Coach's Corner

By Coach Declan McDonnell

The Psychology of Negative Splits

Most of the folks on this team are coached by Dan Walters, so odds are you've been told a few dozen times to aim for negative splits in your races. Dan’s a smart guy and you should listen to him. He also happens to be right. Just about all of us are here because we’re training to run PRs, and running negative splits is the best way to do it.

It's pretty intuitive that spreading your effort about equally across the entire race leads to the best results. I want to throw a little more weight behind that because I think there's an additional reason to subscribe to this philosophy, and it has to do with the psychology behind how we perceive fatigue.

Over the years, there’s been quite a bit of debate about the factors that influence performance and fatigue (I’m stealing a lot of this from Alex Hutchinson’s book ‘Endure’, which is excellent). Historically, physiologists leaned towards the philosophy that our body was like an engine, and we can only go so fast before it begins to fail. More recently, a competing school of thought emerged that placed emphasis on the role of the brain as a sort of “central governor” for our effort. In distance running, the truth is likely somewhere in between. My non-scientific explanation based on my experience is that my brain wants my body to be comfortable. I find that it will use any excuse it can trick itself into believing to convince me to stop doing difficult things. When we’re tired or stressed or hungry or not confident, those excuses become much more powerful and realistic sounding, and we’re gullible enough to believe them causing us to slow down.

One of the ways to combat this during a race is to engineer positive events. These events run counter to the argument your brain is trying to make, and it quiets the early alarm bells going off in your brain. Once you do that, you give yourself a longer leash to work with. There's lots of recent research out there about this effect. This paper found that subliminal positive messaging increased the amount of time cyclists could ride a bike. This article mentions research that found male athletes being observed by an attractive woman allowed them to score higher on a treadmill test. This is why running smart and closing hard in a race is such a great strategy - not only do we spend our effort wisely, but late in the race when our minds are extra gullible we can engineer positive events like passing people and running faster splits. This is good juju!

When it comes down to it, you still have to dig in and be uncompromising when your body does start to flag. Negative splitting doesn't change or even make easier the ultimate task of maximizing your effort on the day. It just gives us a little more mental juice to work with. Your job is to take advantage of that boost and use it when you need it most at the end of a race.

Team News

  • Interested in competing at the Pettit Indoor Marathon relay? Sign up here!

  • Racing Indy Monumental Marathon/HM? Add your plans here

  • Use code DWrunning2020 for $10 off Illinois Marathon/HM registration

  • If planning on racing Grandma’s Marathon in 2020, we’ll be receiving a 10% discount code starting 11/1

An “Illustration” by Coach Dan Kittaka

Chicago Marathon is just around the corner!

The Chicago Marathon more than any other race has taught me not to ease up based on how I feel. My fastest efforts have come not from the days I’ve felt my best, but from taking the race one step at a time.
— Coach Dan Kittaka

Original photo by Tom Root

September Race Highlights

Updates to the DWR Top 10 Lists (Men / Women):

Women’s 5k:

  • Emma Grimes - Itasca Oktoberfast 5k - 17:46 (2nd place!)

Women’s 10M:

  • Julia Buford - Buffalo Stampede Run - 59:07 (3rd place!)

Women’s Half Marathon:

  • Emma Grimes - Chicago HM - 1:19:39 (PR & 2nd place!)

  • Erica van Heerden - Chicago HM - 1:22:43 (PR & AG champ!)

Men’s 5k:

  • Brendan McDonnell - Itasca Oktoberfast 5k - 15:47 (Champ!)

Men’s Half Marathon:

  • Chris Porst - Hidden Gem HM - 1:11:41 (PR!)

Personal Bests

  • Matt Stanesby - Hidden Gem HM - 1:13:27

  • Michaela Spannaus - Hidden Gem HM - 1:23:09

  • Jeannie Sullivan - Hidden Gem HM - 1:23:17

  • Anando Naqui - Hidden Gem HM - 1:23:49

  • Will Biancucci - Hidden Gem HM - 1:24:35

  • Danyelle Dron - Hidden Gem HM - 1:38:37

  • Maggie Gabrek - Souix Falls HM - 1:34:25

  • Steve Spangler - Erie Marathon - 2:47:10 (BQ!)

  • Brian Robertson - BQ.2 Marathon - 2:49:24 (BQ!)

  • Kwang-Youn Kim - Alpine HM - 1:28:09

  • Brett Joseph - Alpine HM - 1:41:10

  • Dan DeRosa - Fox Valley HM - 1:22:43 (AG champ!)

  • Dan Kapinus - Chicago HM - 1:31:03

  • Katie Dudek - Chicago HM - 1:34:18

  • Stacy Nigrelli - Great Race 10k - 44:32 (AG champ!)

  • Sergio Moreno - Berlin Marathon - 2:50:25 (BQ!)

Top Placings & Age Group Wins

  • Stacy Nigrelli - Gatorate Steelers 5k - 22:27 (AG champ!)

  • Brian Lesiewicz - Last Fling Mile - 5:03 (champ!)

  • Sierra Scanlan - Last Fling Mile - 6:21 (champ!)

  • Julie Bruns - Itasca Oktoberfast 5k - 22:06 (AG champ!)

  • Jeremy Downs - Mag Mile 5k - 19:26 (AG champ!)

  • Erica van Heerden - Mag Mile 10k - 39:16 (AG champ!)

  • Paul Erickson - El Grito 5k - 17:18 (champ!)

  • Sarah David - Race Judicata - 18:15 (champ!)

  • Moira Ryan - Alphine HM - 1:28:02 (2nd place!)

  • Yuki Hirao - Alpine HM - 1:37:01 (AG champ!)

  • Julie Crutchfield - Rochester Run MI HM - 1:37:59 (AG champ!)

  • Kim Weiss - Fox Valley HM - 1:32:38 (Champ!)

  • Sam Greenwood - Lifetime Fitness 5k - 19:11 (Champ!)

  • Caleb Kadera - Berlin Marathon - 2:48:55 (BQ!)


Upcoming Events & Major Races

  • 10/5 - LR & path cleanup @ Prairie Path

  • 10/5 - Chicago Marathon e-‘Fireside Chat’

  • 10/12 - LR @ the Morton Arboretum

  • 10/13 - Chicago Marathon & post-race party @ Goose Island

  • 10/17 - Goose Island Pint Night (1800 N Clybourn)

  • 10/19 - LR @ Busse Woods

  • 10/26 - LR @ Waterfall Glen

Check out the calendar (and add it to your own calendar!) here.

October Birthdays

  • 10/8 - Sarah Koelln

  • 10/9 - Dan Walters & Declan McDonnell

  • 10/11 - Curt Hansman & Pete Jaros

  • 10/12 - Dan O’Keefe

  • 10/15 - Jess Wallen

  • 10/18 - Damon King

  • 10/19 - Nimrod Gutman

  • 10/20 - Melissa Urban

  • 10/25 - Julie Bruns

  • 10/30 - Aaron Agustin

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