What Are Splits in Running?

runner looking at watch
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"I heard some runners talking about their 'splits' from a race. What are they referring to?"

Splits is a running and racing term that means the time that it takes to complete a specific distance in running. For example, if you're running 5 miles, your time at each mile marker is called a "mile split". Some runners use splits to see if they're pacing evenly and staying on track to hit a specific goal.

So, if you're running a timed mile, you may check your splits every 1/4 mile to see if you're on pace.

Tracking your mile splits during a race is crucial if you're trying to reach a specific goal time, like qualifying for the Boston Marathon. Some runners use running watches to take their splits when they're racing. Most races have markers at every mile, so you can hit your split button each time you hit a mile marker. If you have a running watch with GPS, it will track your splits automatically.

Some marathon runners use pace bracelets or temporary pace tattoos on their arms so they know what splits they're supposed to be hitting at specific mile markers. Doing so helps them know if they're staying on track with their goal. Many runners like to review their splits after races to determine how well they did with pacing and what they can improve for the next race.

What's a Negative Split?

The term "negative splitting" refers to running the second half of a race faster than the first.

So, for instance, if you're running a marathon and you run the first 13.1 miles in 2:01:46, and then run the second 13.1 miles in 1:59:30, then you ran a negative split. If your second half is slower, however, it's called a positive split.

Negative splitting is the ideal way to run a long distance race such as a half or full marathon.

However, many runners do the opposite by going out too fast in the beginning, and then slowing down significantly in the second half of the race. It's a common mistake because you feel rested and strong in the beginning, so it's tempting to go out fast. It takes a lot of discipline and practice to achieve a negative split. Most people can't do it in their first marathon. But, generally, if you can hold back and conserve your energy in the first half of the race so that you can run faster in the second half, you'll perform much better overall.

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