Posted in Running

Splits and Strava, and Shoes! Oh my!

About a month before my first full marathon, a friend of mine sent me this challenge – the Strava Back Half challenge. The challenge was to run a USATF-certified marathon between October 9th and December 4th of this year. Easy enough, right? *Insert eye roll* (kidding)

On top of that, you also have to do it with a negative split. Okay, I know what you’re thinking. Why on earth would I accept such a challenge? Well, because the reward is a brand new spanking pair of New Balance shoes. FREE SHOES. AND you can pick whichever one your feet desires. That’s a freaking sweet deal, right? Damn right, it is.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, running a negative split requires you to run the second half of the marathon faster than the first. There are some articles (here’s one) suggesting that you’ll improve your time by running a negative split. Your muscles are still cold at the beginning and slowly warming them up will help you later. You’re also saving your fuel for the second half. There are also articles that say the opposite. Negative splits are difficult to achieve and doing it for a marathon is like asking for a miracle to happen because the second half is where most runners hit the “infamous wall.” It happens when your body runs out of sugar (glycogen) (which it prefers) to burn and as a result of that, you slow down a LOT. Thanks STRAVA. Just give us an impossible challenge, will you?

 

Little do they know, I am always up for a challenge. Well…ALWAYS is a strong word. Let’s say, USUALLY. If it’ll give me a good story to tell people, I will usually convince myself to do it. Side note: I will also do a LOT to get a good picture. 🙂

Anyway, two weeks before my marathon, I did a few practice runs with negative splits and HOLY CRAP, IT WAS HARD. The longest negative split I ever did was a 10miler before my marathon and after that run, this was me –

grumpy-cat-nope-733
Nope. That negative split ain’t happening.

So I put it in the back of my mind and resumed normal training.

Flash forward to me at the start line of the NYC marathon thinking, “Okay. Why not? Let’s give it a shot. If I don’t get it, no big deal. At least, I tried.” I don’t know what it was, but something in me clicked. Mind over matter? I had on my apple watch and was constantly checking my pace. It also helped a LOT that my Nike Run app also announced it as I passed each mile. (For a more thorough re-cap of my thoughts during the marathon, click here.)

I started off painfully slow. I made sure to high five as many people as I could during the first half of the marathon. I took pictures of the scenery and texted friends who were tracking me during the race. It was my way of making sure I slowed the eff down. Then, as I made it into the second half of my marathon, I started slowly picking up my pace. It was tough, but because I started off painfully slow, it felt easier to run at my normal pace. I even managed to avoid hitting the wall. Towards the end of the race, I ran like all hell broke loose. The adrenaline was rushing through my veins and since I had saved so much energy from the first half, I was able to race like Flash to the finish line. Okay not really, but I did pass a lot of people towards the end. 🙂

negativesplitnycmarathon
TADA! – My imperfect negative split for 26.2 miles

After checking my splits on the official NYC marathon site and STRAVA, I couldn’t believe it. I had run a marathon AND on top of that, I had miracously managed a negative split. Hooray! stravanegativesplit

img_7228
Introducing my newly hard earned FREE NB shoes – Vazee 2090

Have you ever tried running a negative split? How did it go? Was your time faster or slower than usual?

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Author:

My name is Mai and I am a graduate student pursuing a PhD in biology. When not hard at work, I can be found training for a race, traveling the world, or talking about Disneyland.

14 thoughts on “Splits and Strava, and Shoes! Oh my!

  1. Congrats on the challenge! That’s awesome, especially in your first marathon!

    I have to be honest though, I have kind of mixed feelings about the Strava challenge. On the one hand, negative splitting is hard and I fully support rewarding people who can pull it off. I’ve done it in a marathon before and it IS an awesome feeling. But on the other hand, for more experienced marathoners, I think the focus needs to be on running your best and smartest race, and that doesn’t always mean negative splits. I could sandbag the first half of my marathon by practically walking and thus end up with a huge negative split, but that wouldn’t really be running it to the best of my abilities. I also think the course has to be considered: my most recent marathon and my current PR was a positive split, because the first half was mostly flat and the second half was full of rolling hills. I actually think I helped myself by running a little fast in the first half and banking some time, because there’s just no way I would have been able to speed up on those second half hills unless I walked the first half.

    So, it’s definitely a case-by-case basis thing. Still, it’s hella impressive you pulled that off in NYC of all places!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I completely agree with you that a negative split isn’t always the best way to run the best race. I was looking up the fastest times for other races and a huge chunk of the time, the runners didn’t run a negative split. The negative split thing is definitely overhyped and what will work for one person will not work for the next. I had originally considered just walking the first few miles of the marathon just so I could get that negative split, but then I also felt that I was cheating myself from doing my best job. I was just lucky enough that it worked out in my favor this time. 🙂 Thanks for all of your insight. I’m still playing around with my racing technique and hoping to PR a half next year. 🙂

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  2. Nice job! My friends have also qualified for free shoes through the Strava Back Half Challenge, including one who did it a Steamtown (a downhill marathon with a flat finish, most of the decline happens in the first half). Enjoy those shoes!

    Liked by 1 person

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