Friday, October 13, 2006

Do Winners Really Walk Negative Splits?

Negative splits means doing the second half of a race faster than the first half. Using the data from the 2006 L.A. Marathon racewalking results, I wanted to see if the top walkers did negative splits.

There were only three racewalkers who were able to pull of a negative split between the first half and the second half of the race and they were not the top finishers. They were the 28th, 32nd and 50th place walkers. That's out of the 53 finishers that are on my list.

How about that last finishing kick? I compared the overall pace to the 30K to finish (about the last 7.5 miles) and four racewalkers did the last quarter of the race faster than their overall average pace. They were the 22nd, 23rd, 24th and 27th place finishers. Even fewer had negative splits when comparing the first half to the last quarter, only 3 and they were the 20th, 27th and 32nd.

Just because the top finishers didn't accomplish negative splits doesn't mean that they went all out at the beginning and went slower on each passing mile. Crunching the data I was able to extract the pace for the first 10K (6.21 miles), the middle 20K (12.43 miles) and the last 12.26K (7.56 miles). Of the top 10 finishers, five walked their fastest in the middle of the race.

As long as I was in the number crunching state of mind, here are some other interesting findings:

Average Age of Racewalkers = 53 -- I'll be 52 at the next L.A. Marathon

Top 10 Finisher's Average Age = 44

Average Pace = 14:01 minutes/mile

Top 10 Finisher's Average Pace = 11:55 minutes/mile

The winner for my age group averaged 12:10 minutes/mile, went progressivly slower throughout the race and finished 6th place overall. However, it appears that he walked with his 19 year old son (or perhaps a relative) because his times match someone with the same last name through every check point. Interestingly enough the top two finishers, aged 48 and 56, also walked side by side but at a blistering average pace of 10:40 minutes/mile.

So my 12 minute/mile target pace would put me in the top 10. I should also do pretty good in my age category, but right now I don't want to get my hopes up too high. I often wonder if keeping up a 13 minute/mile on the long runs is enough to make my goal pace. I also wonder what I'd have to do to get up to that winning 10:40 minute/mile pace--that's better than my fastest mile and multiplied by 26.2? My respects to those athletes.