Running Negative Splits

Rocket graphic

In October 2003, I ran the St George Marathon with the goal of qualifying for Boston.  St George has a pretty substantial drop in elevation starting at 5240 feet and finishing at 2680 feet making it a “fast” course.  The gravitational force on your legs from downhill running, however, is a double-edged sword.   I lived in Arizona at the time and trained through the summer in 110 ° +.  Most of my 18-22 mile runs were done on a treadmill.

“Negative Splits”

At the 13-mile mark, I was just barely on pace to meet the 4-hour qualifying time at right around 2 hours.  If I planned to qualify I was going to have to run the second half faster than the first.  I knew it was possible because we had trained to run “negative splits” when I was on the CSU Hayward Track team under Coach Bob McGuire.

“Negative splits” are when the second half of a race is run faster than the first half.

That didn’t stop the “censor” inside my head from chattering away “You can always try again next year”.  If I came up short it was only going to be by a couple of minutes.   In a 10k or half marathon you can power through even if you haven’t trained adequately.  The human body is not physiologically designed to run 26.2 miles.

More Tips:

Rocket graphic
Off like a rocket.

Many inexperienced runners take off like a rocket.  If you start out at a modest pace you may find yourself passing other runners.  This is a welcome psychological boost.  I used to shout out words of encouragement to runners as I passed them. “Let’s ‘reel in’ that runner in front of us.”  It turns out, more often than not, it had the unintended effect of demoralizing the runner.

Another habit that I have developed is to count in a metronome-like fashion from one to ten, matching the beat stride for stride.  When I’m really tested I’ll substitute the 4/4 military-style cadence “Easy does it.  You can do it” (Hup two three four).  This is a surprisingly effective way to maintain a consistent pace from start to finish.

I did ultimately run the second half of the St George Marathon faster than the first and qualified for Boston with a time of 3:57:52.


For the 2021 Boston Marathon, qualifying times must be run on or after Saturday, September 15, 2018.


Susan M Hall is an American long-distance runner with a goal to run a 10k in all 193 UN recognized countries plus the two permanent non-member observer states of Palestine & the Holy See.

On her radar are the Košice Peace Half Marathon ☮️ Kosice, Slovakia, the Istanbul 15k 🇹🇷, Istanbul, Turkey the Beirut Half Marathon, Beirut, Lebanon, the Pyramids Half Marathon, Giza, Egypt & the Quantum Nicosia Half Marathon, Nicosia, Cyprus.

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