Tonight's post will be just a short post. Firstly, a little bit more on race pacing, and then an announcement of an exciting development for Trail Running Sussex.
Last Sunday morning I had a great time watching the BBC TV coverage of the London Marathon, whilst at the same time, watching on the London Marathon website the live progress of five runners I were tracking. The London Marathon website was excellent. It would automatically update every 5 kilometres and at halfway, with the runners last 5km (1.1km) running pace, and a predicted finish time. It would also predict (based on the runner's pace to date) where they were on the course every ten seconds or so. So a great feature that added to the enjoyment of watching the elite races.
The women's elite race had a pretty small field, and straight away it became clear that the elite women runners weren't interested in the pace that the two pacemakers were setting. So, in terms of elite women standards, a reasonably large bunch 'dawdled to the 20 km mark, passed through halfway in a time of 71:49, and then they started racing. The 5km split time decreased from 17:11 for 15 - 20km, to 16:01 for the 20 - 25km split. The race was won, with a negative split of 3:23, running 68:26, for a finish time of 2:20:15. The second placed women, also achieved a negative split of 2:06, but all of the other 15 elite women finishers positive split the race, with the largest positive split of 13:17 by the current Olympic champion, although she did get knocked down by a wheelchair racer!
The elite men's race was quite different with the men's field keeping in contact with the pacemakers who were running at sub world record pace. They actually ran the first 5km in a time of 14:23, which is quite amazing being a marathon pace resulting in the time of 2:01:23! No wonder that was the fastest 5km split of the race, and pretty well every subsequent 5km split got progressively slower. Now this was a demonstration of taking my motto of "Run as fast as you can, while you can!" to the extreme!!! So with the men's elite field going unbelievably quick, there was actually still a lead bunch of 7 runners at halfway, reached in 61:34, still under world record pace, with the reigning Olympic champion just 14 seconds back.
All of these eight runners filled the first eight finish places, all slowing down significantly so none of them, in fact, none of the entire men's elite field achieved a negative split. The winner ran a positive split of 2:52, and the largest positive split was 5:31 (8th place) and the smallest positive split was 0:19 (9th place).
Around two years ago I analysed the London Marathon 2011 results to help understand the 'stupidity' of trying to run a negative split in a marathon. (Check out the Pacing article.) So I didn't feel that there was a need to repeat this analysis, so I thought I would look at some results data in a different way, and this time just looking at the top end of the field.
I therefore downloaded the top 500 finish times and their half marathon split times from the massed start field. With the belief that running a negative split is detrimental to ones performance, I thought it would then be simple to produce a scatter diagram plotting the amount of the positive/negative split against finishing place, to illustrate this performance inhibiting relationship, with those who run a negative split finishing in lower places.
First I ranked the 500 runners in terms of the positive split, with a rank of 1 is the runner that slows down the most, and the rank of 500 is the runner that speeds up the most during the second half of the race. Well take a look at this scatter diagram below, with a coefficient of determination of 0.00001. This data is pretty well as close as as you could ever get to illustrating that there is absolutely no relationship at all between the amount of the positive/negative split and finishing pace.
I then instead of looking at the relationship between the positive/negative ranking and finish place, I looked at the relationship between the actual positive/negative time and the finish time. Again there appears to be pretty well no relationship! Why?
I then had to really think, why no relationship? Surely those that run a negative split, have only achieved this because they have run the first half of the race so slowly. It then jumped out at me. Yes, those that negative split perform poorly, but they just simply move lower down the finishing place list. Throughout the field people will finish with a certain time due to many factors, so there is a massive spread of finish times. Within this spread of finish times, some runners will perform well in relation to their fitness, ability, belief, whatever else, and hence move further up the field, finish faster. Whereas some runners will perform poorly, i.e. finish slower. But the good or poor performances will not stand out within the results, they simply move upwards or downwards amongst the finish results. Hence the zero relationship.
However, if we look at the very top end of the field, those who run a poor performance, which I believe is due to running a negative split, will move down the results list, and those who run a good performance, those who I believe who run a positive split, i.e. start out fast and then slow during the second half of the race, will move up the result list. And being at the top end of the field, simply moving up or down into the next portion of the results list can't occur, so this true relationship wont then be lost!
So what do the results fro the London Marathon 2013 show us. As already described, all 19 elite men finishers ran a positive split, and 15 out of the 17 elite women finishers also ran a positive split. But what the elite do may not translate to the non elite. So looking at the top level club runners from the London Marathon, as expected, those that run a good performance move up the result list, and those that run a poor performance move down the results list. For the massed start field, out of the first 118 finishers, from a finish time of 2:17:10 through to 2:37:30, so the best non-elite performers, ONLY ONE runner achieved a negative split. All of the other 117 runners ran positive splits. I don't think I need to discuss this topic again. The idea that running a negative split is a sign of a good running performance has now been totally 'blown out of the water'. End of story!
Well that first subject of tonight's post wasn't quite as brief as I thought!
My second topic tonight is related to the running venture I am involved with, Trail Running Sussex. You may recall that I mentioned last month that Trail Running Sussex has recently been established and provides guided runs and trail running camps within Sussex. The first running camp has an ultra trail running focus, and takes place from Friday 21st June through to Sunday 23rd June, based at the National Trust Slindon Estate, near Arundel. Well, Trail Running Sussex has just set up a relationship with the newly established online running store The Ultra Runner Shop. So, in association with The Ultra Runner Shop, all trail running camp participants, and those that attend a guided trail running weekend break, will receive a 15% discount on all running kit purchased from The Ultra Runner Store.
I am really excited with this development, as The Ultra Runner Store, which has been set up by ultra runner Tony Holland and his partner Helen, not only stocks top quality kit, but they are also raising money for and awareness of the Downs Syndrome Association. So if you have a spare moment, check out their website at the following address http://www.ultra-runner.com/ and if you need any running kit, see what they have and give them a go.
Time to sign off. I shouldn't really be having any late nights at the moment, with my first key race of the year taking place this Saturday, being the 53 mile Highland Fling. To those of you racing the Fling, I wish you all the best. I'll see you on the start line at 6:00am, and whatever you do, don't try to attempt to run a negative split!
I will sign off with some appropriate words that were within a comment left on my blog by Tom back in September 2011 following my UTMB DNF:
"Training is just that, (the ability to tune in), and it is during this period you need to build your confidence and physical ability. This is the time to build mental strength and grow and in that respect I agree 100% with your model. Once this is achieved you have the physical and mental tools to perform on race day but you also need to have these set to auto so that you can trust without thought. I see it like the auto neuro response that makes your heart beat - you don't give it thought you just trust it will happen. The secret, in my view, is on race day to be able to forget everything (trust the heart will beat) but tuning into the environment that nature throws your way and flow with it and thus enjoy it (vital).See you on the trails,
I believe we can all 'mentally horde' without realising it and maybe all this preparation is taking away from what matters. Maybe we can forget to trust and not separate training from the joy of racing.
Training = build the physical off the mental.
Race Day = Trust and enjoy."