Negative Split Marathon Training Workouts

By Rick Morris

What!….Negative splits in a marathon? Yep, I know that running negative splits in the marathon distance is very difficult. Even the most steadfast proponents of negative splitting sometimes waver a bit when it comes to running negative splits in the marathon. Even the fastest and fittest marathon runners will sometimes struggle to speed up in the final half of a marathon. That being said, negative splits can still be an effective marathon strategy in certain situations. Even if you can’t or don’t  want to run negative splits in your marathon, negative split training can and will improve your marathon performance. Negative split marathon training will improve both your physical and mental ability to maintain or increase your “effort level” if not your actual pace during those final critical miles. It will enable you to maintain a quality pace in the face of the sometimes overwhelming fatigue you feel towards the finish of your marathon.

Below are just a few of the many possible negative split marathon training workouts. Because of the rather difficult and challenging nature of these training runs, I would suggest doing them no more than once every two weeks. These training runs build progressively upon each other. Start with the first one and move on to each progressively more difficult training run as you gain in fitness.

4 x 5K Repeats at Increasing Pace

This is a good starting point for your negative split marathon training runs.

  • Description:  4 x 5K repeats
  • Pace: Run the first two repeats at an easy pace, the third at marathon pace and the fourth at 10K pace.
  • Recovery: Recover between each repeat with 4 minutes of rest

2 x 10K Repeats at Increasing Pace

Once you master the 4 x 5K repeats it’s time to move on to this more difficult negative split training run.

  • Description: 2 x 10K repeats
  • Pace: Run the first 10K repeat at marathon pace and the second at about 10 seconds per mile faster than marathon pace.
  • Recovery: Recover between the two repeats with 4 minutes of rest.

Half Marathon/5K Combination Run

Here is the third training run in your negative split progression.

  • Description: Run a half marathon followed by a 5K with a brief recovery period.
  • Pace: Run the half marathon segment at marathon pace and speed up to 10 seconds per mile faster than marathon pace for the 5K segment.
  • Recovery: Rest for 4 minutes between each segment.

Marathon Simulator

This final negative split workout is intended to simulate your marathon race conditions. This would be a good peaking workout just before your marathon taper.

  • Description: Run 20 miles at an increasing pace.
  • Pace: Run the first 10 miles at an easy pace, the next 5 miles at marathon pace and the final 5 miles at about 10 seconds per mile faster than marathon pace. Begin your long run in a slightly carbohydrate depleted state. Do this by cutting carbohydrates from your diet on the evening before this workout. Don’t eat anything before you begin this run but be sure to hydrate properly both before and during your run with a sports drink. The purpose of this is to simulate the late marathon carbohydrate depleted state in a shorter training run.
  • Recovery: Take no recovery during this long run.