Sunday, September 28, 2008

To Negative Split or Not to Negative Split - That is the Question

I ran my first 5K in about five years today. My goal was to cross the finish line in less than 30 minutes. I had been training to a slightly slower goal pace (10 min/mile), but I thought the adrenaline would probably help me get there.

I placed myself in the 9 min/mile section at the line up, knowing that most people don't pay attention to the signs and I didn't want to be trying to navigate strollers and walkers once the gun went off. The crowd I was surrounded by went out pretty hard. After a few minutes, I was thinking to myself, "I'm running at least a 9:30 min/mile pace. Hopefully, I will be able to keep it up."

Todd and Rebecka were on the curb cheering for me as I ran by the first water station (why they even have water stations at a 5K is beyond me, but whatever...). I slowed down so Rebecka could snap a picture:

I kept running, thinking that surely I would have passed a mile by now. Looking at the stop watch (which was Rebecka's pink cell phone), it said 11 minutes and something. Yeah, I was definitely past the one mile mark. Great - I had no idea how fast I was going. So, I continued at the same speed. It was hard. I was starting to get worried that I would not be able to achieve the negative split effect (running the second part of a race faster than the first part) and croak and pass out on the sideline before I reached the finish.

However, before I knew it, there was the (very small) sign for mile 2. I glanced at the pink phone. 17 minutes! Good Lord - I was going fast (for me). An 8:30 min/mile pace is unheard of in Tabita race history (fastest 5K was 8:36 min/mile, but that was five years and five less pounds ago). It was a relief to know that I would definitely make the 30 minute cutoff. At the same time, I wanted to finish strong and I was tired. I slowed down slightly (agaist the definitive rule of the negative split) to make sure I would make it all the way. I focused on my breathing and tried not to let it bother me that people were passing me left and right. I trudged on for a few minutes knowing that I was getting close. And sure enough, there was the finish line ahead. Running is 75% mental (in my opinion). Once I saw the goal, I forgot about being tired and started picking up the pace. I finished in 27:48 (unofficial time a la pink phone). Thrilling!

After hugs, pics, bananas, water, warm shower, and yummy lunch, I went to sit down to look at my upcoming training schedule (yep - I'm a little insane). I know I mentioned in a previous post that I would do a 10K training plan next, but I got so pumped by the race today, that I decided I would focus on some more 5K training (plus, I'll most likely be running a 5K, not a 10K). I went to and started looking for articles on 5K training. The first one was called A Fast 5K. Sounded good to me. To my surprise, it talked about recent studies showing that for moderate runners (like me), going out fast actually works better than the traditional negative split. Wow - it seems I was onto something! The next article, Race Your Best 5-K Ever, contained the same message: Negative splits or even a steady pace is not the way to race your best 5K!

Then I went back to my original 5K training plan (after all, it worked out pretty well) and noted that under "Race Day Rules," the author quotes: "It's all about negative splits." Interesting...

This is my conclusion: I'm going to use the same training plan, but adjust it for a 26:30 finish time (that would be a PR for me) and forget about the negative split.

Jingle Bell Run, here I come!

No comments: