!
  • I agree with stevie G/BOTF that the principles of negative splits are slightly different for 5km's because there is less scope for making up any distance, i think 5km's by their nature should be hurting to a certain extent from start to finish to do yourself justice...although i  find it more of a challenge to get up to top quality speed early in races anyways, but i guess thats where the warm up becomes key. Personally i find a hard run 5km more of a challenge than a marathon, its a very different type of intensity which i think demands more concentration.
  • Warm ups are very important. I like to an easy 10 minute jog then streatches as per any race followed by short 50 - 100 m runs at beginning race pace maybe 3-4 of these. It gets rid of any nerves and doubts you may have about starting off. Also I find it hlps me not shoot off.
  • On a slight tangent, in among all the technical stuff in Daniels' Running Formula (v good textbook), one of his odder tips is 'if you feel like slowing down or stopping, first try to run faster', or words to that effect. He says this on the basis that a young runner he was training was running in a track race and signalled to him he wanted to stop. His first instinct was to shout at him 'run faster'. He did, and he won the race. I suppose the moral is sometimes you have reserves of energy you didn't know about.
  • Stevie  GStevie G ✭✭✭

    I think it also depends what kind of runner you are, be it a pacier type, or a stamina type.

    First 5k I ever did was in the low 18s, yet 10ks were over 40mins. I think you can get away with being a bit less well trained for the 5k relatively, and make it up off your natural speed and verve.

    Roll on loads more training now, and years on, I'm now low 17s for 5k and high 35s for 10k (which by rights should be low 35s when the right weather comes along!). Therefore, I'd say the training has got my speed over stamina bias back on track.

    Having said this, I still can't imagine ever doing a negative split over any race!

  • There was a article in Runners World a few years ago that suggested for an 18 min 3 mile you should do 5.50-6.00-6.10. I go along with that. That is if you are treating 5k as a time trial. I'm sure 5k track runners have a different philosophy. Have dabbled in 1500's and mile track races and find the whole tactics thing really fascinating.
  • Stevie  GStevie G ✭✭✭

    Some of the stuff in RW is a bit on the old guff side.

    I think if you're doing the 3rd mile 20seconds slower than the 1st mile, you've seriously blown up image

  • Fascinating stuff - glad it's not just me who's stuck with which tactics to adopt - tortoise, hare, tortoise, hare.............

    Stevie G - particularly interested in your comment - "you've seriously blown up if you do the last mile 20 seconds slower".

    My 3 mile time would more than likely be 5.40 / 5.50 / 6.00. Therefore have I blown up? Could I maintain a 5.50 even pace? Could I be quicker if I started at 5.50 - i.e 5.50 / 5.50 then speed up??

    More interesting to me, is that for a 10k I would start off on a similar pace, then (on a good day at least!) stay at 6.00 min/mile to the end.......by my reckoning I have "banked" 30 seconds by doing the first 2 miles quicker than the others.........but is this true? If I was slower at the start, could I make this time up later?

     I know I could try the even pace tactic in my next race, but most of you appreciate that the runners that you know you can stick with will fly off, and you have to be very confident to let them go!!

  • Having run a three-mile race the other evening in 19.33, a PB, I would be well happy with 'blowing up' at those sorts of pace!
  • Stevie  GStevie G ✭✭✭

    Tricky Whippet, it is an interesting thing to think over.

    I must admit my style (if you can call it that image), is to burn off a bit too fast, settle, and then end.. a little too fast ...

    What doesn't help in my summer 5k series is that the courses are either road and undulating, or multiple lap grass courses. Neither is ideal for good level racing.

    Therefore, as well as natural too fast start, a couple of the races start gently downhill! Therefore, you end up having the incline when you're pushing hard at the end and working to your limit!

    I was going to post splits from last year, but they'd reveal nothing as one of the races had a 3.03 first k and a 3.45 5th k. One was gently downhill, and one was obviously the finish, up a steep and short incline!

    Might be interesting to test a couple of strategies this summer.

    In one of my 5ks last year, I tried to race the winner. He's a 16.30 5k man, a 1hr 14 half man, and I was 17.20s and 1hr 19 at the time image

  • In some ways, it simply doesnt matter what the theoretical ideal pacing strategy is because you wont know what overall time you are basing your splits on until after the race has been completed. And when it comes down to 5-10 secs per mile the difference between a good day and a bad day can be much more than that.

    What it generally comes down to is determining an effort level to run for the first 3K that will deliver you at the 3K point knowing that on a good day you'll be  able to accelerate off of that pace to land a fast time, and on a poor day you'll be struggling to hang on.

    By delivering yourself to the 3K point at a strong pace enough times the law of averages says that every now and again you will be able to accelerate off that strong early pace to land an impressive time.

    If you get to the 3K point every time knowing that you can sustain the same pace to the end then it could be argued that you arent taking enough risks to land the occassional great time.

  • Curly45Curly45 ✭✭✭

    PRF - I do think thats why some of us arent able to touch our pbs most of the time and yet run huge ones when we do run them (e.g. 31 seconds off 5k last time), because when you have that bad day you fade quickly to a 20 + secs off pb time, but when you have that good day you not only maintain but also push on.

    Others seem to run consistently near their pbs but only break them 5 or so secs at a time...

  • Stevie  GStevie G ✭✭✭
    So what does it say about me when I was hitting 1 second pbs repeatedly last year image
  • Stevie G . wrote (see)
    So what does it say about me when I was hitting 1 second pbs repeatedly last year image
     It means you watched Mr Bubka too much when you were a kid! image
  • Curly45Curly45 ✭✭✭

    I dont think it says anything Stevie - other than you run very close to your pbs in every race.

    Its just a different pacing tactic, we all have to work to our mental strengths as well as phyiscal image

  • Stevie  GStevie G ✭✭✭

    well it was 1 second pbs for a few then an 11 second smash lol.

    One thing would guarantee me a 5k pb...actually doing a flat road race. The ones I do are ridiculous.

Sign In or Register to comment.