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How to distribute forces in a marathon in order to run with a good result

A marathon coping strategy that will help you properly decompose in pace, reducing time and suffering on the course.

How to distribute forces in a marathon in order to run with a good result

A marathon coping strategy that will help you properly decompose in pace, reducing time and suffering on the course.

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Any marathon is a challenge: you have been training for many weeks, following the plan, following the daily routine, eating right (well, almost) and the “icing on the cake” remains – the decisive race. And here it is important to correctly distribute your forces at a distance in order to show the result you are ready for and not make offensive mistakes.

How to distribute forces in a marathon in order to run with a good result

Why the Time Bank Approach Doesn't Work

On the surface, this sounds like a good idea: At the start of a marathon, you start faster than your target pace so you can cover as much distance as possible before you inevitably hit a wall or simply get tired and slow down.

This strategy suggests creating a margin of time, so that later, when the slowdown comes, you still achieve the desired result. Time here is compared to savings in the bank: first we accumulate in order to spend later.

However, following this strategy, a lot of our people died – it is she who is the most common cause of disastrous results, guaranteed suffering and disappointment at the finish line.

And here's why: starting at a faster pace often guarantees that same “wall”. As a result, the runner slows down so significantly that all the accumulated time is very quickly leveled. Along with the loss of time, physical well-being worsens, the remnants of motivation are replaced by complete discord, and the person almost gives up.

How to distribute forces in a marathon in order to run with a good result

That's not all: at a faster pace at the beginning of a marathon, the runner's stride changes slightly and muscles that are less trained are recruited, increasing the risk of early fatigue, muscle spasms, and even injury. Also, too high intensity will lead to a significant accumulation of lactic acid in the muscles, and you will be forced to slow down.

What is a negative split

In fact, for a successful marathon and a good result that matches your level of training, for the first 5-7 kilometers, it is worth aiming for a pace 5-7 seconds slower than the target.

It's hard to believe, but it's true. Statistically, almost every world record from 1500m to marathon has been set with negative split (negative split) – when the second half of the race is faster than the first. This means that in the first half you will have to deliberately slow down, which, against the backdrop of starting euphoria and adrenaline, may not be so easy and will require concentration and control.

How to distribute forces in a marathon in order to run with a good result

Dennis Kimetto ran the first half in 61:45 and the second half in 61:12 at the 2014 Berlin Marathon.

Why it works

By starting slower, the runner conserves energy and fuel reserves that he will need for the last 10 km.

This can be compared to the fuel consumption in a car: at a speed of 100 km / h, the figure will be higher than at 80 km / h. The body reacts in a similar way: when you run faster than the optimal pace, the body begins to burn more carbohydrates. As soon as the strategic supply of carbohydrates is depleted, the runner meets the wall.

How to distribute forces in a marathon in order to run with a good result

Haile Gebrselassie, Berlin 2007: 62:29 and 61:57 in the first and second half of the marathon

And also, if we speed up too much, our body begins to turn off unnecessary, in its opinion, systems at the moment – for example, digestion. And even if you use energy gels, they may simply not be absorbed by the body.

It follows from this that in a marathon we have only one opportunity to accelerate – either at the beginning or at the end. And if we used acceleration at the very beginning, there will be no other such opportunity.

How to distribute forces in a marathon in order to run with a good result

Mary Keitani, NY 2018: 75:50 minutes in the first half and 66:58 in the second (pause for applause from Mary for the super-negative split)

How to Calculate a Negative Split

There are calculators to help you do this.

For example, this calculator will help you calculate the pace for each kilometer, you can choose a negative split, a positive or even pace.

How to distribute forces in a marathon in order to run with a good result

And in order not to do mathematics at a distance, it is convenient to use such a bracelet with your own tempo layout – print it out and fasten it on your arm.

Where to find races: 16 race calendars around the world

How it usually works in practice

1–5 km. A slow start is difficult psychologically – you are overtaken, and it seems that even now you are losing precious time. Try to relax and not panic, just trust that you will overtake in the second half.

Important: to stand in the correct starting block, so as not to make sudden movements and unnecessary overtaking from the very beginning of the distance, this greatly interferes with focusing on pace.

6–20 km. It's time to gradually reach the target pace, but here you can still afford to run a little slower than planned (then you will catch up).

Don't forget to eat and drink, even if you don't feel like it. When you want, it will be too late.

20–35 km. Time to pick up the pace a bit and keep up that pace. Here the difficult part of the race begins due to the accumulated fatigue, and you need to stay focused and mentally strong.

It's good if you can find a group or individual running at the same pace as you – this will help you relax before the decisive stage.

35–42 km. The hardest part of the marathon. Sorry, there is no way to avoid this. Try to keep your mind relaxed and drive away thoughts of fatigue in every possible way. Distract your brain: you can turn on the countdown – 20, 15, 10 minutes left to run; to remember pleasant moments, to visualize the finish line – all means are good.

The advice “enjoy and have fun” looks mocking, but try to find some buzz even in difficult moments, this useful skill will come in handy not only at the marathon.

How to distribute forces in a marathon in order to run with a good result

How to train the ability to accelerate at the end of the race

Negative split is not easy, and to get used to the feel and strategy, you need to practice it in training.

This is best done on marathon pace runs, but can also be practiced on easy long runs and tempo intervals: the last kilometers or the last tempo section should be the fastest.

“The last mile is the best mile. Let it just become another good running habit,” says Greg McMillan, renowned writer and trainer at McMillan Running.

And if the marathon is the first?

The first marathon is, rather, not about the result (there will still be a personal record), but about testing your abilities and finishing with a smile, so that you definitely want to do it again.

Run the first 25 km at a comfortable pace, enjoying the atmosphere, scenery and crowds. Don't waste energy counting or trying to outrun other competitors, it's better to pay attention to nutrition and hydration.

If you still feel good after 25 km, increase your pace for a couple of seconds. And if you feel that you can accelerate even after the 35th kilometer, feel free to do it. Such a strong finish is worth a lot.

Have you tried running a marathon with a negative split? Share in the comments what came out of it.