The Trouble with Positive Splits + . . .


. . . four other surprising things I learned in my Run Coach course! One of the things I love about running is there’s a lot to learn — in fact, there’s always something more to learn. 


I’m linking up with My First 5K and MoreRunning With Attitude, Runs with PugsZenaida and Run Laugh Eat Pie for Fit Five Friday. Today I’m sharing 5 things I learned in my RRCA Run Coach course that surprised me — and might benefit you.

1: The problem with positive splits
Positive splits are running the first part of a race faster than the second half. Every one second you go out too fast in the beginning of the race may add three seconds to your pace at the end. Every runner is different, of course. Some runners do well with positive splits.

Put another way: do you want to be passing people at the end of the race, or do you want to do the passing? 

2: 2-4 hard efforts per week are enough
What is a hard effort, you ask? It depends (we got that advice a lot in this course!). One person’s hard effort is easy to another person. What I learned in this part is that the whole week (in addition to speed work, or other intense forms of exercise) counts as a hard effort.

Let me repeat that: Your whole week of running is one hard effort!

I never thought about it that way. So if you have speedwork and a tempo run in your training plan, and you’re feeling burned out by your training — you may already be at your three hard efforts because the entire week counts as one, too. Every runner is different, but it’s a good point to keep in mind.

3: Hills may make you faster . . . 
. . . but being faster won’t necessarily make you better on hills. I’m sure a lot of us have heard that hills are speedwork in disguise. It was interesting to me to learn that just because you run fast doesn’t necessarily mean you will run hills better.

Which brings us back to specificity of training: train on the terrain you’ll be racing on .

4: Try to give yourself a range for mileage/pace
Add some wiggle room to your training plan. Maybe you go a little shorter or a little longer, or maybe you have a range for the pace you want to hit. Notice any patterns that emerge — if you’re always choosing the slower or shorter runs, maybe you’re setting the bar too high for yourself. Conversely if you’re always adding mileage or running faster than the range you planned on, you may not be challenging yourself enough.

Only you know!


5: Throw out some of the pyramid
Training plans have cycles, and in this course we’re taught to visualize the cycles as a pyramid. At the bottom is your base, and at the top are intervals (aka speedwork) right before you are at your peak performance (ready to race).

In between the base and intervals is the strength phase:

  • Tempos
  • Fartleks
  • Hills

None of that should come as a surprise. The thing that did surprise me is that we were taught as long as you continue to grow your long run during the strength phase you can run a great race without ever doing intervals. Food for thought, anyway.

Final Thoughts
We learned many things, of course. These are five things that surprised me; they may not surprise you — or matter to you. Maybe one of these tips will speak to you — or not.

Which of these was most surprising to you?

What have you learned about running recently that surprised you?

19 thoughts on “The Trouble with Positive Splits + . . .

  1. Nothing surprising. I feel like I’ve heard it all. Many of the bloggers are coaches too.

    Not saying I don’t have a lot to learn but everyone is different. And everyone insists their way is the right way. So I guess it’s right for them. And if you are just running for exercise and enjoyment, you can throw all those “shoulds” out the window.

    I just read an article that positives splits will give that PR. It has for me. And also walking the hills has saved me energy and I pass runners because of that. Runners who do intervals have BQed.

    Sounds like you enjoyed the class. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It is so hard to avoid positive splits in a race, although I often nail negative splits in training runs. Even last weekend with more downhill in the second half, I had positive splits. I totally agree on hills — I’ve never run a race thinking I had done too much hill training!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mostly I’m pretty good at negative splits, but not always. And it’s been so long no idea what it would be like!

      Of course you actually can do too many hills — they are definitely a hard effort! It all comes back to that sweet spot, which is different for everyone. 🙂


    1. It’s funny I go back & forth with using intervals. I’ve been doing my recovery mile with straight running — because it’s only a mile. So my recovery miles have definitely been faster than my easy pace!


  3. Piggy-backing off of Deborah’s comment, I was really impressed with how much “easier” Sunday’s race seemed due to our run/walk intervals. I’ve almost always utilized a little walking (through the water stations), but that was more on an as-needed basis. Negative splits happen, and sometimes they don’t for me…I do agree that first mile can make or break one’s overall finish time.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes, the hill one is true- the only way to train for a hilly race is to run hills. None of these were too surprisingly, but a couple interesting points- counting the whole week as a hard effort, and forgoing the intervals- although it makes sense. If you’re doing everything else, I’m sure you can have a great race. That could be helpful for people who hate intervals or can’t get to a track- just do tempos, hills and fartleks instead. I like it!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Interesting post. Of course getting older the strategies and the plans have to be changed.
    Now I’m focusing on the mileage: not less than 10k every workout with a longer weekly run.
    Moreover the only work to improve a little, but only a little, my speed is the fartlek in the last third of my workout.
    About the hill, here the routes are very ondulate so the uphill are always part of my training.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. These are all things that my brain knows, but my heart doesn’t want to listen to. I am always convinced that I can “bank” time by going out fast. I am always wrong, but i do it anyway. Something about an old dog and new tricks?

    Liked by 1 person

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