Slowing down in the race

Every runner that I tracked on the VLM website today got slower and slower as the race progressed, irrespective of their finish time. Most were club runners aiming at between 3-5 hours. It's well-known that to run an even-pace or slight negative split is the best way to race, but I don't personally know anyone who hasn't slowed down, often considerably.

Two questions: has anyone ever completed a marathon with roughly even splits? How does one select a pace so that this is achievable? I have 5 weeks til my marathon and I'm anxious to get my pacing sorted and learn from others' experience.




  • Running even paced is very very hard, because you are attempting to run at an optimum pace through out a race and not allowing any moment of ease.
    Most runners therefore should run negative splits but they don't as it's
    hard to control the urge to get ahead.
    Some of the elite East African runners in fact have some very bad race pacing and go off like rockets and use their conditioning and other runners lack of to get them through.
    If you can run even you have a real advantage of the opposition as a race goes on
    because as you have noticed many slow down and never speed up.
    If you can keep your pace and even increase it you win.
  • People tend to start too fast - they feel good, adrenaline, they get carried along with other runners, and don't realise how fast they are running.

    I've not run a marathon on negative splits, but I've not run a marathon for a few years.  Since I got a Garmin three years ago, all my races (including several half maras) have been negative splits.  

    Having the Garmin has meant I've taken charge of my pacing - and it's made a world of difference to my racing.

  • Having started near the back today I was staggered to see so many people fly past me from pen 9, I was on 10 30 miling but these people did not look fit to run 26.2 never mind setting out so quick. Annoyingly some were then walking within the half hour or running very slowly several in a row, so i must have burned a load more energy bobbing and weaving past people who should never have been in front of me.

  • JeremyGJeremyG ✭✭✭
    My last 3 have been negative splits - even pace up to 20-22 miles. Pace and target time comes from experience. In the first third people should be passing you, middle third even and last. Third you should be passing people - ideal scenario. Obviously for elites it is a lot more tactical. For us mortals it's having the discipline to stick to your plan regardless of those around you.
    As for today it was quite warm apparently which will cause people to slow up. This happens to even elites if you look at the recent Boston marathon.
  • Some of the slowing down in the latter stages  will be down to people having the lack of a decent aerobic base as well.

    Not enough long runs in the 20 plus bracket will make people struggle in the last few miles

  • I managed negative splits in my first marathon last week (brighton). I used a heart rate monitor and was also very strict, forcing myself to go very slow in the first 5 miles.
  • So we are all agreed, don't go off like a hare because the tortoise will catch you up?

    Bloody Aesop!

    Probably a good runner too!

  • Thanks everyone, that's interesting stuff. I've trained myself to pace 5K and 10K races sufficiently well to negative split and for my recent long training runs (16-20 miles) I've tried to start super-slow and I've managed to pick up the speed a little towards the end, so I'll see how it goes in Edinburgh.

    Bess, I use a heart-rate monitor too - what percentage of max heart rate did you try and keep your HR below? I normally aim for less than 70% using the Karvonen formula (heart-rate reserve).
  • If I'd managed to negative split in the marathon the way I'd managed to in all the build up races, maybe I could provide some wisdom, but it didn;t quite happen.

    I think there is an element of being disciplined enough to hold back at the start, and not get carried along by the crowd & the adreneline. Sometimes takes some effort to do so. I did a 20 mile race in marathon build up and for the first 2 miles was dead last. Spent the second lap overtaking people, finishing 40th from last by the end. But the tempattion to try & keep up was really strong for the first 100 yards.

    I wouldn't assume that everyone who runs a -ve split intends to. I certainly set out to run a marathon with even splits, setting out at what should have been an achievable pace. Sometimes the best laid plans just don't come off. Maybe we're all just a bit too optomistic and bank on having a good race day when deciding what pace to start at.

  • I ran exactly even splits in the Brighton Marathon last week, I was sure I had slowed down in the second half (meltdown at Mile 17) but managed to pull it back together from 19 Miles onwards. My pre-race 'strategy' was to stick to a consistent pace in the first 18 miles and speed up in the final 8 miles if I felt like I had anything extra to give.

    Managed to stick to that plan, sort of by accident!, I didn't account for 15 minutes queuing for portaloos around 12 miles, and the 2 miles of panic and lost time 2/3rds of the way into the race. When I got running properly again at 19, I was just thinking "lets get this done" and didn't care about my time at all. 

    I was really chuffed when I saw my splits and realised I had stuck to my strategy, even though I was slower overall than originally planned. My problem is that I go off too fast and burn out after half way, so the last stages of training had been focused on consistency and slowing it down at the start, hopefully it will come naturally with practice.

  • I ran exactly even splits at VLM yesterday image I was aiming for a negative split but I just couldn't get through the crowds!!!
  • Running even splits or negative splits is easy - as long as you run a fair bit slower than your best for the distance! Doing so when you are going for a personal best is a lot more difficult, and requires a combination of experience, patience, and guts, because the effort required to run an even paced marathon ranges from almost none at the start(in fact you have to hold yourself back it feels so easy) to hard by around 16 miles, to bust-a-gut tough over the last 2 or 3 miles. Its much much easier to just run at even effort which results in a steady decrease in speed, and even a drastic decrease in speed if you go off much too fast.
    If you practice doing your long runs at only 10% slower than target pace, you'll find that the last 2 or 3 miles of the training runs is really hard, but you just manage to hang on to the pace, and that's exactly what you you want to build up the experience necessary to run even paced marathons.
    I was a bit disappointed in my splits yesterday 1:29:20 and 1:30:18, I was trying for a slight negative split. Probably means that I was slightly over optimistic with my pace selection. If I had run the first half in 1:30 I would probably have been able to run the second in 1:29
  • Mitiog, I did my Long runs at <70% max HR but for the marathon I roughly followed the "Marco" marathon calculator plan:

    This advises you to keep the HR very low to start with and then gradually allow it to creep up. To be honest my resting HR before the race was much higher than usual due to the anxiety of the race so I had to modify things a bit, but I tried to stick doubly to the recommended heart rates rather than the pace - I finished 6 mins slower than the calculator had predicted.

    I agree with Juggler though, I am sure that it was much easier for me to do negative splits because I wasn't chasing a particular time, just wanted to finish in comfort. Good luck!
  • stick roughly not doubly!
  • Thanks bess image
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